Hakujaden Blu-Ray Box Released in Japan

This is great news for all animation lovers. Toei Doga's seminal 1958 animated feature Hakujaden is now available in Japan on Blu-Ray. This wonderful box set includes a treasure trove of memorabilia, including a copy of the poster, illustrations, newspaper clippings and a color booklet.

Hakujaden is Japan's first feature-length animated movie, as well as the first animated movie in color. The story is based on a Chinese folk myth of a magical serpent who transforms into a young woman and falls in love with a young man. She is pursued by a monk, and a pair of cartoon animals tag along for the adventure. The key animation was drawn entirely by the studio's founding veterans, Yasuji Mori and Akira Daikubara, and young animators who began their careers here include Yasuo Otsuka, Reiko Okuyama and Akemi Ota, as well as visionary anime director Rintaro, who I absolutely adore for his masterful 2001 Metropolis that he created with Katsuhiro Otomo.

Unfortunately, it does not appear that English subtitles are included in this release, which is extremely fortunate for those of you who have not seen it. A fansub translation was released a decade ago, but it has completely disappeared since then as the related anime sites have disbanded or shut down. It would have helped greatly if Toei would include subtitles in their home video releases, now that their legendary movies are (finally) arriving on Blu-Ray.

The Hakujaden Blu-Ray is available on Amazon JP for 10,258 Yen, or roughly $94USD. Be sure to spend a few minutes begging your favorite anime publisher to pick up this title for a Western release. Hey, GKIDS, is anybody listening? Discotek? Anybody? Bueller?

Hayao Miyazaki's Next Feature Film Is Still 2-3 Years Away

This is an old news post, but bears repeating as there has been very few updates in the past year. As we all know, Hayao Miyazaki returned from his "retirement" to create one more animated feature with Studio Ghibli. Titled "How Do You Live," this movie is based on a 1937 novel by Genzaburo Yoshino.

While originally planned for a theatrical release in time for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the extremely slow production schedule has pushed back that date to 2021 or even 2022. As always, Miyazaki is drawing the storyboards himself, and animation is reportedly progressing at the pace of one minute per month (I'm still trying to find the source on that).

The pace of this production is far slower than in the past, owing greatly to Miyazaki's age (now 78) and reduced work schedule. Studio Ghibli has also had to completely hire a new staff of artists and animators, since the disbanded its animation teams in the wake of Miyazaki's retirement. Many of the biggest names such as Kazuo Oga, Yoshiyuki Momose and Katsuya Kondo have moved on to other projects and studios, most notably Studio Kajino.

For these reasons, we should not expect to see the new movie for another two or three years. Progress is being made slowly but consistently. The greatest challenge, of course, is time, as last year's passing of Isao Takahata makes all too clear. Let us hope and pray that Miyazaki-san will stay in good health long enough to complete this final work.

Western Ghibli fans should also be aware that Miyazaki's new movie will not be a fantasy in the style of My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away or Ponyo, but will be a "realistic" story similar in style to The Wind Rises. Don't let the Harry Potter-ish illustration above fool you. In any event, expect one last brilliant masterwork from the sensei.


Poster: Gulliver's Space Travels

Here are two movie posters for the 1963 Toei Doga animated feature film Gulliver's Space Travels. Specifically, these belong to the US version, dubbed Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon. This is a terrific movie that's full of spark and adventure and color, a nice change from the usual Toei fare of Eastern myths and fairy tales. It has a very distinct Western flair in its visual design and story that helps set it apart from just about anything at the time.

Hayao Miyazaki fans know about this movie, of course. It was his second feature film as an in-between animator, and he famously drew attention by suggesting a vital change to the movie's ending, one that was embraced by the director and production team. The scene in question was later riffed in My Neighbor Totoro in one of those cool "blink and you'll miss it" moments.

The US version of Gulliver is very nice and benefits nicely from the source material. The voices are not too irritating and the songs are bearable. By anime dub standards, you could do a lot worse. These poster designs are also very nice, especially the second one which is washed in rich color tones and dynamic character poses.

It's very unfortunate that the Toei Doga classics are all but impossible to find today. A decade ago, a few dedicated fans created English fansubs for nearly all of their anime feature films, but the websites are gone and its creators vanished. Today, you might be able to track down the Japanese DVDs that were released around the turn of the century, but you'll have to live without subtitles. Hopefully, that situation will change one day.

P.S. Here's a great surprise: Gulliver's Space Travels is available on YouTube, in the original Japanese audio and English subtitles. Check this out before it gets pulled down.


Photos: Anne of Green Gables

Photos: Anne of Green Gables

Photos: Anne of Green Gables

Photos: Anne of Green Gables

Photos: Anne of Green Gables

Some screenshots from the latter episodes of Isao Takahata's 1979 Anne of Green Gables. A fascinating bit of trivia: the house in this series is modeled after the "official" Green Gables house in Canada. Takahata and his team visited the location for their research (Paku-san was a pioneer in location research in anime). A 2004 NHK TV documentary showed the director returning to pay his respects as well as meet with the legendary animator Frederic Back.

Again, watch this series by any means necessary. It's fantastic and if you've ever enjoyed the Studio Ghibli movies, you'll be head over heels for this one.

Heidi, Girl of the Alps English Fansub Translation

Heidi, Girl of the Alps English Fansub Translation

Heidi, Girl of the Alps is the landmark 1974 anime television series created by Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe. It was a tremendous success in Japan and helped to spawn an entire genre of literary-based cartoon dramas, sparking the World Masterpiece Theater to prominence for years and inspiring generations. Outside of Japan, Heidi also became a beloved childhood favorite, as the series was exported to nearly every corner of the globe.

That is, of course, every place on the globe except the United States. For reasons that remain unknown, Heidi was never brought to our shores, meaning that we missed out on what all the other kids were enjoying these past 45 years.

Thankfully, after many years of dedication and hard work, an English fan translation, or "fansub", was completed by Silver Zero Subs. Using the Japanese Blu-Ray box set as a video source, Heidi has never looked or sounded better, offering crisp picture displays that burst with color and detail. And finally being able to enjoy this series in English is a genuine thrill.

You can find a copy of the Heidi English fansub at the Silver Zero Subs download page. This series has also been posted onto YouTube, but we should probably expect the copyright robots to take those videos down, sooner or later.

As always, I would be thrilled to see Heidi given a commercial release here in the States. GKIDS would be my best choice, and their biggest challenge would be to find a television or streaming network to broadcast all 52 episodes. As we are now entering the next stage of the "streaming wars," perhaps this is the opportunity to strike. Oh, well, it likely won't ever happen, but it's good to dream.

In any case, download Heidi while you can and enjoy this all-time classic.

Anne of Green Gables: 2018 Fansub Translation

Anne of Green Gables: 2018 Fansub Translation

In December 2018, Silver Zero Subs finally completed their long English fansub translation of Anne of Green Gables, Isao Takahata's 1979 television production with World Masterpiece Theater.

Anne had been translated into English many years ago, but this new fansub takes advantage of the show's Blu-Ray box set that was released in Japan. The picture quality is a dramatic improvement over the ancient DVD (or possibly even VHS) source.

Obviously, we would love to see Anne and all the other WMT series commercially released on home video in the West, but given the enormous costs of licensing and producing an English-language soundtrack, such a move is highly unlikely if not impossible. These fan translations are always a labor of love, often taking years of dedication and hard work to see completion. They're certainly not doing this for the money, but love of anime and the need to preserve those works that disappear unfairly.

Personally, I think this is a magnificent series and the best adaptation of Anne ever seen. Takahata captures the spirit of Maud Montgomery's classic novel while skillfully filling out the characters and their world. The addition of new animation director Yoshifumi Kondo (replacing Yoichi Kotabe, who worked on Heidi and Marco) also adds a degree of natural realism to the story, thanks to his brilliant character designs. You can see why Kondo was so beloved at Studio Ghibli years later. Hayao Miyazaki also served as the sole layout designer, as he did with the two previous series, but he famously dropped out after episode 13 to direct his first feature film, The Castle of Cagliostro. Because of this, Anne feels much more like Paku-san's baby, especially when compared to the team effort on Heidi.

A fantastic series, overall, one that deserved to be seen and enjoyed by everyone. Expect the usual amount of humor, psychological realism and tear-jerking melodrama. This is Paku-san, after all.

You can find Anne of Green Gables at the Silver Zero Subs download page.

Photos: Omohide Poro Poro

Photos: Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)

Photos: Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)

Photos: Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)

Photos: Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)

Isao Takahata's 1991 Studio Ghibl masterwork Omohide Poro Poro remains my all-time favorite animated feature film. This is a movie that I have championed for many years and remains, for me, the gold standard for the untapped potential for dramatic, naturalist animation, one inspired by Ozu and Fellini and Bergman and Renoir.

Miraculously, this movie is now available on Blu-Ray format in the States, thanks to the efforts of GKIDS, the American film distributor that has become a champion for global animation.

These screenshots were taken from the Japanese DVD, which I purchased way back in 2005, along with a stack of other Ghibli films. This was at a time when hardly anybody knew these gems existed, and it felt like a true treasure, a true secret left untold. I feel much happier today that this secret can now be shared with everyone.

For me, the genius of Omohide Poro Poro is its ability to weave multiple narratives between past and present, detailing key events in the childhood of a quiet office worker who yearns for direction and purpose. It is a commentary on (then) contemporary Japan, whose "bubble economy" created in pursuit of Western materialism had burst, offering the opportunity to reconnect with a Japan of the past. It is a film about those post-war generations, raised on television and movies, versed in the language of American Pop, learning to rediscover the cultural language of their homeland.


1984 Nemo Pilot: The Complete Riffs

Ghibli Blog - 1984 Nemo Pilot

Ghibli Blog - 1984 Nemo Pilot

Ghibli Blog - 1984 Nemo Pilot

Ghibli Blog - 1984 Nemo Pilot

The 1984 Nemo pilot film is a landmark of Japanese anime, a three-and-one-half minute short that dazzles with a mastery of character animation, action and set design. It was created at Tokyo Movie Shinsha's Telecom studio, created by Yoshifumi Kondo (director), Kazuhide Tomonaga (animation director, ekonte, key animation), Nobuo Tomizawa (key animation), Kyoto Tanaka (key animation) and Nizo Yamamoto (art direction). These very same people worked with Hayao Miyazaki on Lupin the 3rd, Future Boy Conan and Sherlock Hound, as well as the later Studio Ghibli movies.

Several "riffs," or quoted shots, appear in this Nemo pilot. Some aim back to previous films, while others are seen in later works. Here is a brief rundown of those riffs, as shown by the screenshots above:

1. Nemo hops onto his bed as it rises above the floor, passing a collection of toy airplanes on the right side of the frame. Miyazaki would later quote this shot in Porco Rosso, in the scene where Marco describes the sight of endless ghost planes floating in the clouds.

2. Nemo and an unnamed boy give chase through an Edwardian-era city street, startling a policeman below. This shot was directly taken from Sherlock Hound, which was created by the same animators in 1981.

3. After skidding underneath a bridge, Nemo's bed skips over the river several times. This sequence is taken from Animal Treasure Island, Toei Doga's 1971 feature film. It would also be used again in Porco Rosso in 1992.

4. Nemo gives chase through a series of winding curves through buildings. This shot and composition would later be riffed by My Neighbor Totoro, in the scene where Catbus races Mei and Satsuki to their mother, running through the woods.

Finally, we should also note that the completed Little Nemo animated feature recreates almost the entirety of the 1984 Nemo pilot in its opening sequence, and makes for an interesting contrast between the Japanese and American animators.


AnimeLand Magazine 2014 Miyazaki Issue

These magazine scans are of the January/February 2014 issue of AnimeLand magazine, published in France. Hayao Miyazaki is the cover star of this issue, which devotes 15 pages to the animation legend and his films. In addition to Studio Ghibli, the magazine discusses his work in manga comics and his extensive pre-Ghibli works. Sherlock Hound (known simply as Sherlock Holmes in UK and France) is given an article all to itself, as well as four pages on The Wind Rises.

I really enjoyed looking through these pages. I don't read French very well, and what I do know probably just comes from watching Pepe Le Pew cartoons, but I think anybody can understand the thrust of the articles. The page layouts are very clean and the art assets are suitably colorful. I'm reminded a little of the excellent books Mi Vecino Miyazaki and Antes De Mi Vecino Miyazaki.

Kudos to the Ghibli fan who sent me a .pdf copy of these magazine scans.


Photo of the Day: Shameless Clickbait Edition

In keeping with current trends, here is a poor, shameless attempt at clickbait instead of a long and thoughtful film essay. So here's a pair of nice fan art illustrations of Totoro dressed as Batman and The Joker.

(Fake Game Show Host Voice) Which one is your favorite?

(Seriously, though, I see that Ghibli Blog has generated over 4.9 million page views, which is very nice.)

What The Heck Have I Been Up To Lately?

I wrote and published a bunch of ebooks. You can check them out by visiting my DT MEDIA website.

Toei Channel To Broadcast 4K Restorations of Toei Doga Classics

Hakujaden (Toei Doga, 1958)

Horus, Prince of the Sun (Toei Doga, 1968)

Puss in Boots (Toei Doga, 1969)

Animal Treasure Island (Toei Doga, 1971)

From September to December, Japan's Toei Channel will broadcast new 4K restorations of classic Toei Doga animated features, including Hakujaden, Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon, Wan Wan Chuushingura, Horus, Prince of the Sun, Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island. These films will be broadcast under the banner, Toei Doga Meisaku Anime Gekijo, or "Toei Doga Anime Masterpiece Theater."

According to the official Toei website, this series will coincide with the hotly anticipated daytime drama series, "Natsuzora," a retelling of the animation studio's early days. All of the characters are based on real Toei alumni, including Reiko Okuyama, Yoichi Kotabe, Yasuo Otsuka, Akemi Ota, Michiyo Yasuda, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. The drama will appear on the NHK network, which many Studio Ghibli fans will recognize.

In addition to their animated features, Toei will broadcast a 1959 documentary about the making of the studio's second feature, Shonen Sarutobe Sasuke. It should prove to be an invaluable document of the era, even though its portrayal of the making of an animated movie will most likely be itself carefully staged. Hopefully, we will catch a glimpse of a very young Isao Takahata, who worked on the film as assistant director.

Best of all (for me) will be the premier of a new documentary program on Horus, Prince of the Sun that features interviews with the artists and animators, a look at production artwork and more. I do hope the show's creators were able to speak to Paku-san while he was still alive. I would hope that there are some new discoveries to be made about this anime masterpiece. I shared pretty much everything I know for the BD audio commentary track, as well as the supplemental essays and production gallery (and, by the way, you're freaking welcome).

For those of us in the West, the most exciting prospect of these 4K restorations is the possibility of new home video releases on Blu-Ray or Ultra Blu-Ray. Of the classic Toei Doga library, only a handful of films have been released in Europe and America, and continuing rights issues over the domestic (dubbed) versions may complicate matters. As always, such matters can be solved by writing a lot of checks, but the limited appeal of classic Japanese animation may stop such plans cold.

In Japan, the only Toei Doga anime film to be released on Blu-Ray was Horus, Prince of the Sun (which was also released here). Everything else was released on DVD, but nearly all of those titles were simple transfers from LaserDisc. Most of the DVDs were given English fan translations some years ago, but it's nearly impossible to find any of those movies online today.

Needless to say, now would be a terrific time for Discotek or GKIDS to pick up these movies for a US release. Start your email and letter campaigns immediately, kids. Christmas is only three months away.


Video: Hayao Miyazaki Delivers His Eulogy for Isao Takahata

I have found two videos from the Isao Takahata memorial service at Ghibli Museum. The first includes the complete remarks from Hayao Miyazaki. The second video is a news report from Japanese television, featuring clips of other individuals. Unfortunately, there are no English translations available at this time. If anyone would kindly provide a translation of Miyazaki-san's remarks, we would all be very grateful.

Update 5/16: The first video has been pulled from YouTube. Hayao Miyazaki's complete remarks in Japanese are available below. We still need help with an English translation. Much thanks to Infoglitz and Becqerine from Reddit for their assistance.

朴のニックネームは確かではありませんが、主にとにかく午前中に嫌な男ですが、東映アニメーションで働いていてもタイムカードを押した後、私が "Pakpaku"として買ったパンを食べて、彼は彼が蛇口から水を飲んでいたと言いました。それが朴氏になったという噂です。 
朴氏は、彼が95歳になるまで生きると信じていた。私は時間がないと思った。 9年前、医者からの電話がありました。 「あなたが友達なら、タカハタのたばこを止めません」それは深刻な恐ろしい声でした。鈴木さん(鈴木俊夫さん)と鈴木さんは、医師の力を恐れてテーブルを横切ってお互いに向き合っていました。正しい姿勢で話すのは初めてのことでした。 「朴、喫煙をやめてください」と私は思います。 「働き続けるためにはやめてください」これはスズキの言葉です。私は、言い訳や反対が怒って爆発すると思ったが、「朴さん、ありがとう、私は辞める」と朴氏は平凡に言って頭を下げた。そして、朴氏は実際に喫煙をやめました。私は朴氏のそばで、たばこを吸った。 「いい香りだと思うが、まったく吸いたくない」と朴氏は語った。彼は上の俳優だった。結局のところ、私はそれが95歳になる人であると思っていました。 
1963年、Parkは27歳でした。私が22歳の時に初めて会った。私はまだその言葉を聞いた日を覚えています。私は夕暮れのバス停で練馬バスに向かうのを待っていた。若い男が雨の水たまりが残っている通りに近づいて来ました。そこに静かで賢明な見方がありました。高畑功朴氏に会った瞬間だった。 55年前ですが、私はそれをはっきりと覚えています。当時の朴氏の顔はまだ覚えています。 
次回は、東映アニメーションの労働組合の関係者にプッシュされたときパクと出会った。朴氏は副会長である。私は緊張し、悪心に悩まされ始めました。まだ組合事務所のプレハブにいて、私は朴氏と話をして狂った。すべて。私たちは私たちの仕事に満足していませんでした。私はより遠く、深く、より誇りに思うように仕事をしたかったのです。私は何をしなければならないのですか… …パークの文化は圧倒的でした。私は得ることが難しい人に会うことができてうれしかったです。
最初の問題(プレビュー)を見たとき、私は動くことができませんでした。それは感動しなかった、それは驚きに圧倒された。会社のプレッシャーの下で、私は "失われた信仰の森"の場面がかき消されないようになっていることを知っていました。パークはチームと強く交渉し、最終的に各カットの枚数まで約束し、必要な生産日を約束しなければならなかった。当然ながら、約束がはみ出し、朴氏が原稿を書くたびに約束された。朴氏は最後の原稿をどのくらい書きましたか?私も多くの仕事をしていましたが、私は朴氏の闘争に近づく時間がありませんでした。 

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

Photos: Isao Takahata Memorial Service

The following photos are from the memorial service honoring the late Isao Takahata at the Ghibli Museum on May 15. The event was attended by 1,200 people including many prominent filmmakers, producers and actors, as well as family and friends.

Thanks to Huffington Post Japan for posting these photographs online.

Isao Takahata Memorial Service at Ghibli Museum

Isao Takahata Memorial Service at Ghibli Museum

Isao Takahata Memorial Service at Ghibli Museum

Isao Takahata Memorial Service at Ghibli Museum

Today, friends, family and colleagues paid tribute to Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata at a public memorial service at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Japan. The event was open to the public and featured many prominent artists and filmmakers whose lives intersected with the beloved director over the past 60 years. The museum displayed a wonderful floral display in the main hall, and also included a large montage of photographs featuring Paku-san over the years, as well as a collection of his many published books.

Animators and filmmakers in attendance included many alumni from Toei Doga, where Takahata began his career in 1958 after graduating from Tokyo University (he was courted by the movie studio while still a student. Yasuo Otsuka and Yoichi Kotabe were present along with the rest of the old gang. Dutch animator Michael Dudok De Wit, director of the 2016 Academy Award-nominated animated feature The Red Turtle (produced by Studio Ghibli under the personal supervision of Takahata) was also in attendance. Yoshiaki Nishimura, the Ghibli alumni who founded Studio Ponoc, was also present, as was Joe Hisaishi, the music composer whose movie break came in Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Fifty journalists and 1,200 attendees were present to record the event and pay tribute to a legendary and beloved icon.

Many prominent friends and family paid tribute with spoken eulogies during the service. The most important speaker at the event, of course, was Hayao Miyazaki, who forged a friendship and career with Takahata. Reading from a written text, Miyazaki-san delivered a moving eulogy to his brother, visibly grieving and emotionally shaken, and occasionally fighting back tears. Toshio Suzuki, Ghibli co-founder and Miyazaki's most loyal friend, sat by his side support, likewise overcome by emotion.

Speaking of his friend, Miyazaki remarked, "I always thought that Takahata was going to live until he was 95 years old and when he died, I was very impressed, because I realized that I also have little time left." He spoke of their longtime friendship during long pauses, "I met Paku-san in 1963 while he was waiting for the bus. He was 27 years old and I was just 22. I thought he was a very interesting and intelligent person. I remember it as if it were yesterday."

Miyazaki concluded his statements by saying, "I will never forget the day when Paku-san approached the bus stop and we met. He will be with me all my life."

Much thanks to Generacion Ghibli and 20 Minutos for their reporting and providing translated excerpts from Hayao Miyazaki's eulogy.

More Ghibli Blog Posts To Discover