Roger Ebert on Anime, with a focus on Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli
August 30, 2010 7:46 AM   Subscribe

"In Japan, animation is not seen as the exclusive realm of children's and family films, but is often used for adult, science fiction and action stories, where it allows a kind of freedom impossible in real life. Some Hollywood films strain so desperately against the constraints of the possible that you wish they'd just caved in and gone with animation." -- Roger Ebert on anime, with this excerpt being related to Tokyo Godfathers. Ebert has been a fan of anime for a while, especially the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Ebert has reviewed 6 of the 18 Studio Ghibli films released to date, and even interviewed Miyazaki with a bit of fanboy glee. More reviews and videos inside.

Roger Ebert could be considered something of a closet "otaku" (Japanese for "fan" or "fanatic", though the term is often applied to anime fans in the US), and he even added a small comment on the dub vs subtitle otaku war ("I know. The best is subtitled DVDs."). Ebert has reviewed anime movies since they first were screened on US theaters at large, with Ghost in the Shell (1995) being positively reviewed by Siskel & Ebert (YT) and in print by Ebert in 1996. The year before, Ebert reviewed another anime movie, The Wings Of Honneamise, which got an honorable mention in Ebert's top 10 for 1995, though it wasn't reviewed by Siskel & Ebert. In 1996 the Walt Disney Corporation and Tokuma Publishing first formed a deal in which Disney was granted the rights to distribute many of Tokuma's works, including most of the Studio Ghibli films, throughout much of the world. The first Studio Ghibli film to get "the Disney treatment" under the new arrangement was Kiki's Delivery Service, which was released in the US on September 1, 1998, eight years after the Japanese release. Ebert has since reviewed all major Ghibli releases, both in print and as part of At The Movies, even covering some of the earlier Ghibli-related titles.

Feature-length Studio Ghibli films
+ Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984, Miyazaki) - reviewed by Michael Mirasol, the Flipcritic, as part of the Foreign Correspondents feature that is edited by Roger Ebert. The movie, based on the manga by Miyazaki, was produced before Studio Ghibli but is often considered the starting point for the studio. First released as a heavily edited and awkwardly re-dubbed work entitled Warriors of the Wind (YT trailer), later re-dubbed by Disney and kept true to the original form. Videos: English subtitled Japanese trailer collection (YT), full English dubbed movie (Google video)

+ Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986, Miyazaki) - refered to as a point of comparison for some design features in Pixar's Up, but not reviewed by Ebert. Videos: subtitled Japanese trailer 1 and subbed Japanese trailer 2 (YT), English dub trailer (YT), full English dub (Gv)

* Grave of the Fireflies (1988, Isao Takahata) - review by Ebert (YT clip, edited and extended by a fan) from the Ebert & Roeper era, in print, where he said the film was "an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation," and included in Ebert's list of great movies. Videos: subbed Japanese trailer (YT), full English dub (MySpace video)

* My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Miyazaki) - reviewed by Siskel & Ebert (YT), in print, where Ebert said "Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy.... Whenever I watch it, I smile, and smile, and smile." Ebert also included it on his list of great movies. Videos: Japanese trailer, short clip of English voice actors on the movie, original Japanese movie unsubbed, Fox Home Video/Troma dub (MySpace vid / Troma presskit)

* Kiki's Delivery Service (1989, Miyazaki) - transcript of Siskel and Ebert At The Movies review, not reviewed in print by Ebert, but included in his Best Movies of 1998 (when the US dub was released) in The Chuck Jones Award category for 'feature-length cartoons are breaking away from the "children and family" category and growing up into full-bodied entertainments.' Videos: Japanese trailer 1, Japanese trailer 2, Japanese trailer 3, 1998 Disney edition trailer, updated Disney trailer (YT), Japanese video with Chinese subtitles (56.com), first 11 minutes of the English dub (Gv), and the full US dub (MSv)

+ Only Yesterday (1991, Takahata) - not reviewed by Ebert, and is the only theatrical Studio Ghibli release not available in the US, though Turner Classic Movies aired it in January 2006 as part of tribute to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. "No matter what your preconceptions about anime might be, Only Yesterday probably confounds them." Videos: Japanese trailer with English subs (YT), Chinese dub (Youku)

+ Porco Rosso (1992, Miyazaki) - not reviewed by Ebert, this movie grew from what was intended to be an in-flight short, "a movie which tired businessmen on international flights can enjoy even with their minds dulled due to lack of oxygen." Miyazaki expanded the idea into a story of a pig of a man, along with his friends and enemies, in the Adriatic in 1929, during the early days of the Great Depression and the rise of Italian fascism. Videos: Japanese trailer 1, Japanese trailer 2, Making of the English dub (YT), Japanese version with English subs (Veoh, req. Windows-only player plugin)

+ Ocean Waves (1993, Tomomi Mochizuki) - also known as I Can Hear the Sea (literal translation), this was Studio Ghibli's first made-for-TV movie, and only one to date. It was also the first Ghibli movie directed by someone other than Miyazaki or Takahata, though Mochizuki had directed other works before. Videos: Japanese trailer with English subs (YT), full movie with Chinese subs (Youku)

+ Pom Poko (1994, Takahata) - briefly discussed in a Movie Answer Man column, insofar that Ebert thought that a movie featuring mythical abilities of the tanuki, or racoon dog, would not mesh with cultural and moral understandings elsewhere. In short, their ability to transform their testicles into many forms (YT, SFW if your work is OK with animated expanding animal testicles). Videos: collection of Japanese trailers, Japanese trailer with English subs, and French trailer (YT), full movie, US dub (MSv), full US dub (Vodpod)

+ Whisper of the Heart (1995, Yoshifumi Kondō) - not reviewed by Ebert, roughly based on manga of the same name, and the first appearance of the Baron character. Kondō had worked with Miyazaki and Takahata before the formation of Studio Ghibli back in the mid-1970s, and seen as the natural successor to Miyazaki and Takahata. Kondo passed away from an aneurysm at age 47, in January 1998. Videos: long Japanese trailer, short Japanese trailer with English subs, and "Behind the Microphone" English dub clip (YT), full US dub (MSv)

* Princess Mononoke (1997) - discussed by guest reviewer Harry Knowles (YT) of Ain't It Cool News, print review by Ebert, in which he said: "Hayao Miyazaki is a great animator, and his 'Princess Mononoke' is a great film. Do not allow conventional thoughts about animation to prevent you from seeing it." The movie also ranked as #6 on Ebert's top 10 films for 1999. Videos: Japanese trailer 1, Japanese trailer 2 with English subs, US trailer, and Behind the Microphone (YT), Full US dub (MSv)

+ My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999, Takahata) - not reviewed by Ebert, this movie is the based on a serialized comic strip, and is the first Studio Ghibli film completely made digitally, to achieve the appearance of being made with watercolors, instead of the cel-painted form of other Ghibli films. Videos: Japanese trailer with English subs and Behind the Microphone (YT), full Japanese movie with Chinese subs (Youku)

* Spirited Away (2001) - reviewed by Ebert & Roeper (YT), in print ("I feel like I'm giving a pitch on an infomercial, but I make these points because I come bearing news: This is a wonderful film. Don't avoid it because of what you think you know about animation from Japan. And if you only go to Disney animation--well, this is being released by Disney."), and #8 in Ebert's top 10 movies of 2002. Videos: Japanese trailer with English subs, US trailer, Behind the Microphone, making of Spirited Away (Japanese language with English subs) part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6 (YT), full US dub (MSv)

+ The Cat Returns (2002, Hiroyuki Morita) - not reviewed by Ebert, the film features the return of some elements found in Whisper of the Heart, and is based on the manga Baron: The Cat Returns by Aoi Hiiragi, who created the manga behind Whisper. She was commissioned to create the short manga by Studio Ghibli, who were asked to make a short film starring cats. The theme park canceled the project, but the manga was created, and the short film expanded into a movie. Videos: Japanese teaser with English subs and Japanese trailer with English subs (YT), full US dub (MSv)

* Howl's Moving Castle (2004) - reviewed by Ebert & Roeper (YT), in print, where Ebert said the movie was "a disappointment, compared to [Miyazaki's] recent work." Videos: Japanese trailer with English subs and US trailer (YT), full US dub (Gv), full US dub (MSv)

+ Tales from Earthsea (2006, Gorō Miyazaki) - not reviewed by Ebert, this film was directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, who had initially not wanted to follow his father, yet returned to prove his capabilities, though the resulting movie faced mixed review of an odd sort. The movie is loosely based on first four Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin. The younger Miyazaki turned from animation and instead became a construction consultant of parks and gardens, but was invited to work on the Studio Ghibli Museum, and he was the museum's director from 2001 to 2005, when he turned his attention to directing his first film. Gorō wrote about the process, how his father was against his son directing "Tales from Earthsea", and Gorō gave Hayao Miyazaki gets zero marks as a father, but full marks as a director of animated films (though another story slipped out in a supplementary entry while the director was busy). Hayao Miyazaki attended the launch party without telling his son, and passed along a few positive words at the end -- "It was made honestly, so it was good," which greatly lifted Gorō's spirits. -- review by Ursula K. Le Guin, and drama reaches the English-speaking 'net. Videos: Japanese trailer with English subs and English trailer (YT), full US dub (MSv)

* Ponyo (2008) - reviewed by Lyons and Mankiewicz (YT) in their continuation of At the Movies, print review by Ebert ("This cannot help sounding like standard animated fare. But I have failed to evoke the wonder of Hayao Miyazaki’s artistry. This 68-year-old Japanese master continues to create animation drawn by hand, just as “Snow White” and “Pinocchio” were. There is a fluid, organic quality to his work that exposes the facile efficiency of CGI. And, my God! — his imagination!"). Videos: Japanese trailer with English YT pop-up subs and US trailer (YT), full Japanese movie with Chinese subs (Tudou), full English dub (Veoh, plugin req.)

+ The Borrower Arrietty (2010, Hiromasa Yonebayashi) - Released to theaters in Japan on July 17, 2010, this movie is based on the 1952 children's fantasy novel, The Borrowers. This is Yonebayashi's directorial debut, and Miyazaki sounds pleased with the results (time-sensitive link, pointing to GhibliWiki's Latest News, with translations of a YouTube clip that is already removed. A bit of translation, copied for posterity from GhibliWiki: Miyazaki says to Yonebayashi, "You did it really well. It was three times better than I thought. You had better take a rest for awhile. It is not a shameful work even if we show it to anyone. I felt a director appeared at last. I was relieved. It was really good. I cried." (laughs) ) Videos: Japanese teaser and Japanese trailer (YT)


Other anime films reviewed by Ebert (and friends)
* Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987, Hiroyuki Yamaga) - reviewed in print only, listed with an honorable mention in Ebert's top 10 for 1995 when it was released in the US. Videos: Japanese trailer and Manga Ent. US trailer (YT).

* Roujin Z (1991, Hiroyuki Kitakubo) - reviewed by Ebert in print. Videos: US trailer (YT)

* Ghost in the Shell (1995, Mamoru Oshii) - reviewed by Siskel & Ebert (YT) and in print by Ebert. Videos: Japanese trailer (YT login required), US trailer (NSFW - animated nudity), US dub in 6 parts (YT), full movie with original Japanese soundtrack and Chinese subtitles (Tudou), and Conan O'Brien & Andy Richter dubbing the movie (Vimeo).

* Metropolis (2001, Rintaro) - reviewed by Ebert & Roeper (YT), in print. Videos: Japanese trailer, Japanese teaser and US trailer (YT), full Japanese movie with Chinese subs (Tudou)

* Tokyo Godfathers (2003, Satoshi Kon, previous [obit]) - reviewed in print. Videos: US trailer and full Japanese movie with English subs (YT)

* Steamboy (2004, Katsuhiro Otomo) - reviewed by Ebert in print. Videos: Japanese trailer, US trailer, and US dub in 13 parts (YT)
posted by filthy light thief (92 comments total) 217 users marked this as a favorite

 
But is it art?
posted by empath at 7:51 AM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dammit, man, I've got stuff to do today.
posted by jquinby at 7:53 AM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Ghibli Miyazaki films are so sweet. They melt my cold, cold heart.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:56 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I appreciate this but I'm wondering....how long did this fucking post take you to make?
posted by Fizz at 7:57 AM on August 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also worth watching if you're a Miyazaki fan (since filthy light thief seems to have covered all his other stuff):
On Your Mark, a music video that Miyazaki put together for Chage and Aska. It's everything that's magical about Miyazaki films, in a neat little 7-minute package.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:58 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Holy hell, I'm going to have to take a PTO day just to get through this post. And then take a week off to watch all these movies.
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 AM on August 30, 2010


This is a great post.

Also, regarding Ponyo: GET YOUR TOWELS READY, IT'S ABOUT TO GO DOWN.
posted by sparkletone at 8:02 AM on August 30, 2010 [12 favorites]


This post is a) completely awesome and b) will take the rest of the day to do justice to. Or possibly the rest of the week.

My children love My Neighbour Totoro: somehow it works on their level. It's also about the only full length feature I know of that has ever passed the "not too (s)cary" toddler test.
posted by pharm at 8:04 AM on August 30, 2010


Dude loves anime but has issues with video games? That's messed up.
posted by grubi at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pharm, then do yourself a favour and pick up Ponyo. It has the same innocent quality that Totoro has. Wonderful and delightful. I find that every time I watch Totoro and Ponyo, I feel like a kid again.
posted by Fizz at 8:08 AM on August 30, 2010


I saw Ponyo in a mostly-empty theater with probably about a dozen kids in attendance. As far as I can tell, the children were awestruck in spite of a relative lack of pratfalls and sight gags.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:15 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw Ponyo in a mostly-empty theater with probably about a dozen kids in attendance. As far as I can tell, the children were awestruck in spite of a relative lack of pratfalls and sight gags.

I've seen adults sit enraptured by it, and there's not a single clever pop culture reference to get them through the super kid-friendly stuff!
posted by sparkletone at 8:32 AM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Which one of the links goes to Shrek Forever After?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:35 AM on August 30, 2010


Fizz: "Pharm, then do yourself a favour and pick up Ponyo. It has the same innocent quality that Totoro has. Wonderful and delightful. I find that every time I watch Totoro and Ponyo, I feel like a kid again."

Already there Fizz, already there :)

Although Ponyo's plot makes less sense that that of Totoro, it doesn't really matter: the relationships between the characters & the beguiling art design are where these movies really shine.
posted by pharm at 8:36 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


(...even less sense than...)
posted by pharm at 8:38 AM on August 30, 2010


It should be noted that a fair number of Japanese people do not understand what the hell Miyazaki is trying to say in his surrealist creations.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anime is not stylization; that's a superficial reading of the genre. It is a form of visual abstraction in the service of storytelling. It can be art.
posted by polymodus at 8:47 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh and for the uninitiated when it comes to anime, there's one rule that is golden: "Subs NOT Dubs!"

I personally find the voice acting in anime films to be far, far, far, superior than any American Hollywood A or B-lister that is used in the dubbed versions.
posted by Fizz at 8:52 AM on August 30, 2010 [8 favorites]


Pharm, don't tell your kids, but Totoro is loosely based on the story of a murder and suicide that took place here in Saitama in the 60's. The girl Mei in the film was kidnapped and murdered, and her sister Satsuki (which also means May in Japanese) found the body and eventually killed herself. The Totoros and the little black dust bunnies are ostensibly the spirits of the underworld. It's amazing that you could take such a gruesome story and make such a great movie out of it.
posted by donkeymon at 8:54 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


There are a few exceptions to the subs/dubs rule though, at least in my experience. Cowboy Bebop has one of the best dubs around and I would say it's at least on par with the Japanese audio.
posted by kmz at 8:55 AM on August 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's amazing that you could take such a gruesome story and make such a great movie out of it.

See Grave of Fireflies listed above.
posted by Fizz at 8:57 AM on August 30, 2010


I have a good friend who loves movies and something we will be playing Six Degrees of Separation and she'll make some bizarre jump and I'll say 'What the hell? When was Claire Danes in a movie with Billy Bob Thornton?' and she'll say 'Princess Mononoke!' and I get really angry because no they weren't.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on August 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh and for the uninitiated when it comes to anime, there's one rule that is golden: "Subs NOT Dubs!"

While that may be true, if they are uninitiated let them discover and enjoy the movies before rushing in to tell them they aren't doing it right.
posted by Gary at 9:00 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


While that may be true, if they are uninitiated let them discover and enjoy the movies before rushing in to tell them they aren't doing it right.

I never said they weren't doing it right. I just find the voice acting to be better. I enjoy them myself this way. I know plenty of people who prefer the English speaking dubs. Just a friendly tip.
posted by Fizz at 9:02 AM on August 30, 2010


donkeymon:

Do you have any more information on that? I'm not doubting you, just curious to read more! Thanks.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:05 AM on August 30, 2010


Stagger Lee: "donkeymon:

Do you have any more information on that? I'm not doubting you, just curious to read more! Thanks.
"

Here's an article I found after some quick googling: Totoro/Murder connection.

From what I've read, it seems less "Totoro is based on these deaths" and more "There are a couple coincidences, so let's analyze it, and see what comes out" urban legend.

Like believing that the Fairies in Bottle Fairy are the split personalities of Sensei-san's sister
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:12 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are a few exceptions to the subs/dubs rule though, at least in my experience. Cowboy Bebop has one of the best dubs around and I would say it's at least on par with the Japanese audio.

For me the biggest exception to that rule is Baccano!. Aside from the dub being good on its own, the story takes place in Prohibition-era America, so it feels more authentic to hear the characters speaking in English with the appropriate accents.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:13 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seems fairly circumstantial.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:16 AM on August 30, 2010


I never said they weren't doing it right. I just find the voice acting to be better. I enjoy them myself this way.

Sure. That came across more pointed and personal than intended. I tend to flip between subs and dubs myself. I realize subtitles give an experience closer to the original intention, but sometimes I just want to relax and enjoy the visuals.

They also cast Phil Hartman for the subtitles in Kiki's Delivery Service, and so far no one has added a feature to have only his voice along with the original Japanese cast.
posted by Gary at 9:34 AM on August 30, 2010


There are a few exceptions to the subs/dubs rule though, at least in my experience. Cowboy Bebop has one of the best dubs around and I would say it's at least on par with the Japanese audio.

I liked the dubs for Trigun and Full Metal Alchemist too.
posted by HostBryan at 9:34 AM on August 30, 2010


how long did this fucking post take you to make?

I've been working on it for about a week, since the Vally of the Wind review and full movie link was sent around the 'net (via io9). I was getting close to finishing when Satoshi Kon's obit was posted, and I felt like that would be an awkward juxtaposition of posts to be be on the Blue at the same time.

In regards to the Subs vs Dubs war, I side with Subs, as long as they're honest and true-to-source and convey a cultural understanding. In this battle, fansubbers often win, as some groups add context that people not familiar with Japanese culture would otherwise miss. But for kids or people who are new to anime, dubs are generally getting better, but there still is an annoying amount of overacting that can shove great movies back into the "kiddie corner" for anyone not paying attention to the plot and design details. One thing that weirds me out: rescoring films for US audiences. That's right, Disney got Joe Hisaishi (aka Mamoru Fujisawa) to record a new soundtrack for a film he scored 13 years earlier.

Also worth watching if you're a Miyazaki fan

Arglebargle, I knew there was something I missed: shorts, music videos and commercials by Studio Ghibli. I found some in my wanderings through videos, but I'll leave those be for now =)

Dude loves anime but has issues with video games? That's messed up.

And that's part of the reason I made this post. 1) to bring Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki to light before he dies (he's in good health as far as I know, but he's been talking of stepping down from his lead role at Studio Ghibli for a few years), and 2) to avoid getting all fan-boy about these movies myself and instead turning to a generally well-regarded movie reviewer for his views on the films. Anime is not a genre unto itself, though there are patterns found most specifically within anime. Anime is just a format, and with Studio Ghibli, it's cel-animation by-and-large, which is astounding in this day of computer animation being the industry standard for animation (as far as I've seen).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2010


The girl Mei in the film was kidnapped and murdered, and her sister Satsuki (which also means May in Japanese) found the body and eventually killed herself.

Wow. I have not heard that before. Maybe that accounts for the emotional peak of the film which is when Mei's lost sandal- is found. ;)
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 9:36 AM on August 30, 2010


Holy smokes this is an epic post.
posted by GuyZero at 9:37 AM on August 30, 2010


While that may be true, if they are uninitiated let them discover and enjoy the movies before rushing in to tell them they aren't doing it right.

Honestly, I dismissed anime for a long time because the dub actors just sounded so...I don't know...cartoon-y in the American sense, as in "condescendingly aimed at children." It wasn't until I watched some of the subtitled stuff that I realized there was anything of value there for grown-ups.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:38 AM on August 30, 2010


In this battle, fansubbers often win, as some groups add context that people not familiar with Japanese culture would otherwise miss.

The absolute best subbing job I've ever seen was on some downloaded episodes of the Japanese teevee cartoon Oruchuban Ebichu-- every episode includes a little title card at the beginning that explains every pun or cultural reference that will come up in the show. Thanks, fansubbers!
posted by shakespeherian at 9:45 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I found some in my wanderings through videos, but I'll leave those be for now =)

If you're holding out on a link to Mei And The Kittenbus I refuse to forgive you.

Also: someone please invent a new 'best post' contest so I can vote for this, please.
posted by mintcake! at 9:54 AM on August 30, 2010


The previous post on Satoshi Kon made me dig out Tokyo Godfathers and watch it. I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed. I'm not really an anime fan, but I'd seen Perfect Blue and enjoyed it a lot, and watched all of the major Ghibli/Miziyaki films and been hugely impressed. Godfathers was OK, but it wasn't really in the same league as any of those.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2010


They also cast Phil Hartman for the subtitles in Kiki's Delivery Service, and so far no one has added a feature to have only his voice along with the original Japanese cast.

I think I get what you meant to say there. Hartman did the voice of Kiki's cat, whose name eludes me at the moment.

Actually, though, I'd argue that Kiki's Delivery Service is a particularly poor choice if you want to defend voice dubbing against subtitling. Because the cat's lips don't move when it "speaks," Disney had the freedom to cram vastly more words into the cat's mouth than were present in the Japanese original. As a result, the dubbed version is considerably dumbed down as Hartman keeps over-explaining stuff that anybody watching the film should have already figured out, and they also have him making an endless stream of wisecracks in what looks like an attempt to give the movie a sensibility of benign, yet sort of above the material, snark (if that makes sense) that feels more like Disney's own stuff.
posted by Naberius at 10:01 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I get what you meant to say there. Hartman did the voice of Kiki's cat, whose name eludes me at the moment.

Yes, that was a typo. Cast him for the dubs, of course.

Actually, the stunt-casting of some of these is a bit weird. Ponyo, for instance, is a movie you are going to have to accept on its own terms. If you are expecting a standard Disney film, it's going to take a lot more than Matt Damon and Tina Fey's voices to do that. It seems everyone would be better off if they hired more experienced voice talent and tried to give something more authentic.
posted by Gary at 10:30 AM on August 30, 2010


Re: subs vs. dubs, one frustrating thing about the Disney dubs in particular is that they actually add massive amounts of dialogue to the movie. Seriously, compare a given scene of Kiki or Castle in the Sky (the two movies I tried this with) with its Disney dub.

Sometimes it's hilarious, in a terrible way. There's this scene in Castle in the Sky where two kids (the heroes) are sitting in an old cave or mine with an ancient miner, who blows out his lamp and tells them to watch what happens. In the Japanese version, the darkness slowly becomes filled with glowing blue dots, like stars, and the kids and the miner just sit there in awe for the longest time, watching. In the Disney version, as this is happening, the miner goes off into a lecture along the lines of "Now, kids, this is what we call the secret of life! You see, we're all interconnected!"

Given that Ghibli movies are so gentle and seem to try to be so genuine, it's annoying to watch a dub where snarkiness and cliches are gratuitously injected.
posted by people? I ain't people! at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


It seems everyone would be better off if they hired more experienced voice talent and tried to give something more authentic.

Except, some voice actors are type-cast for a certain role, and it gets annoying and weird to hear the same dead voice for a variety of "distant" male characters. Not knocking Steve Blum as a person, but he plays the same voice-character for a number of roles, making it seem like Roger Smith from The Big O is somehow a re-dressed version of Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop. /otaku rant
posted by filthy light thief at 10:39 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: subs vs. dubs, one frustrating thing about the Disney dubs in particular is that they actually add massive amounts of dialogue to the movie.

The Fox/Troma dub of Totoro is actually really good. You're stuck with the pan & scan version if you go with that DVD, unfortunately.
posted by mintcake! at 10:50 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've seen adults sit enraptured by it, and there's not a single clever pop culture reference to get them through the super kid-friendly stuff!

By way of nthing this, a MeFi Public Service Announcement for Parents of Small Children:

With the exception of (most of) the Pixar canon, there is no better televisual stimulation for your small children available today than the films of Hayao Miyazaki - particularly the kid-friendly trio of Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo. All three feature female protagonists who are not waiting to be rescued, intense drama without gunplay or swordplay or other graphic violence, humour without scatology, engaging stories, memorable characters, and superlative eye candy - details lacking from 99.7% of the movies and shows produced "for kids" in North America nowadays. They are a delight on repeated viewing. There are no merchandise tie-ins, and if there were you'd want to buy your kid a little stuffed Totoro because who wouldn't want a little stuffed Totoro (as seen, shoutout-style, in Toy Story 3)?

We here at Chateau Gompa are not much on buying DVDs, but we are proud owners of a half-dozen oft-viewed Miyazaki films. I'm waiting maybe another couple months before graduating my 5.5-yr-old daughter to the more advanced themes of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Spirited Away, if you haven't seen it, is one of the all-time most magically transporting cinematic experiences you'll ever have. I want my daughter to see it so I have an excuse to watch it repeatedly. Meantime, I could watch the animation of the roiling ocean in Ponyo another dozen times and not be tired of it.

Do yourself and your kids a favour: Introduce them to Studio Ghibli before they wind up infected by The Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour that is mainstream North American kid-oriented pop-cultural merchandising.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled anime love-in.
posted by gompa at 11:01 AM on August 30, 2010 [14 favorites]


(No Castle of Cogliostro?)

every episode includes a little title card at the beginning that explains every pun or cultural reference that will come up in the show

Glorious AnimEigo may have started this, except they were printed liner notes that came with the VHS tapes. (I feel like this post is incomplete without a mention of Carl Macek. I was going to joke about spitting on his grave until I saw he actually just died in April. Guess I missed the previously.)

Anyway, I loved Miyazaki until Princess Mononoke, which also cemented my hatred for Billy Bob Thornton. After Mononoke I've never quite trusted the stories being told by Ghibli. Many of the ones after have seemed almost afraid to let their story happen, and are content to just become tours of wonderland. Which is fine and all, but sometimes it makes the characters seem passive and the resolutions disappointing; Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle are mere blurs of neat-lookin' blah to me. It's like you open them up and there's nothing inside worth talking about.

I liked Ponyo though! Was it my imagination or was Ponyo "about" being a cross-cultural child? Not just Ponyo, but yaknow, Sosuke and his mom Lisa. It seemed obvious to me but on the other hand the movie didn't address it directly in the real world, so I wondered if I was reading too much into it. If it's not all in my head, I'm impressed at the movie playing it so straight (though maybe it made the wonderland aspect of it seem thinner).
posted by fleacircus at 11:03 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing that you could take such a gruesome story and make such a great movie out of it.

See Grave of Fireflies listed above.


There is rather a bit of a difference in tone between Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies though.

Not knocking Steve Blum as a person, but he plays the same voice-character for a number of roles, making it seem like Roger Smith from The Big O is somehow a re-dressed version of Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop.

Heh. My wife and I like to play "spot Spike Spiegel" in all kinds of anime and video games. He does generally sound the same in most productions, though his Grunt (from Mass Effect 2) was refreshingly different.

The Fox/Troma dub of Totoro is actually really good.

Troma and Ghibli are two studios I probably would least expect to intersect in any way.
posted by kmz at 11:05 AM on August 30, 2010


making it seem like Roger Smith from The Big O is somehow a re-dressed version of Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop

Oh yeah, like Big O would work if only Roger didn't sound like Spike! :-)

Big O. Seriously. I tried to like that show, but it's just ridiculous. Imagine if the end of every single episode of House suddenly turned into a slugfest between giant robots that just appear out of nowhere, crushing the hospital and killing the patient, and we never find out what they actually had but it doesn't matter now because they're dead anyway.

That's Big O. Twenty minutes of noirish drama with often delicate and really heartfelt character stuff, with a giant robot slugfest grafted onto the end like Ray Milland's head.

Sorry. We can go back to Miyazaki now.
posted by Naberius at 11:07 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Imagine if the end of every single episode of House suddenly turned into a slugfest between giant robots that just appear out of nowhere, crushing the hospital and killing the patient, and we never find out what they actually had but it doesn't matter now because they're dead anyway.

That. Would. Be. AWESOME!
posted by kmz at 11:10 AM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


There are no merchandise tie-ins, and if there were you'd want to buy your kid a little stuffed Totoro because who wouldn't want a little stuffed Totoro

There is merchandise. What they don't have is the synergistic cross brand tie-ins. So there were no Ponyo Happy Meals or terrible Spirited Away video games on all platforms.

(Studio Ghibli is making an original game though, which might be good).
posted by Gary at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2010


Imagine if the end of every single episode of House suddenly turned into a slugfest between giant robots that just appear out of nowhere, crushing the hospital and killing the patient, and we never find out what they actually had but it doesn't matter now because they're dead anyway.

I've actually for a long time wanted to make a movie with quiet, tense philosophical conversation between deeply wounded characters trying to come to terms with their past mistakes only to have the last half-hour veer into an attack on the city by giant laser-shooting killer robots from space.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:14 AM on August 30, 2010


Gene Siskel didn't like Totoro? The man clearly has no soul.
posted by feckless at 11:18 AM on August 30, 2010


Damn, Gary, thanks for that. Never thought to check but I guess it shouldn't surprise me that there's some merchandising going on. Might order me - er, my daughter - one of those Totoros for Xmas. The idea of Totoro slippers freaks me out just a little for some reason, though . . .

But yes, in any case, what I meant was no synergistic cross brand tie-ins. No ubiquitous gaping consume-mass-quantities pipe spewing crap everywhere at all times. Which is a good thing.
posted by gompa at 11:19 AM on August 30, 2010


...as this is happening, the miner goes off into a lecture along the lines of "Now, kids, this is what we call the secret of life! You see, we're all interconnected!" BLAM!
posted by Evilspork at 11:25 AM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've seen a lot of Miyazaki merch, at anime conventions and online. Both places you'll some ridiculously good prices, in which case they are most likely knock-offs. And the above-linked Totoro merch just makes me want to create my own versions, especially the hats. Given all that, Ghibli films are not made to support a merchandise franchise, compared to some other kid-oriented movies and TV series.

(No Castle of Cogliostro?)

I was thinking about that, but that's far enough removed from the Ghibli collection, though it is an awesome movie.

Oh yeah, like Big O would work if only Roger didn't sound like Spike! :-)

Yeah, I caught part of an episode of The Big O at an anime con with friends. We laughed that it was like an awkward cross of Batman and giant-robot anime tropes. Since then, I've seen parts of it on Cartoon Network, so I was imagining some poor kid seeing that first, then Cowboy Bebop, and trying to meld the two worlds in his or her head.

posted by filthy light thief at 11:33 AM on August 30, 2010


Re: subs vs. dubs, one frustrating thing about the Disney dubs in particular is that they actually add massive amounts of dialogue to the movie. Seriously, compare a given scene of Kiki or Castle in the Sky (the two movies I tried this with) with its Disney dub.

Not to mention that with Castle in the Sky, Disney had Joe Hisaishi rework his original 40-minute synthesizer soundtrack and make it a 90-minute orchestral work. Though there was a rerelease of the film this year that reverts soundtracks and removes a lot of the extra dialogue, apparently.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:38 AM on August 30, 2010


Re: subs vs. dubs, one frustrating thing about the Disney dubs in particular is that they actually add massive amounts of dialogue to the movie. Seriously, compare a given scene of Kiki or Castle in the Sky (the two movies I tried this with) with its Disney dub.

Slightly off-topic, but this is not limited to just dubbed anime. In college I took a Hebrew class, where one of our assignments was to watch movies in Hebrew (they had subtitles) and write summaries of them. In general, it really opened my eyes about the differences between what is said and what makes it to the subtitle. Many lines were just approximations, so that you got the gist without the nuance. Sometimes a quick joke wouldn't be translated at all.

But my absolute favorite of these was a movie about a prison in Israel. One guy would say, in Hebrew, "Shut up!" The subtitle? "Fuck you. Shut up you fucking pigfucker." No joke, that's not an exact quote, but it's close. The subtitler just threw in random curse words all over the place, presumably because us Americans needed them to keep us suitably entertained.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 11:40 AM on August 30, 2010


Re: subs vs. dubs, one frustrating thing about the Disney dubs in particular is that they actually add massive amounts of dialogue to the movie. Seriously, compare a given scene of Kiki or Castle in the Sky (the two movies I tried this with) with its Disney dub

There are some equally embarrassing examples from Spirited Away. Its like Disney was worried American children might not be smart enough to figure stuff out on their own - or needed to have it explained so they came to the right conclusions.

Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle are mere blurs of neat-lookin' blah to me. It's like you open them up and there's nothing inside worth talking about.

Well, perhaps, this is true if you open them up, but when I open them up - particularly Spirited Away, I see a story about a young girl who discovers that she's brave, resourceful and self-reliant (and wins over potential enemies in the process). It's also a story about how things are seldom what they seem to be. Neither message is Earth-shattering, but how many movies have Earth-shattering messages?

Also, let me put in a plug for The Cat Returns. Mrs. Michaels and I love it and totally got our nephews into it recently. Its better with subtitles, but its hard to argue with the choice to cast Peter Boyle as Muta.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:42 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


As far as I can tell, the children were awestruck in spite of a relative lack of pratfalls and sight gags.

Yeah, this has been true of Totoro and, to a lesser extent, Kiki's Delivery Service. I especially appreciate the way Totoro manages to keep the kids enthralled without a bumbling useless fuckwit of a father, and evil (step)parent, or any of the other often obnoxious staples. Oh, and Ghibli are old for movies where my daughter can see girls as the central characters, something she sure as hell won't get from the major Western animation studios (I'm looking at you, Pixar).

As far as subtitling vs dubbing; well, I prefer to watch subtitles for the most part, but most of these are children's movies. You are all aware of that, right? My three year old is not interested in waiting until she's reading well enough to follow movie subtitles before she dares approach Ponyo or Totoro. Perspective, people, perspective.

(Studio Ghibli is making an original game though, which might be good).

Unfortunately it mostly looks like boy-centred Pokecrap with Ghibli visuals. Meh.
posted by rodgerd at 11:46 AM on August 30, 2010


Continuation of a MeFi Public Service Announcement for Parents of Small Children:

Beyond "the kid-friendly trio of Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo," here is a quick categorization of the other Studio Ghibli films:

- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (PG) - mild violence, people die (nothing too graphic)
- Castle in the Sky - mild violence, not sure about deaths and such
- Grave of the Fireflies - for older kids, as there is realistic violence (not gory, but it depicts a real war)
- Only Yesterday - if you can find it, it's probably boring for little kids, as it's a drama
- Porco Rosso (PG) - drinking and fist-fights with characters getting badly bruised, plus aerial dogfights
- Ocean Waves (PG) - high school drama/romance, probably not interesting for little ones
- Pom Poko (PG) - brief naked bodies that aren't sexualized, violence, and testicles that grow and deform
- Whisper of the Heart - pretty tame, a family/drama/romance movie that might be a tad dull for little ones
- Princess Mononoke (PG-13) - most violent movie next to Grave of the Fireflies
- My Neighbours the Yamadas (PG) - more mature humor, day-to-day life jokes that will slide by the younger ones
- Spirited Away (PG) - mild violence and some smoking is the worst of it, but I think it'd be OK for all but the youngest (?)
- The Cat Returns - pretty tame, and suitable for the little ones (as long as they don't try knife-throwing afterwords)
- Howl's Moving Castle (PG) - more weird and possibly confusing/disturbing than anything else - kid-safe says I
- Tales from Earthsea (PG-13) "for some violent images"
posted by filthy light thief at 11:59 AM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


This is a fabulous post, and even though I know I'll never get around to sampling all the links (too much goodness in the post, never mind the comments!), if I just add the movies I haven't seen to my Netflix queue, I'll have enjoyed many hours of Ghibli animation. Thank you.
posted by immlass at 12:02 PM on August 30, 2010


Just to add to filthy light thief's list of what parents will have to judge for themselves:

Castle in the Sky has death and murder. Maybe not graphic, but it is certainly implied.
Only Yesterday references menstruation, hitting a child.
The Cat Returns - Japanese word references a pervert/peeping tom (subtitles translate it differently).
posted by CancerMan at 12:07 PM on August 30, 2010


Surprised no one has linked to Miyazaki's Future boy Conan yet. Here is the first episode
posted by uandt at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2010


Troma and Ghibli are two studios I probably would least expect to intersect in any way.

I was thinking the same thing, that's why I linked to the presskit transcription:
The nearly two decade old Troma, Inc. is one of the oldest and most
active independent Producer-Distributors in the United States. MY
NEIGHBOR TOTORO represents a new track for Troma, Inc. as the company
becomes more active with family oriented properties. Troma, Inc. will
distribute MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO through it's 50th Street Films.
Troma's licensing department handles the licensing and merchandising
of Troma's in-house properties such as the popular animated
television series the TOXIC CRUSADERS, SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. and
CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH, as well as representing properties including
the Emmy award winning READING RAINBOW and THE CAT HALL OF FAME.
At first I thought Troma Pictures was different from Troma Entertainment, but clearly that is not the case.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:19 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow filthy light thief. You've outdone yourself. This is awesome.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:19 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


My short synopsis of Big O: 16 minutes of blah blah blah, WTF are they babbling about? Then five minutes of GIANT ROBOTS!

It felt to me that Big O was imitating the style of anime that had some big underlying philosophical mystery that's slowly revealed, without having anything coherent to reveal.

Spirited Away: To me, one of the things I like about Miyazaki is that he gets the idea that some of the things we take for granted as an adult might be a big adventure for kids on their own. The train sequence not only is one of the most beautiful in animation history, it also shows Chihiro's growth as a character in contrast to the fidgeting and pouting Chihiro we see in the opening scene. Most of the movie is filled with similar scenes. Similar to Totoro and Ponyo, the conflict is about how children rise to the demands of being put into unfamiliar situations.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2010


If you're holding out on a link to Mei And The Kittenbus I refuse to forgive you.

Nope, but I am also intrigued by that and the other Studio Ghibli Museum exclusive clips. I did find Ghiblies, both ep 1 and ep 2 on Veoh, with original Japanese language and English subtitles. Also: The Night of Taneyamagahara and Iblard Jikan are full Japanese shorts streaming on RuTube. The former has Japanese dialogue with no subs, but the latter is eight separate segments of animated paintings, free of dialogue.

More music videos: Capsule - "Portable Airport," "Space Station No. 9" and "A Flying City Plan." In more a cutesy Ghibli theme: Meiko Haigo - "Doredore no Uta." One last music video: Yui Aragaki - "Piece"
posted by filthy light thief at 1:04 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "If you're holding out on a link to Mei And The Kittenbus I refuse to forgive you.

Nope, but I am also intrigued by that and the other Studio Ghibli Museum exclusive clips.
"

Who's up for a MeFieldTrip to Mitaka some time in September or November?
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:14 PM on August 30, 2010


Wow, the still frame from the short is odd. And I think I want the Ghibli crest on something, possibly engraved on a future front door.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:17 PM on August 30, 2010


I'm with the House would be awesome with robot battles at the end group. I've tried to like House and the first 3/4ths is perfectly good with all the snark, humor, crazy medical mysteries, and misanthropy. It's that last fourth that gets all emotionally smothering. Moralizing crud with people learning lessons (or not) and all the enjoyment I had watching the episode is completely undercut (see Scrubs for another example of this but I am better able to ignore the endings in that one). Having a big robot battle at the end of House might be a rather jarring non-sequitur but it would be more enjoyable than House in its present form.

As for sub v dub, in almost all cases I prefer the sub. One notable exception that I've just experienced is with NieA_7. The show has some definite shortcomings but by the end I feel it redeems itself. Anyway, there is an interesting problem with the sub/Japanese voice acting, it turns out that Japanese voice inflection might actually be different than how we do it with English. I've not studied Japanese so I can't say this for certain but in NieA_7 there are times when the Japanese voice actors' inflections seems to contradict (to this American's ears) the subbed text and even clash with the general tone of the show. What should be malaise comes across as anger (for e.g.). After trying to watch it again subbed I gave up and am finishing it dubbed. I can't think of any other shows/films that have generated the same reaction in me but I'd be surprised if there aren't other examples of this.

Finally, with Big O it really is a show of two seasons. I think the first one is much more watchable in terms of the story. The second season, which I believe was made, in part, to satisfy American fans, goes way over-the-top with the story and the subtleties from the first season are lost. Still not a great show but watchable and you can skip the second season without feeling as if you've missed out on something.
posted by bfootdav at 1:37 PM on August 30, 2010


Cowboy Bebop has one of the best dubs around and I would say it's at least on par with the Japanese audio.

Okay, here's the breakdown on this. The Cowboy Bebop dub is not any better than any other dub. Perhaps slightly better than the Disney remix dubs though. BUT the reason people think the CB dub is better is because of the way they were introduced to it. Late night they're sitting around watcing Cartoon Network and all of a sudden this completely fantastic mind blowing anime comes on. Then they can't wait to watch the next one, and the one after that, and they're totally entranced without a reference point. At some point the dubbed version was locked in and the de facto way it was made. They may go back and watch it in it's original Japanese and... it's different... not the same... maybe not as good.

This is also why people fondly look back on some musical artists as being totally awesome, when even at the time people knew they were schlocky pop makers. "You remember Da Brat and Missy Elliot? Now that was real Hip-Hop music!"

What were we talking about? Oh, yeah. Miyazaki. Awesome. Watch everything he's done.

P.S. Big O was only twelve episodes long and then was canceled. Cartoon Network bought it in an attempt to finish it. And no it doens't make any sense, because there was never any denouement.

P.P.S. Yes, I am sticking to my theory even if you disagree and say that's not how it happened for you because the Japanese voice acting is infitely superior.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:49 PM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been working on it for about a week, since the Vally of the Wind review and full movie link was sent around the 'net (via io9).

I was thinking about posting that too, and now I'm really glad I didn't because this post is absolutely fantastic. Great work, filthy light thief.
posted by homunculus at 1:56 PM on August 30, 2010


(I feel like this post is incomplete without a mention of Carl Macek. I was going to joke about spitting on his grave until I saw he actually just died in April. Guess I missed the previously.)

You know, say what you will about the guy. I'm not here to defend him because I'm not qualified. But the Nausicaa hackup, Warriors of the Wind, was the first piece of anime I ever saw when it was released in US theaters, and it blew me away. Planted seeds that were ready to grow when other people started to make anime available in the U.S. in less adulterated forms. I can't condemn it.
posted by Naberius at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2010


filthy light thief, this is an amazing post. I'm a big fan of Ghibli, for a lot of different reasons. Pom Poko (also known as The Heisei Tanuki War) is one of my favorite movies, yet I'm pretty much unable to talk about it without having to fight off tears. It's one of the saddest movies I've ever seen. It's based on the construction of housing developments in western Tokyo destroying one of the largest habitats for tanuki in Japan. The first time I saw it was on tv here, about 8 years ago, and I understood very, very little, but it still left me in tears.

On the other hand, 8 years later, when Totoro was on TV, I had the joy of realizing I can now watch it without subtitles, which was kind of fun, especially given my Ask history. When it comes to the dubs/subs argument, Totoro stands out as a classic example. The first time I saw it was on my friends dubbed VHS. It's horrendous. The cat bus speaks in an awful, grating voice to announce the next stop, and yeah, extra dialogue is added to "explain" things. Something I've noticed is that, in the Japanese, Satsuki is a lot meaner to Mei, saying cruel things from time to time, and it's kind of glossed over in both dubbing and subtitles.

As for the murder idea, dear lord, I've never heard that, and would like to unhear it. From other sources, (much more lighthearted) I've read that the movie is set in post-war Tokorozawa, and the Totoro thing came about because Miyazaki's niece (who was quite young at the time) couldn't pronounce the name correctly, instead saying "Totorozawa." While the murder thing is pretty bleak, I've always maintained (slightly undercut by the credits sequence) that mom is in a TB sanitarium, and she doesn't have long to live. While the credits show her coming home, there's just too much working against her. It's nearly a trope in Japanese (and Korean) cinema/drama that if a young person so much as coughs gently in the early part of a film, they'll be dead of some tragic wasting disease by the end of the film. Other things fit as well. The dad is a lecturer in Tokyo, yet they move (at the time) far outside the city, to be close to mom's hospital. Hmm. A hospital for people who need fresh, clean air? TB. She'll be dead before Mei graduates elementary school. As ghoulish as it sounds, to me, it only adds layers to the film, which is wonderfully made, and I totally agree with the review stating it's the world we should live in, rather than the one we do.

Last thing, the Ghibli museum is great, but it's kind of far. I think you're still supposed to buy tickets beforehand (go to a Lawson's convenience store, mumble something something Ghibli at the clerk, and they'll help you use the kiosk to order tickets), but you might still be able to buy them the day of at the Japan Travel Bureau (JTB, red sign) in Mitaka. Good things: The robot from Nausica on the roof, the spinning/strobe animation diorama (I can watch it for hours). Bad: Adults aren't allowed in the cat bus.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:35 PM on August 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Big O. Seriously. I tried to like that show, but it's just ridiculous. Imagine if the end of every single episode of House suddenly turned into a slugfest between giant robots that just appear out of nowhere, crushing the hospital and killing the patient, and we never find out what they actually had but it doesn't matter now because they're dead anyway.

This is what I call the "Giant Robot Problem", and it applies to more than just giant robots. Giant robots are cool, and therefore you think it's going to be very cool to make a TV series featuring giant robots. But once you try to write a story that revolves around giant robots you discover that, in fact, there are a very small number of problems you need a giant robot to solve. You're pretty much limited to: 1) Fighting evil giant robots, 2) Fighting evil giant monsters, 3) fighting armies (and they're really not very good at that), and 4) rescuing people from natural disasters. So that's 4 plots. Now say your giant robot can go underwater and into space. Then you've got 12 shows (4 plots X 3 settings). After the first season, you're pretty much out of material and have to start recycling ("Return of the Evil Giant Robot From Space Pt. 2"). That's why a lot of giant robot anime quickly morphs into high school soap operas with giant robots. It's not about the giant robots, it's about the trials and tribulations of the people who drive the giant robots.

See also: Night Boat.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:40 PM on August 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Given all that, Ghibli films are not made to support a merchandise franchise, compared to some other kid-oriented movies and TV series.

Well, there is a nationwide chain devoted solely to Ghibli goods (Donguri Kyōwakoku, "Acorn Republic") as well as the aforementioned Ghibli no Mori museum/theme park, so merchandising is certainly a large part of the company -- though I agree that the films aren't made primarily to sell toys, and that the popularity of the merchandise is based on a genuine affection for the movies and the characters rather than a cynical desire to collect multiple variations on the same figures or cards.
posted by armage at 4:12 PM on August 30, 2010


This post, YESSSSSS!!
posted by pianomover at 5:28 PM on August 30, 2010


It's not about the giant robots, it's about the trials and tribulations of the people who drive the giant robots.

I think that's a fair assesment of what Big O was initially going for. I think it's somewhat abberant in that it is one of the few animes that tries to play well between the fan service that people expect from the common tropes and actually deliver an interesting and good story. Another one that's comes to mind is a show called Gungrave. The problem with it is the first episode is totally over the top which initially turns people off, and the majority of the story (which is fantastic) takes place in flashbacks. Whenever I suggest it to someone I tell them to watch the second episode first, or at least watch the first two, and then subsequently watch the rest before they make a decision.

I wish I had more to say about Miyazaki than simply he's a genius. Or maybe that's all that needs to be said.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:49 PM on August 30, 2010


furthering armage's point, I've had several different Totoro cell phone straps, I have a couple Totoro handkerchiefs around here somewhere, and if you're ever in Tokyo, specifically Asakusa, you should stop by the store selling Ghibli stuff on the street right next to the entrance to Senso-ji in Asakusa. All Ghibli, all the time. And the thing is? It's not cheap. Totoro coffee cups start well above $10. They make a ton of money off of merch, and while I want to believe, much as armage does, that the movie comes first, wow, there are so many characters that are perfect for little plush toys (Pulcifer, the makurokurosukes, Bo as a hamster) that I would be surprised if there isn't some point where they think, "hey, this'll sell well."

/ashamed at my own cynicism
posted by Ghidorah at 5:54 PM on August 30, 2010


It's not about the giant robots, it's about the trials and tribulations of the people who drive the giant robots.

Sure, that goes for just about everything. The Big O did a great job of selling the noir, and a rather poor job of selling the apocalypse of a bottled universe IMO.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:32 PM on August 30, 2010


filthy light thief (or anyone who might know) is there or was there ever a version of Nausicaa that had more of the (very long) story as told in the prior manga version? I read the manga (repeatedly) before seeing the movie, and as wonderful as the movie is I couldn't halp pining for more of the stuff that didn't make it in (to the versions I have, anyway-- I have a Japanese release, region-locked, no dubs or subs, in addition to the Disney DVD.)

PS, nth-ing all the humble thanks for the post and the labor you put into it.
posted by jfuller at 8:21 PM on August 30, 2010


the "not too (s)cary" toddler test.

Where we come from we worship Miyazaki, and if we had kids we would show them all of his movies.

But you have to admit, some of the abstract imagery in Ponyo is pretty weird...
posted by ovvl at 8:51 PM on August 30, 2010


jfuller, the movie is indeed an abbreviation of the manga. The same is the case for most manga-to-movie (or even OVA/OAV) conversions.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:02 PM on August 30, 2010


Laputa: Castle in the Sky is one of my favorite movies, at times my single favorite. If anybody feels like discussing, let me know; I'm almost always up for it. I just finished re-reading Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. I've actually been on something of a Miyazaki kick recently, since I bought and watched Ponyo, and was then on a panel at a local con that partially celebrated his movies and manga. Re-watched Porco Rosso, too. His stuff is wonderful.

jfuller, Miyazaki did a large part of the manga for Nausicaa before doing the movie; he then finished the manga, so the manga both precedes and follows the movie. The movie couldn't possibly have contained everything in the manga, since it was made before the manga was fully developed. (Not to mention the movie would have to be about three days long.)
posted by jiawen at 11:03 PM on August 30, 2010


I just have to say that for anyone wondering how bad subtitles can be, you must see some of the Air Gear episodes. That benchmark for shoddiness will never be topped.
posted by Twang at 12:43 AM on August 31, 2010


Pom Poko is one of my favourite films ever. It's like a Disney animal cartoon about habitat loss with 70% of the cuteness removed and replaced with a solid core of sex and death. And giant magic testicles. As much as I love the beautifully made Ghibli films where the heroine faces grave dangers but always has fate on her side (so you just know she'll make it through in the end), there's something about the harshness and tragedy of the world the tanuki inhabit that makes it so much more real.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:38 AM on August 31, 2010


- Grave of the Fireflies - for older kids, as there is realistic violence (not gory, but it depicts a real war)

You know, having read about this film, I'm not going to watch it. I can get enough trauma in my life. If my kid(s) want to watch it, they can do it when they're old enough to watch movies without me around.

- Spirited Away (PG) - mild violence and some smoking is the worst of it, but I think it'd be OK for all but the youngest (?)

I'm kind of reluctant with my 3 year old on this, because the whole "stolen family, you're responsible for getting them back" seems a bit heavy.
posted by rodgerd at 3:05 AM on August 31, 2010


soo much information overload, thank you though
posted by metafus at 5:37 AM on August 31, 2010


- Spirited Away (PG) - mild violence and some smoking is the worst of it, but I think it'd be OK for all but the youngest (?)

I'm kind of reluctant with my 3 year old on this, because the whole "stolen family, you're responsible for getting them back" seems a bit heavy.


I would say that Spirited Away is a bit much for a three year old (Totoro's what you want!). The protagonist in Spirited Away is 10. I'd say the movie is fine for kids younger than that, depending on the kid of course, but not too much younger than that (7 years is definitely "too much" by my reckoning).
posted by sparkletone at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2010


> (Not to mention the movie would have to be about three days long.)

Oh now. The Russians did a really good, complete War and Peace in only 12 hours :-)
posted by jfuller at 4:02 PM on August 31, 2010


yeah what Ghidora said-

As for the murder idea, dear lord, I've never heard that, and would like to unhear it.

I think somewhere in the extras to something else (I only have the Fox/Troma DVD of Totoro), Miyazaki says in an interview that the story was semi-autobiographical and when he was a child, his mother was in the hospital for a long time.

filthy light thief, thank you for this wonderfulness!
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:23 PM on August 31, 2010


If you've made it this far, I offer a very complex papercraft model for Howl's Moving Castle (26 page Japanese PDF with additional 21 page English instructions in a second PDF), and three videos depicting the model creation in high speed.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:33 AM on September 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would say that Spirited Away is a bit much for a three year old (Totoro's what you want!)

Indeed, Totoro is a favourite in our household; after the first couple of viewings she aplained the wonder to all and sundry thus: "Catbus can go anywhere!"

She liked Kiki's Delivery Service, but nowhere near as much; I figure that won't start to resonate for a few more years yet.
posted by rodgerd at 2:58 AM on September 6, 2010


Oh, man. Discovered a few hours ago that Ponyo is streamable on Netflix. Not HD, sadly (or what passes for it on Netflix). But I am really not looking this gift horse in the mouth.

Kind of hoping anyone who can hear out my window isn't alarmed when I sing along with the initial version of the end credit song.
posted by sparkletone at 10:26 PM on September 6, 2010


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