2007-11-08

Borders' Miyazaki DVD Box Set, or Duck, You Sucker!

Okay, I needed a catchy title. I was thinking of something like Rocky & Bullwinkle would do for their crazy cliffhangers. Next time I think I'll quote Commander McBragg...

I spend most weekdays hovering through the Borders in downtown Minneapolis, scanning through the books and magazines, trying not to be tempted by that Super Mario Galaxy kiosk in the GameStop next door. This week I discovered an exclusive DVD set of Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli movies.

This was a great surprise which only lasted about ten seconds. After that, my brain switched on again and everything turned sour.

Here's the scoop: Borders has an exclusive DVD box set of a number of Ghibli films. These are the same Disney DVD's as are currently released. Those of us hoping and praying for those much-needed updates to Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke are still out of luck.

The movies are all Miyazaki's - Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, Totoro, Kiki, Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl. Notice anything missing? Where's Porco? There's no Porco Rosso in this set. Just great - the first movie I grab when I want to introduce someone to Studio Ghibli, and it isn't included in the damn box. This is just bizarre. One could make the case that Porco Rosso is a more adult-oriented film, and this might not work for the kiddies; but the same holds true for Nausicaa and Mononoke, and they're included. Those are the dark, heavy films, the Kurosawa pictures, and I wouldn't recommend them to parents searching for movies for young children.

This is another notable casualty in America's Disney fetish, the notion that animation only serves the role of virtual babysitter for the small tots. Anyone who grew up on Charlie Brown, Chuck Jones, Yuri Norstein, and Watership Down will tell you that's not true, and Studio Ghibli shatters that myth to pieces. That's their great strength; their films have the widest range and greatest appeal of any movie studio in the world. Pixar could only hope to stretch their wings as wide.

Alright. Porco's out. A bitter shame, since it's such a wonderful movie. It's bad enough that only the Miyazaki DVDs are in this box; again, this pretty much defeats the point of packaging a Ghibli box set. And, of course, I'm going to huff and puff that Isao Takahata has been left out. Pom Poko? If you're smart enough to put down the paint chips and stop giggling at the pee-pee parts, you'll find a masterpiece of storytelling. My Neighbors the Yamadas? The primal archetype for how you adapt a comic strip to the movies. I'd say these are truly "family pictures," more so than the standard non-Pixar drivel. These are movies that demand that Mom and Dad and the kids all sit together - then sit together and talk it out afterwords.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. That whole human communication thing. It's so yesterday. Just become bloated whales while watching the fake Barbie dolls on Disney Channel. Now we can all be Stepford Families! Yay!

More baffling omissions. Yoshifumi Kondo's Whisper of the Heart? Where's Mimi? After Omohide Poro Poro, it's my favorite Ghibli picture. The Cat Returns? Now there's a genuine kid's movie. You left in Mononoke, with its extentialism and grim violence, but you left out the cartoon with the cats? This movie should have been sold to every cat person living on this continent. Good glayvin, people, do I have to do everything myself?

It's bad enough that Disney won't be bothered to ever release Poro Poro and Umi ga Kikoeru, or any of those other terrific Ghibli DVDs from Japan. It makes the whole notion of a box set pointless. All this runs through my mind....and then the sticker shock kicks in.

The Borders' Ghibli DVD box is selling for how much? Two hundred bucks. Seven DVD's. No extras. Two hundred bucks.

Hah hah hah. That's a funny one. You are aware that you can buy each DVD individually for less than $25, yes? For this kind of money, you're almost smarter to import the Japanese DVD's. Which, if you're a serious Ghibli Freak, you're already doing.

Don't be a sucker for this, gentle readers. You have better options. Too bad, really, since a Ghibli box set makes perfect sense. Hopefully somebody who doesn't work in marketing and sales could hash it out. Aww, heck, who am I kidding? I'll hop on the plane and head over to Disney HQ myself.

2007-11-06

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind: Watercolor Impressions - New Miyazaki Book


Terrific news to report, folks. I had to make sure to switch blogs (as I sometimes do - I've been posting heavily on Videogames of the Damned, if you're wondering where I've been) and share the surprise.

Today, Viz Media released the latest book in the Studio Ghibli Library series. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind: Watercolor Impressions is 208 pages of sketches, rough ideas, and finished illustrations from Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece. And nearly everything is in glorious watercolor.

This was a terrific surprise for me. The book was originally published in Japan in 1997 (?), and has been one of those Ghibli-themed books I told myself to grab. Unfortunately, other priorities always intruded, as life often does. Now we'll all be able to read Miyazaki's own thoughts in English, gaining insight into the evolution and development of Nausicaa the manga, and then the Nausicaa film which gave birth to Studio Ghibli.

Watercolor Impressions is magnificent. The book is in the same large size as all the "Art of..." books, and is similarly priced. The illustrations are wonderful, and I'm sure you'll spot many of them. You'll also see many snippets and fragments of ideas that Miyazaki held onto throughout the years; ideas that formed during earlier productions, like that Superman robot that appeared in the Farewell, Beloved Lupin episode. As the ideas for Nausicaa began during the production of Sherlock Hound at Telecom (Miyazaki worked on his comic project at home, keeping the two jobs seperate), you can see that steady stream of consciousness from Future Boy Conan (and stretching back, as always, to Horus, Prince of the Sun). Many ideas and motifs that weren't used for Nausicaa would surface years later for Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke.

There are so many comic works from Miyazaki that have never been shown here in the West, so it's always a joy to see a new collection of his artwork, especially from his signature graphic novel. It's the perfect companion piece to the film and comic. Foolish me. I was hoping to save up enough money to get Super Mario Galaxy next week. Those plans are now in tatters.

(Alright, it seems Blogger is being a pain at this computer, so I can't upload any photo of the book. I suspect this is an issue with Internet Explorer - my own computer uses Firefox, naturally.)

Update: Okay, I was wrong about the book's original date. I don't know, to be honest, but it appears to have been published after Mononoke was released. The book makes mention of the film, and photos of Miyazaki show him with the goatee. That would have been around '97 or so.

Update #2: Alright, alright! It's 1996. The book was first published in 1996. I bought this volume, of course, because I had to have it. That original date is buried in the fine print, where my aging eyes are increasingly stumped. I suspect glasses will be in my future. Also, as you can see, I've uploaded a photo of the Nausicaa Watercolor book.

2007-11-05

Isao Takahata Turns 72

Happy birthday to the revolutionary film director, Isao Takahata. He turned 72 years young on October 29. While we are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo on a Cliff, we're especially excited at the prospect of a new Studio Ghibli film by Takahata. It's been far too long.

Here's to many more fruitful years for Takahata and all his peers. If only they could continue making movies for another 20 years....I know, it's selfish and greedy on our part. But, doggonit, we're fans.

Help yourselves to more cake and some of the Halloween candy stash, while you pour through your favorite Takahata movies.