Posts Tagged ‘Studio Ghibli’

The Tale of Princess Kaguya (KAGUYAHIME NO MONOGATARI)

Dir.: Isao Takahata

Animation with the voices of Aki Asakura, Takeo Chii, Nobuko Myamato

Japan 2013, 137 min.

Based on the oldest recorded Japanese narrative ‘Taketori Monogatari’, THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is the swansong of Isao Takahata (GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES), co-founder of Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki. There are several screen adaptations of the story, the best known being Kon Ichikawa’s 1987 life version “THE PRINCESS FROM THE MOON”.

A bamboo cutter Okinia (Chii) finds a doll like girl sprouting from a bamboo shoot. He takes her home, but she is already growing in his hands. A few weeks later she is a young, wild teenager, running through the woods with the boys. Okina and his wife Ona (Myamato) call their foster daughter “Little Princess”, whilst the boys have named her “Little Bamboo”, because of her quick growth. The princess (Asakura) shows no signs of being different from her playmates, but when her foster father finds a cache of gold and fine, colourful garments in the wood, he realises that his foster daughter is destined to grow up a princess at court. The family moves, to the chagrin of Little Bamboo, who hates the court and her new teacher, who tries to turn her into a lady. She is even given a new name, Kaguya, meaning “creature of light”. Soon five famous suitors appear on the scene, all wanting to marry the enigmatic stranger. But Kaguya, who longs for a simple life in the woods with her friends, sets them all impossible targets, which they fail to achieve in different ways; a clever ruse to avoid marrying any of them. Finally, the emperor’s son makes a clumsy attempt to gain her love, and she prays to the forces which placed her in the bamboo sprout, to take her back to the moon. But as soon as she has asked to be taken back, she regrets it. Meeting her girlhood friend Satumaro again, they joyfully fly through the air, Satemaro promising to keep Kaguya safe. But the date of her return is fast approaching; Kaguya knows that back home she will loose all memory of her earthly stay.

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA is an emotional and visual tour-de-force, the main protagonist’s desires of a peaceful life in the countryside are thwarted by her materialistic parents who want to achive status in society. Kaguya tries her best to counter the desires of her parents, she even hallucinates the landscape of her childhood, whilst looking out of the window of her palace, trying to go back in time. The eastern brush painting helps to make the images dreamlike, everything is fluid and magical, the vibrant images wafting like flowers in the wind. The silk clothes of the princess give the images an even greater transcendency, culminating in the flight sequence with Satemaro. Kaguya is the epitome of grace, perfectly suiting her: she is a delicately fluttering creature, always on the move, her mood changes translated into colourful images. Some of the early scenes are redolent of an earlier Takahata animation film HEIDI, A GIRL OF THE ALPS. The ending is an array of lighting, where arrows turn into flowers, and the God of the Moon tries to persuade Kaguya to return to her anti-septic home, bereft of any emotional content. THE TALE OF PRNCESS KAGUYA is a wonderful synthesis of dreamlike images, a metaphor for the spiritual life in conflict with materialism and status. An expressionistic phantasy, rather like the paintings of Monet, Manet or Sisley coming to life. AS



The Wind Rises (2013) | DVD/Blu


Director/Writer: Miyazaki Hayao

Voices of: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci

126min  Japanese Anime  Wartime Drama        

Another enchanting piece of Japanese Anime from Studio Ghibli, this time a delicately-drawn story of Wartime aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the amazingly effective ‘Zero’ fighter during WWII.  THE WIND RISES is particularly special because its director and writer, Miyazaki Hayao, is well-known for being behind the most successful films: Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo and claims this is his swan song.

wind copyWhat starts as a largely biographical story of Jiro’s childhood, training and early career gradually transforms into an endearing love story when he finally meets his sweetheart while saving her umbrella in a gale. The two have previously met during an earthquake, (the Great Kanto disaster of 1923) wonderfully depicted in the early part of the film. The tone mellows as the tender love story is reflected in lush visuals of flowery country landscapes including almond blossoms, billowing meadows, breathtaking cloud formations and sunsets. As usual with Ghibli, the dreamy and softly rendered cartoons often belie a heart-rending or serious storyline, and THE WIND RISES is no different, underpinned as it is by Jiro’s personal tragedy and the Wartime context of conflict and geographical disaster.  Immersive from start to finish, THE WIND RISES is a stunning piece of filmmaking accompanied by a richly-textured narrative that will delight regular devotees as well as those still unfamiliar with the genre. MT

NOW OUT ON DVD Blu-ray courtesy of Studio Canal

From Up On Poppy Hill (2011) DVD BLU

Director: Goro Miyazaki         Writer: Tetsuro Sayama and others

91mins   Studio Ghibli Animation

Poppy Hill

Though famed for their fantastical creations, Japanese animators Studio Ghibli have also displayed a unique ability across their 28 year history, for placing the viewer in a particular time and place in modern history within their productions. Be that World War One in Porco Rosso, or the end of the Second World War in Grave of the Fireflies, they depict a world we know so well, yet enriching it with fantasy elements and the enchantment for which they have become so well renowned. Their latest picture From Up On Poppy Hill is no different, this time taking us back to Japan in 1964, ahead of the forthcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

Poppy Hill

In director Goro Miyazaki’s (son of co-founder Hayao) sophomore Ghibli endeavour, we begin in Yokohama, following student Umi (Sarah Bolger) as she cares for her family while her mother is away. Struggling to overcome the untimely death of her father in the Korean War, she soon starts to rediscover some meaning to her life, when she meets the anarchic and enigmatic Shun (Anton Yelchin). Focusing primarily on saving the latter’s clubhouse from the wrecking ball, the pair develop feelings for one another – although the situation grows somewhat untenable when some unexpected information is brought to light.


With a voice cast also consisting of the likes of Christina Hendricks, Jamie Lee Curtis and Bruce Dern, From Up On Poppy Hill provides a rich, political and social context to proceedings, and though the core of this story is a romantic tale, the setting adds more poignancy and substance to the narrative. Such context enhances the realism of the piece, as although this is as magical as one may expect, by placing this tale in real circumstances, it makes it seem all the more naturalistic. Such a sentiment only heightens the emotional aspects of the picture too, because the more we believe in this tale, the more invested we are. It’s certainly an easy backdrop to associate with, what with a big city gearing itself up for such a prestigious sporting occasion, and the political implications such an event can arouse. Somewhat familiar, isn’t it?

In the meantime, the animation is about as good as Ghibli have been able to boast, with beautiful scenery complementing the story. The varying, picturesque images of the clouds and vibrantly colourful skies form an alluring backdrop, adding to the romanticism of the piece. In a typical Ghibli manner, every single mundane task appears magical and bewitching, as even the scene where the family sit down to eat breakfast has an air of enchantment around it. Such scenes are embellished with a typically witty script, as a feature that carries several dryly humorous one-liners.

c0029_t4.0087-e1375182478129Though not quite reaching the heights of some of the classic Ghibli productions, this remains an improvement on their most recent title Arrietty, in that this has more originality to the story as a bewitching piece that tells a touching and heartfelt tale, and one that is masterfully dealt with. With a plethora of twists and turns, at one point Shun remarks, “this is like a cheap melodrama”: and though the narrative may indicate such a notion, Miyazaki does an almighty job to ensure this not be the case, as the themes are dealt with delicately and triumphantly. But then again, it’s Studio Ghibli: could we really have expected anything less? SP





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