Hayao Miyazaki Sticks It to The Man


On June 16, Hayao Miyazaki had this banner placed on the roof of Studio Ghibli to protest nuclear power, in wake of the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.  Ghibli's banner declares, "Studio Ghibli wants to create animated films with non-nuclear electricity."

I'm guessing there was an expectation that Miyazaki, as Japan's most beloved figure, would publicly endorse Japan's nuclear power, in an effort to calm public fears ever since the earthquake and tsunami.  Instead, this sudden and very public protest - ah, hell yeah!

I just love that Miyazaki-san is 70 years old, and he's still sticking it to The Man, just like the glory days of the Toei labor union in the '60s.  Passive Americans could learn a thing or two.


Kokuriko-Zaka Kara - Preview and First Impressions


On June 23, Studio Ghibli held its first production staff preview of their upcoming film, Kokuriko-Zaka Kara.  It appears that the earthquake and subsequent nuclear meltdown couldn't hold Ghibli down for long.  Everything appears to be on schedule, and the media promotions should begin shortly.

After the preview screening, a number of Ghibli staff shared their impressions on Twitter.  The following are translated from the original Japanese, courtesy of T. Ishikawa:

@nagasawamg:
Kokuriko-zaka first preview was held today. It was a really wonderful work.
I almost cried several times. I really thought that the youth is wonderful.
I want all of you to watch it early.

@nerd_core:
Kokuriko-zaka is probably far more interesting film than many of you think.
Personally, it is far more better than Tales from Earthsea and Arrietty
and better than Whisper of the Heart (as same genre).
I recommend it to you.

@shima999:
Yesterday was Kokuriko-zaka first preview day.
The stage of the story is Yokohama city of 1960s.
The straight look of chief characters pierced me from nostalgia scenery of the screen.

@HP0128:
I went Ghibli's latest film Kokuriko-zaka Kara first preview yesterday.
The figure of the boy and girl who faced difficulty but confront straight it was impressive.
The theme that Hayao Miyazaki-san aimed at was expressed properly.

@HP0128:
The decadent beauty was impressive in Arrietty, but beauty of positive power
is expressed straight in Kokurikoo-zaka. I don't like chorus scene of Japanese movie,
but the chorus scene of this movie is splendid.

Joe Hisaishi in Budokan DVD and Blu-Ray


One of the readers asked about the concert DVD and Blu-Ray, Joe Hisaishi in Budokan.  I can't remember if I've actually posted a photo of the cover, so here it is.  The concert took place in August, 2008 and aired on Japan's NHK network.  The home discs were released in Japan in 2009, and is currently available at retailers like YesAsia, CD Japan, and Amazon.jp.

The cover sketch was drawn by Hayao Miyazaki, and used as the poster for the 2009 concert.  It pretty much tells you everything you need to know - Joe Hisaishi performing selections from his movie scores (all of Miyazaki's Ghibli feature films) with a full orchestra.  The content should be identical on DVD and BD, so either purchase will be a welcome addition to your movie library.

Joe Hisashi in Paris



Joe Hisaishi is taking his orchestral performances of his Studio Ghibli scores on tour through Europe.  Here's a terrific video of his recent appearance in Paris.  It's interesting to see him on tour, and it would be nice to imagine a visit to the US.  The odds of that happening are pretty slim, however.  Studio Ghibli very much remains an unknown entity to most of the country.

Dedicated Hisaishi fans will want to pick up his concert DVD/Blu-Ray, which is available in Japan on the Ghibli ga Ippai label.  I'm sure your money is being saved up for the feature films, but it's nice to know there's always another addition to your library.

Photos - Karigurashi no Arrietty (The Borrower Arrietty)


At long last, we poor Westerners are finally able to see Karigurashi no Arrietty, thanks to the newly-released Blu-Ray disc in Japan.  The picture quality is outstanding, as we would expect.  I'm always amazed at the artistry of Studio Ghibli's movies, the painterly quality to their work  It's really wonderful to watch, and I have to admit, I'm really becoming tired of the same rubbery, plastic look of Hollywood CGI cartoons.  I miss the authenticity of the paintbrush.

Mind you, I also have a Sony direct-drive turntable from the late 1970s, and a Sega Genesis connected to my (hd) CRT television.  And my hair is turning silver.  I'm at that point where everything was better two decades ago.  Younger readers should respond with the necessary skepticism.

That said, c'mon, be honest.  You'd rather watch an animated movie with glorious hand-painted artwork.  You'd crawl through sewers if another Miyazaki or Takahata movie was on the other side.

Young(er) Miyazaki Discusses Nausicaa





Video footage of the younger Hayao Miyazaki is somewhat rare, so I'm glad to see this lengthy interview on Japanese television.  I'm guessing it took place in 1984, after the release of Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.  Miyazaki is in his early 40s in this video, and looks very young.  It's during moments like this when I feel like pinching myself; this was a very long time ago.

I do wish English subtitles were included, but perhaps this is something the fansub community could tackle.  I'd like to see a collection of Miyazaki videos with subtitles sometime.  As the complete Miyazaki-Takahata canon is made available, there will still be a need for more discoveries, and Ghibli fans in the West are always eager to learn more about their hero.

It's interesting to read Miyazaki's career highlights on the text crawl.  It's a fascinating look into how he was perceived at that time, and which works were considered the peaks, and which were more obscure.  Horus, Prince of the Sun (1968), Puss in Boots (1969), Heidi, Girl of the Alps (1974) and Future Boy Conan (1978) are the cited works.  Hmm, Castle of Cagliostro...at the time, that movie was remembered as a box office failure, not the swashbuckling adventure classic we recognize today.

To the Japanese public in 1984, Hayao Miyazaki was probably still seen as Isao Takahata's student.  The great second half of his career had only just begun.  The Topcraft offices, where this TV interview took place, became the first home of Studio Ghibli in 1985.  In 1989, Ghibli finally had its first breakout hit with Kiki's Delivery Service, and in 1997 and 2001, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away would turn Miyazaki into an international legend.  All of this lies in the future as the director sits and contemplates his work.

Karigurashi no Arrietty Blu-Ray is Here!


The long-awaited Arrietty Blu-Ray is available today in Japan.  The package uses the same thick cardboard as used for the previous releases, with a plastic hairclip as a bonus.  The picture quality will be spectacular, and this will be another wonderful addition to our movie libraries.

Just to clear up the issue of soundtracks and subtitles.  Ghibli's Arrietty BD does include English subtitles, but no English-language dub.  Disney is recording a soundtrack in preparation for next year's theatrical release in the US, so we'll have to wait for that version.  As always, the bonus features are in Japanese only, with no subs.

All of this can be yours for the low, low price of 7,100 Japanese Yen, or roughly $80USD.  Ouch.  Personally, I would already have ordered my copy, but instead I have to spend my money on the fiancee visa to bring Marcee to the United States.  Now that's expensive, folks.  The Studio Ghibli Blu-Rays are a drop in the bucket compared to that.  Fortunately, we'll have a few weeks to save up for the Mimi/Whisper Blu-Ray, which will also be amazingly spectacular.

Miyazaki-Topia - Studio Ghibli Legos (Very Large Photo)


Now this is absolutely breathtaking.  A very skilled artist has created a fantastic collection of Ghibli-related Lego sculptures (to win friends and influence his uncle).  I keep forgetting that Legos have evolved quite a bit since I was a small kid three decades ago.  It's amazing what you can achieve with these little blocks today.

I'm going to reprint Iain Heath's description from his Flikr page in its entirety.  I think he can explain this far better than I could.  You can see close-up photos of the individual Lego sculptures here.  Enjoy!

Here finally is the finished product, presented at BrickCon 2010 under the "Big In Japan" theme, sponsored by The Brothers Brick. ! I was very honored, surprised and humbled when it received the award for "Big in Japan - Best Overall" award (...which ironcially I also designed!).

To present my completed collection of Miyazaki based Lego creations, I built a Japanese gadren around them. This consisted of several sections of lichen-covered tree trunk sawn to different lengths, some river rocks, various types of moss, a few branches and fern leaves, and also a large amount of sand! Arranging the garden on site took me almost an entire day, during which time I made a complete mess of the floor and table. But my fellow exhibitors were very patient with me, for which I thank them.

Thanks must also go out to Sno-Valley Tree Service of Redmond for providing me (for free) with a large stock of beautiful logs to use in this display. Thankyou Jim!

Thanks also go out to my family, for putting up with the long hours of solitude over the past year that I required to make this dream a reality.

And finally, thankyou to the master himself, Mr. Miyazaki, for inspiring this small homage through his wonderful and timeless works.

Iain.

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