Why am I posting screenshots from Isao Takahata's 1981 movie Jarinko Chie now, when Ponyo opens in the US this Friday? No reason. I've been sitting on these for a while and felt the need to share them. It's a great movie that deserves to find an audience, and thanks to the fansub, this is now possible.
The cat in the middle two screenshots is Antonio, who is stuffed by his owner. And, yes, he is, hmm...missing parts. That's a running theme in this movie, along with a lot of gross-out humor. Takahata has been known to unleash blue humor from time to time, in Pom Poko and his short segment in Winter Days. You would never expect this from the famously analytical film director. But he plays humor as skillfully as his melodramas.
The character designs in Jarinko Chie are terrific, very squarish without giving in to caricature. Yasuo Ostuka was the animation director for this movie, and it's one of his final triumphs before retirement from animation. In a masterstroke, Takahata brought in Yoichi Kotabe alongside Otsuka; he designed the two female characters, Chie and her mother, Sophie. Kotabe gives them a softer, more feminine look; they really don't belong in this world of misfits and bumblers and wannabee criminals. They're the Lisa and Marge Simpson of the show.
Jarinko Chie reminds me a lot of The Simpson's. Its mixture of humor, popular satire, and family melodrama are almost cousins in my mind. Am I reading too much into that? Or can you see it as well?