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.


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Chris Sobieniak said...

I feel your pain Dan. For this to be a true box set, you have to have everything it (even the stuff Disney hasn't lifted a finger on). It would probably have to be two box sets given the number of features and other productions produced since '84 (excluding Grave of the Fireflies for legal/rights purposes). The way I see it...

1. Nausicaa
2. Laputa
3. My Neighbor Totoro
4. Kiki's Delivery Service
5. Only Yesterday
6. Porco Rosso
7. Ocean Waves

8. Pom Poko
9. Whisper of the Heart
10. Princess Mononoke
11. My Neighbors the Yamadas
12. Spirited Away
13. The Cat Returns
14. Howl's Moving Castle

Really, this is all they had to do to release all the movies in a manner I feel would work better for everyone, but they'll never listen.

Daryl Surat said...

To be fair, there was really nothing special about I Can Hear the Sea, from the recycled love story archetypes and scenarios to what seemed to be like one single instrumental piece that served as BGM to the whole thing. But the omission of a US release of Only Yesterday is annoying to me, yet somewhat understandable. The appeal of Miyazaki is universal among children and adults alike, but Isao Takahata occupies a rather curious space as far as animation in America goes: films that for the most part are primarily targeted towards middle-aged people and above. Outside of your average member of ASIFA, this is not a very large audience in the US.

Nowhere is that exhibited more than in Only Yesterday. There isn't really much in the way of whimsical elements for young children to grab onto in that one, as the flashbacks are to relatively ordinary childhood events (at least, ordinary for someone growing up decades ago in Japan). Nor is there crude humor, sexual or violent content for the "adult animation" crowd. Odd as it is to say, Only Yesterday is "just" a really good movie, which means there isn't very many animation consumers who'd be interested in seeing it.

That said, I still think they could have released it on R1 DVD anyway. You could import the PAL Region 2 DVD of Only Yesterday, but it's Japanese audio with English subtitles only, implying that no English dub was ever made. Sub-only anime releases don't get much distribution in the US (see: Tokyo Godfathers).

I imagine similar reasoning extends to why there is a PAL R2 DVD release of Little Norse Prince ("from the director of Grave of the Fireflies"!) that's Japanese audio with English subtitles only, but there is no corresponding NTSC R1 DVD release.

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