As you can tell by visiting my politics-n-pop blog, Videogames of the Damned, I've been very busy working through the US election. Because of this, I haven't been able to write here on the Ghibli blog these past few weeks. I just want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who still visits every day, posts comments, and otherwise checks up on me. In a perfect world, I'd have a couple other bloggers to help lighten the load for me, but I'll do my best.
I have a real surprise for all the Ghibli Freaks this weekend. This is a tv documentary from Japan called Mononoke hime wa Koushite Umarete - or, in other words, The Making of Princess Mononoke.
This lengthy documentary was two years in the making, as director Toshio Uratani followed Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli with videotape camera in hand, recording over 300 hours of footage. The film was released as three series, which runs roughly three hours.
In Japan, Mononoke achieved the rank of cultural phenonemon, smashing domestic box-office records and propelling Studio Ghibli to the top of the film world. Miyazaki began a new phase of his career, one of unparalled success. This began his epic period, which continued with The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chiriho, and Howl's Moving Castle, films which paint on larger and larger canvasses, more extravagent and stylish, more broadly thematic. These are Miyazaki's double albums, his Physical Grafitti, his Electric Ladyland.
That epic period has now passed, and with Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, Miyazaki is back to painting on a smaller canvas. The densely-packed storytelling has given way to something more economic, more iconic and accessable. I don't think you'll need to consume the entirety of Miyazaki's career to understand Ponyo, as was necessary with Howl and (to a lesser degree) Mononoke. You can just walk into the theatre with a blank slate and enjoy Ponyo on its terms.
And we can now look back at Ghibli's blockbuster era, and try to understand how it all came to be.
One more note: unless I'm mistaken, this documentary is available in Japan on DVD. Unfortunately (surprise), there are no English subtitles on the disc. This is a bit of a surprise, since the disc comes on the Ghibli ga Ippai label. But most television documentaries on their label do not include subtitles. Takahata's The Story of Yanagawa Waterways is the only exception to the rule.
I'll post the documentary on the next three posts. Be sure to pass along to your friends. Oh, and don't tell YouTube. No need getting anybody into trouble.