Studio Ghibli

All posts tagged Studio Ghibli

The two main protagonists.

The final episode of the legendary Japanese mangaka Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack OVA reviewed in the last entry of this blog features an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, where the main protagonist may or may not be putting a cave-dwelling mermaid under the knife while charging hundreds of millions of yen (to know the answer, watch that anime). Right after watching that episode, I then get an idea of watching another adaptation of that (in)famous fairy tale done by the legendary anime movie director Hayao Miyazaki in his newest movie titled Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. Not only then I will be able to review another of his movies (this movie will be his third title reviewed in this blog) but more importantly, I can also compare and decide which one of the two titular figures in Japan’s anime history has the best implementation of that macabre fairy tale from the West.

This movie is a 2008 title, therefore its chances to dethrone the current ‘Anime of the Year 2008’ title holder One Outs is practically nil. Oh, and before you complain about the irrationality of comparing a movie (Ponyo) and an anime episode (Black Jack OVA episode 10), remember that this movie’s running time is just about 90 minutes, while that Black Jack episode runs a little bit under an hour. Did the extra 30 minutes that this movie has will then give an unfair advantage to it? Well, read on and find out then.

Her driving skills is on par with Fujiwara Takumi of Initial D. See how she drives fast as she ascends Mt. Akina while balancing the ice-cream on her son's hands from spilling over. A precursor of that awesome tsunami-car chasing scene.


Click here for the goodies!

The hidden paragraph above (click the 'Show' button to reveal it) basically summarize the essence of the whole movie, therefore if you haven’t watched the movie yet, there are no surprises left in it for you. And this signifies the single major weakness this movie has: the extremely thin plot.

Unlike the previous Studio Ghibli movie I reviewed here before, the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, too little things are happening within this movie. No matter how smart I can be, even I will find it hard to summarize the storyline of Spirited Away, or episode 10 of Black Jack OVA for the matter, within a 111-word paragraph like the hidden paragraph above and still leave a reasonable clarity in it to act as a complete event-by-event spoiler that is good enough to describe the whole plot. There are simply more substance and events within the storylines of Spirited Away, and to a lesser extent, episode 10 of Black Jack OVA too. If he play his cards right, the director could probably reduce this movie’s length by 30 minutes, down to the Black Jack OVA episode 10’s length, and highly likely without losing anything. I bet that the director of Black Jack OVA, which is Osamu Dezaki, another anime movie director with skills that is not inferior to Hayao Miyazaki’s, would be able to condense it just like that.

Character developments also suffers because of the lack of a substantial storyline (remember, this movie is shounen, not slice-of-life). Only the fish has some semblance of what you can call character development while the main male protagonist and his mom (the only other characters with significant airtime) being pretty much static throughout the movie from the start until the end. But because of the aforementioned tsunami-car chasing scene, the main male protagonist’s mom is definitely the most interesting character in this movie, if not the best one.

But an upside of having a lot of airtime for such a thin story is that the presentation is going to be good if the director doesn’t screw it up. And yeah, Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t drop the ball in this regard. The pacing is excellent, on par to what you can see in Spirited Away and also Black Jack OVA. The flow of the storyline is smooth just like seas in this movie after the tsunami, and there are no problem with scene transitions either. The ending is unconventionally, well for Hayao Miyazaki  anyway, unpredictable, mainly because this movie’s ending is the complete opposite of what happened in the reference fairy tale. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is completely subjective though, although as a reference, the ending of the Little Mermaid adaptation in Black Jack OVA and the original is pretty much the same.

IMHO, between Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, and Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack OVA (directed by Osamu Dezaki) adaptations of the fairy tale The Little Mermaid, the one done by the latter is better mainly because it was the one that follows the source material more closely. It is true that both of them butchered the fairy tale for their own purposes (for example: you won’t see some quack unlicensed doctor extorting some penniless mermaid just to cure her arthritis in the original story), but when it comes to the ending (which is the defining moment of the original fairy tale), Black Jack OVA actually follows the source story unlike this movie that follows the completely different direction. Then again, even the Disney adaptation of the same fairy tale doesn’t dare to use the original ending…

Jesus's Ponyo's walking on water gigs is just a little bit less crazier than the main male protagonist mom's driving skills.

Character Design:-
The character design in this movie is pretty much similar to what you can see in Spirited Away, or Kiki's Delivery Service and Grave of the Fireflies. You know, the signature character designs from Studio Ghibli? Brown hairs are prevalent in this movie though. A positive aspect for this movie.

Voice Acting:-
Voice acting gigs in this movie is decent, with the two main protagonist being the best of them all. A positive aspect for this movie.

The OST is very good, although maybe a little bit sparse. The ED theme doesn’t fare very well though.

This movie is definitely one of the most beautiful anime (movies or TV series) you will ever see (see the screenshot at the bottom). Very fluid animations even in the very fastest of scenes. Choreography in action scenes are excellent, and the directing is solid albeit a little bit conservative, and excels at least in presentation.

7 out of 10.
The weakest Studio Ghibli movie reviewed here to date. Still a recommended watch though, at least for the beauty of this anime and also just to see that awesome tsunami-car chase scene.

There are plenty of beautiful sceneries and shots like the one above. The ones beneath the sea surface are outstanding. Especially in FullHD Blu-ray.


Chihiro, our main protagonist that panics a lot.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away will wrap up the last of the three Studio Ghibli movie marathon for this blog. All in all, Studio Ghibli movies are interesting, in their own peculiar way. It is hard really to compare them with, for example, Makoto Shinkai movies because their style is vastly different. Expect to see more of their movies reviewed here in the future, but a cursory glance at their library shows that the majority of their titles have the supernatural element in them, just like this movie and Kiki’s Delivery Service. I preferably want to see more realistic titles such as Grave of The Fireflies because I like realism more from an established and prestigious studio like Ghibli.

“No! The food is a lie….”

Our main protagonist Chihiro is in a bad mood because her family moved town without her consent. During the journey to their new home, her father was sidetracked into a remote jungle where they find an abandoned amusement park. There, her parents were trapped by the bait in the form of tasty food that turned them into pigs and Chihiro has to work extra hard to free them from the clutches of an evil sorceress that run a hot bath inn.

The story in this movie is considerably better than Kiki’s Delivery Service, but a little bit inferior to Grave of The Fireflies. Hayao Miyazaki has really improved his directing here compared to what he has done in Kiki’s Delivery Service, mainly because the story in this movie has a better presentation in the form of excellent pacing and much better control of the flow of the storyline compared to the other 2 movies reviewed before this. And those two movies did not do that bad either in those aspects. If only Grave of The Fireflies has the same treatment, it would have gotten a perfect score. He sure has become wiser and more experienced in the 10+ years between Kiki and Chihiro.

Character development seems to focus mainly on Chihiro at the expense of everyone else, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. This ensured that she becomes the strongest and most interesting character in this movie. Even Kiki, a title main protagonist is not even half as good as Chihiro did. Nevertheless, other characters like the sorceress cum hot bath manager/proprietor and the dragon boy have not been neglected either, but of course they are nothing when compared to the main protagonist. This also shows how much Hayao Miyazaki has improved in the years between Kiki and Chihiro.

Unfortunately the ending is not exactly an improvement compared to the 10+ years older Kiki’s Delivery Service. They are essentially the same tired cliché-laden predictable ending you can see from titles of the same genre, and the only difference between these two is that Spirited Away has a better presentation. Both Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service endings pales in comparison to the awesome tear-jerker ending that Grave of The Fireflies will show you. That cremation scene is truly brilliant!

Parents nowadays do not listen to their children, always thinking that they are right.

Character Design:-
With this movie, I started to think that Studio Ghibli has this generic signature way of doing character design for all their movies, mainly because the difference between the designs in the three movies reviewed here is minimal. This is not a bad thing, but I actually expect more variations when it comes to different movies in different settings (World War 2, 19th century Europe-like city and an alternate dimension). The lack of black hair is forgivable in this movie, although I think Chihiro parents should at least have black hairs.

Ok, I did mention that the character design is not that different between the three movies, but that UNNATURAL teardrops is certainly unique for this movie only.

Voice Acting:-
Compared to the first 2 Ghibli movies reviewed here, Spirited Away would be ranked behind Grave of The Fireflies but ahead of Kiki’s Delivery Service. Despite her best efforts, Chihiro is simply nowhere near Setsuko in this aspect. Still, the voice acting in this movie is very well done with Chihiro being outstanding, and definitely a positive point of this movie.

The OST is good and the ED theme is decent, but I think the older Kiki’s Delivery Service is better in this aspect compared to this movie. Still, this is still a positive point of this movie and it has performed better than Grave of The Firelies.

Some of the choreography in this movie, in this case involve our heroine running on a collapsing steelpipe.

Being newer by more than 10 years compared to Kiki’s Delivery Service and Grave of The Fireflies allowed Spirited Away to trounce both movies (DVD remastered or not) handily in this section. The animation in this movie is top-notch, even in fast-paced scenes. Choreography is also done well, but of course nowhere near the level of Avatar The Last Airbender. Meanwhile many of my comment about Hayao Miyazaki directing has already been explained above, but I also want to mention that he has managed to improve his camerawork significantly.

9 out of 10.
While this movie has inferior story to Grave of The Fireflies, it make up for this in other areas, such as better presentation and music.

This screenshot is supposed to show you the beautiful water special effect in this movie. You don’t see it? Then go buy the DVD!

Out main protagonist with her obligatory black cat that will curse you until the end of time.

Just like what I mentioned in my previous post, the second of the three Studio Ghibli movies that I will review here is Hayao Miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service. This reflects a change of mood from the darker Grave of The Fireflies, but which one of them is better? Read on for my take of the first Hayao Miyazaki movie reviewed here.

Kiki, an apprentice witch has to go away from her home so that she can train her skills further. All she knows is flying with her broom Harry Potter-style, so she opened a delivery service at a big town near the sea. There she gets to hone her skills while meeting plenty of people during the course of her job.

Admittedly, the story in this movie is inferior to Grave of The Fireflies, but it is still decent. For what the story’s worth, just like Grave of The Fireflies, the movie has good pacing with excellent transitions between plots. Unfortunately, the ending is not as good as the one in Grave of The Fireflies, but then again Grave of The Fireflies’ ending is excellent and will be hard to match. This movie’s ending, by comparison is tame, filled with clichés and probably predictable too.

One thing Kiki’s Delivery Service has done better than Grave of The Fireflies is the character development part, which show how our main protagonist evolved as she faced and deal with obstacles during her job as a transporter/delivery girl. Despite of that, there are no strong/interesting characters in this movie, and that’s a shame.

We got to see a lot of flying here.

Character Design:-
It was not that different from the one in Grave of The Fireflies, if you ask me. The lack of black hairs here is forgiven because of the non-Japanese setting this movie is using.

Voice Acting:-
This movie is definitely inferior to Grave of The Fireflies in this aspect, because while voice acting in this movie is decent, it is a class lower than what you hear from Grave of The Fireflies. Plus, the performance of Kiki the main protagonist here is nowhere near the gig done by the awesome Setsuko from Grave of The Fireflies.

More flying here. Don’t blame her because that’s all she knows.

Meanwhile, this movie trumps Grave of The Fireflies in this section. The OST and OP/ED themes in this movie are simply superior, and definitely a positive point for this movie. The OP theme in particular is very well done.

Meanwhile, while she is not flying, she is doing what we called in my country as “corner baring”. Hilarious really.

This movie matched Grave of The Fireflies when it comes to animation (probably remastered DVD source anyone?) and the same thing can also be said about fast-paced scenes. The little choreography this movie has is excellent, especially during the flying parts and the ending scenes.

Meanwhile Hayao Miyazaki’s directing is a little bit better than the one at Grave of The Fireflies, with good selection of camera angles during those aforementioned fast-paced scenes in the paragraph above, combined with his ability to emulate good control of the storyline the way Grave of The Fireflies’ director did.

This overadventurous old lady try to imagine herself flying like our protagonist.

8 out of 10.
The inferior story is why Kiki’s Delivery Service scored less than Grave of The Fireflies. The last movie from Studio Ghibli that I will review here is Spirited Away, another work of Hayao Miyazaki. I heard a lot of good things about that one, so I will keep my hope up.

Forgiveness given for the lack of black hair in this Europe-like settings in the middle of 19th century.