Update on the Miyazaki Comics - More to Come

I wanted to post a short follow-up on the Miyazaki comics that were posted this weekend. For whatever reasons, most likely my lack of recent posts, I decided I would just dump everything that's sitting on my computer and share them with everyone. This is something I was probably planning to do more slowly, one at a a time, but these things always run away from you, and real life intervenes. So that's why we're seeing so much at once.

I should also say that I'm not finished. There are still several more comics to share with you, and it's only the stubbornness of Blogger that has kept me back. This is also, by the way, the reason I threw up Heidi...which then led to one of my rambling commentaries. Yadda yadda.

So, anyway, here's what's on deck for the Ghibli blog. I have some pages from the newspaper comics version of Toei's Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island. These comics, of course, were drawn by Miyazaki. These are the earliest Miyazaki comics I've yet discovered on the internet.

Next up is the 1969-70 adventure manga People of the Desert. I've mentioned it before once or twice here on the blog, just to point out one of the riffs (the hero's sidekick returns in '74 as Heidi's friend Peter). It's a fairly long saga, a little over two dozen pages...which are very, very wide. The web page that originally posted these (from many years ago) included a translation of the text, so I'll probably be best served by posting in installments.

Stuck on my draft file is another gem in Miyazaki's canon, a 15-page short story called The Return of Hans. It's watercolor and appears alike other comics like the Porco Rosso one and Air Meal. It tells the story of a young spectalced pig (of course) who tries to sneak his tank crew back home across enemy lines in WWII. He picks up a small family, including our beloved Heroine. They are mistakenly attacked by the Americans, they are chased by the Nazis, and they eventually wind up carrying an entire small town. It's great fun.

Finally, there's Miyazaki's most recent work, a watercolor comic that appeared in a recent reprint of Robert Westall's "Blackham's Wimpy." I've mentioned that one before on the blog, too, and I finally found a full translation, which I'm sure you'll enjoy. It's very multi-dimensional and rich and deep, and concludes with the master filmmaker speaking with the author he so admired. The two never met in life (Westall died a number of years ago), so this is an imagined meeting between the two. I think it's as touching and honest as Miyazaki's best work.

Let's see...there still is another one of his books, a minor work called Shuna's Journey. This full-color manga was written in the early '80s, around the time Nausicaa had begun, and works along a parallel theme. Many of its elements would be absorbed into the Nausicaa universe. Goro Miyazaki...sigh...well, let's just say he stole from this work in his lousy movie. I don't have the entire story, so I'll have to dig around and see if I can track that down before posting. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Oh, and somewhere along the line I'm supposed to keep posting videos. I really want to get through Lupin III in a timely fashion, then start seriously getting to work on one of the other shows. Maybe Conan, maybe Anne. But we'll make a serious effort at getting to the bottom of things.


TV Review: Heidi, Girl of the Alps, Episode 1 - Some Thoughts

Review: Heidi, Girl of the Alps
Review: Heidi, Girl of the Alps
Welcome, one and all, to one of the greatest truimphs in the careers of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. This is the first episode of 1974's Heidi, Girl of the Alps. I'm afraid that no English subtitles or dub exist for this show. We'll just have to soldier on as best we can.

Perhaps, even, this would be a great opportunity for all devoted fans to work on translating the script. The internet is perfect for something like this. working together, editing a collective work that otherwise would be lost. The fansub community does so much, but still there's much of anime's rich history that remains beyond their reach. So share and pass along, kids!

This series marked a triumph after many years of struggle and toil. The starting point, as always, was Horus, Prince of the Sun, in 1968. After the movie's failure at the box office, Takahata was ousted from the director's chair at Toei. He would not direct again until he and Miyazaki joined the rest of the gang at A Pro with Lupin III in 1971 and '72. Even then, the two served as the "directing team" - although you can pretty easily tell which of the Lupin episodes were Miyazaki's, and which were Takahata's.

Takahata wanted to bring anime into the realm of literature, of character drama, and away from the American Disney formula. Several projects aimed to move in this direction, and I suppose you could include the infamous Pipi Longstockings project, which fell through and brought back to live as Panda Kopanda. But they were really only steps to that final destination, movements towards the promised land that Horus (and Hilda especially) proclaimed.

With Heidi, Takahata finally had the means to achieve his goals. A rich literary work from Europe, known to all the world, and paced just perfectly for a 52-episode television series. Heidi is perfect for adaptation; the ideal test for the skilled filmmaker to draw upon its pages and pull out all those necessary details that bring it to life. Which is to say he or she must also interpret a work, for they must build upon it and stretch it out. I don't believe that a film or tv adaptation that follows a book to the letter, and nothing more, would be poor. But it would be missing...something. The animation medium aims to bring us into these worlds, deeper and more immersive than ever before.

Review: Heidi, Girl of the AlpsWith Heidi, Takahata Isao demonstrates his mastery of this form. It is no coincidence that nearly all of his works have been adaptations from outside. Only Pom Poko, Ghibli's 1994 film, was an original. Horus really got the ball rolling, but it's Heidi that earns the title "masterpiece." From here, it's only a matter of connecting the dots; from Heidi to Marco; from Marco to Anne; from Anne to Ghibli. I don't think it's possible, really, to get to the depth of Studio Ghibli without getting to depth with Heidi, Marco, and Anne. You're hearing the notes, but not the music.

A little bit about who did what. Heidi is often regarded as a Takahata-Miyazaki work alone, or sometimes credited solely to Miyazaki. This is just ignorance rearing its head, since the master filmmaker who gave us Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro is the most easily recognized. We're still piecing together their history in 2008.

Hayao Miyazaki's role in Heidi was a crucial one, and it shaped his own work immensely. He served on layout and continuity. Incredibly, he worked the layout on every episode of the entire series! This was unprecedented, and demonstrates to his single-minded obsessiveness towards his work. He would perform the same duties in 1976 with 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, and the first 13 episodes of Anne of Green Gables, before leaving for Telecom, where Castle of Cagliostro awaits.

Layout is pretty simple. It means you create the landscapes and environments for each scene. You're the set designer, of sorts. This is necessary for creating a believable landscape; you need to believe that you're inside the home of Heidi's grandfather, and know where everything is placed. Likewise, you need to believe you really are in Frankfurt, as a three-dimensional place, and not simply a series of drawings.

Takahata's documentary neo-realism is totally dependent on successful layout. And Miyazaki provided that in droves. He created endless drawings, from every conceivable angle, and all in immense detail. We've seen Miyazaki's drawings for storyboards and e-konte at Ghibli. Now imagine that level of attention brought to a 52-episode series, not a 2-hour movie. Then add in the level of creative input this degree of creative control permits. The result is almost staggering. No single person has ever repeated the same feat. And remember, Miyazaki performed this not once...but twice.

Yasuji Mori, the "soul of Toei Doga," was originally part of the team, but illness forced him to withdraw. He did, however, make one notable contribution, and that's the shot of Heidi and Peter dancing at the opening. He filmed Miyazaki and Yoichi Kotabe and then animated from there. It's too bad that Mori couldn't continue, since he was such a towering giant at Toei. If he had stayed, the look and style of Heidi would be greatly different.

Review: Heidi, Girl of the AlpsInstead, that role was fulfilled by Yoichi Kotabe, and his equally talented wife, Reiko Okuyama, by his side. Takahata gave Kotabe the title of Character Designer, the first for anime. It's safe to say that this remains his best-known work...unless you included Pikachu, I guess. Is there a more universal, iconic anime character than Heidi? One more immediately known around the world? Kotabe's style is fairly iconic, working with simple gestures, but it's extremely effective. It's also very diverse, as the series shows Heidi and everyone else in an endless array of poses and angles. This isn't the simple cartoon drawing style of, say, Hanna-Barbara. Westerners still tethered to the Walt Disney paradigm of animation will complain, but if you can get past that, and understand another paradigm, one that is more natural, one more resembling manga and comics, you'll come to appreciate this show.

I think Kotabe outdid himself on Marco, with an even larger and more diverse case, but it's hard to top Heidi, Peter, and Clara...and the Grandfather, and Joseph the dog, and...well, you get the idea.

The pilot episode is, as I've said, a triumph. It is nothing less than Isao Takahata's vindication, his final definitive victory over the Toei studio, those clueless suits who could never imagine anything beyond Disney. But Takahata saw beyond that, to the modern anime era, and with Heidi he exploded those boundaries further, ushering in an era of literary anime shows, emotionally complex character drama, and a documentary realism and attention to detail unsurpassed. Heidi unleashed the annual series World Masterpiece Theatre, a jewel of Japanese animation for 25 years.

For me, this pilot episode is a thrill to watch - as thrilling as the opening scene with the wolves in Horus. All of the elements of the series are on display, all the main characters are introduced, and we quickly find that these are people we like. We're going to like Heidi and Peter, and Heidi's Grandfather, for once, is not an ominous creature to be feared, but a strong, resilient man of few words. The dramatic scene between Grandfather and Heidi's aunt will be replayed again at the end of Act One, with all the expected emotions and tears.

And hardcore Ghibli freaks will have a field day spotting all the riffs. I counted around a half-dozen. Maybe you'll find more. There's Heidi running up the hill, which was later quoted in the openings for Future Boy Conan and Anne of Green Gables. There's a closeup of grinning goats that reappears in My Neighbor Totoro. There's Heidi throwing her clothes all around and running up the hill, which we see again in Pom Poko and Nausicaa. There are pillow shots of nature, including one of bees over flowers that I also saw in Anne.

And there's the best Heidi riff of them all: The Heidi Tree - that low-angle shot of the giant trees near the episode's end. From Heidi's view, she is greeted with a massive trunk and branches stretching to the sky. It's an iconic shot, which reappears numerous times over the course of the series. And it's quoted and riffed again and again and again. Where else can you find The Heidi Tree? Future Boy Conan. Anne of Green Gables. Gauche the Cellist. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Laputa: Castle in the Sky. My Neighbor Totoro. Umi ga Kikoeru. There may be more. You'll just have to see for yourself.

Heidi Episodes to Come...I Think...

I've been trying my hand at DailyMotion, and I've found quite a number of Takahata and Miyazaki anime that isn't available on YouTube. Problem is, the site is far more difficult to manage; posting and embedding videos on the blog is a real pain. YouTube is so amazingly easy to use - why can't others learn from their success?

In any case, I'm working on getting some episodes of Heidi up and running. At least the first episode, which was a genuine milestone for Takahata and Miyazaki. Heidi is, in so many ways, the archetype for Studio Ghibli, and it's pretty much impossible to imagine one without the other. And since we Americans are literally the last ones on Earth to know about this, I think it's high time we caught up to the rest of the world.

It's interesting to note that the entire Heidi series is posted on YouTube, but this is a Spanish-language dub for Mexico. There are also some Heidi clips in other languages throughout Europe. But little to nothing in the original Japanese. Weird. I'll have to get to work on uploading if I can only remember what programs I used to rip and edit from my DVDs...hmmm....

UPDATE: Okay, duh. I'm an idiot. There is an embed code directly on the DailyMotion pages, just like YouTube. This is great news, folks. This means we're going to be watching a whole lot more anime, including some really great surprises. I have to head out to the gym and cook my leg in the hot tub; after that, we'll get to work on Heidi.

The Return of Hans (1994) - Miyazaki Watercolor Comic

Hikoutei Judai (1990) - Miyazaki's Porco Rosso Comic

Miyazki's 15-page story from 1990, titled, Ikoutei Judai. Every Studio Ghibli fan will recognize this comic the 1992 movie Porco Rosso! This version was translated into French, but you should already be familiar with the basic story. Interesting, then, that we also have the excellent French-language dub for Porco...small world. Enjoy and share...kampai!

Thanks For Not Suing Me

Sometimes, it's good to not be popular. I'd like to thank the lawyers, who haven't discovered this humble website and shut me down. Heh heh...

Mononoke Hime (1980) - The Original Miyazaki Book

Update 11/20/2014: Hayao Miyazaki's original 1980 Mononoke Hime image boards are now published in the Unites States, courtesy of Viz Media. Titled "Princess Mononoke: The First Story," we are now able to appreciate this delightful story and impressive color artwork in the flesh.  Because of this, I have decided to delete the photos in this post, save a few samples. By all means, purchase the new Mononoke book and give Viz your support.

Now the quick history lesson: In 1980, Hayao Miyazaki created a series of watercolor image boards for an animation film project titled, "Mononoke Hime," or "Princess Mononoke." Unfortunately, he was unable to attract any funding for the project, as this came during the director's difficult period of 1978-1983. He eventually published his image boards in his 1983 book, "Hayao Miyazaki Image Boards."  Years later, story elements would find their way into the Studio Ghibli movies My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and, of course, the 1997 Princess Mononoke. The 1980 version was published as a standalone book in the mid-1990s in Japan.

The 1980 Mononoke remained an obscurity, even among Miyazaki fans. In 2008, I published the entire story, taken from a fan translation circulating around the internet. Strangely enough, my post didn't generate any attention for three which point something in the internet clicked on, and fans started to discover this "lost" Miyazaki work. By 2014, it was clear that demand was high for a published version, and Viz Media answered fans' demands.

This post has been Ghibli Blog's most popular by far.  For that, I am eternally thankful and grateful for the kind attention. But I am a strong advocate of supporting the artists who enrich our lives, so that means deleting these image boards and directing you towards the nearest bookstore.

Enjoy this sample of Hayao Miyazaki's famous "lost" anime:

Air Meal (1994) - Miyazaki Watercolor Comic

Air Meal, from 1994 - a short Miyazaki comic that comically shares his love of airplanes and that hallowed flight ritual, the in-flight meal. Painted in full watercolors, it looks absolutely wonderful - fans of the art of Miyazaki will complain loudly of another "lost" classic, hidden away from prying Western eyes. I'm surprised at the number of these smaller comics and short stories, which appeared in magazines and such. It seems there will always be another Miyazaki sketch or painting lurking around somewhere.

My favorite bit in Air Meal - apart from that wonderfully funny cover - is Miyazaki's idea of a traditional Japanese restaurant on the plane, complete with mats and pillows. And did you notice his traveling companion? Yep, it's none other than Dr. Watson from Sherlock Hound. At least, that's who the dog looks like to me. Miyazaki portrays himself as he very often does in his comics - as a pig. What can I say? He just really likes pigs.

If you click on the pages, you'll go to a much larger size, where you can read the fan-translated text and admire the artwork more fully. Enjoy and share!

Imoto He - "For My Sister" (1983)

Hayao Miyazaki's 1983 storybook poem, Imoto He, "For My Sister." The story is 17 pages long and fan-translated into English. I'll post commentary in a later post. Enjoy!

More Ghibli Blog Posts To Discover