The Borrower Arrietty Blu-Ray and Ghibli's Future

How fast is this?  The Borrower Arrietty is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray in France this coming July.  I still haven't heard a word about any theatrical release.  Hmm...this is unexpected.  On the upside, this announcement means the Japanese DVD/BD will likely arrive in the summer.  On the downside, it may just skip theaters in the West altogether and head straight to home video.

I am concerned that Disney or Pixar have made no announcements about Arrietty in the USA.  Usually, we would have early press by now.  We would know the names of cast members, and have a general idea of a late summer release.  So far, only silence.  This doesn't sound good.  Studio Ghibli is moving firmly into its post-Miyazaki era, and we need to know if Disney intends to continue their relationship.

Ultimately, the Disney suits may decide that their relationship was with Hayao Miyazaki, not his movie studio.  They were only really intersted in Totoro and Kiki and maybe anything created in the future that fit into their market.  But Ghibli was in a very strong position, being courted by all the major Hollywood studios, and they could afford to dictate terms.  But Miyazaki is now in the process of passing the torch to the next generation, and the terms of the old agreement may no longer apply.

Of course, I don't know the answers one way or another.  And readers will gently needle me for being impatient and cranky with Disney.  That may be true.  This will be a period of uncertaintly, and no firm committments will be made by any parties.  Heck, Ghibli has yet to decide whether to continue after Miyazaki, or shut down completely.  Thank God Arrietty was a blockbuster smash hit in Japan.  The studio needs a couple home runs to secure its future...and now Goro is up next.

This is where the business side of things start to become real interesting.  Ghibli's fate may be decided in these next 12 months.  And we're going to get another Ghibli Blu-Ray in six months.

Nausicaa Blu-Ray Arriving in USA on March 8

Yes, I know, ancient news, and I get an "incomplete" for the semester.  Ah, well, pass the egg nog.

Disney will be releasing Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind on Blu-Ray this coming March 8, and as you can see, the cover design is similar to this year's Ghibli releases.  It looks excellent, stands out, and Disney should be congratulated.  If history is any judge, the picture quality will be pretty much identical to the Japanese disc, which is outstanding.

Extras on the Nausicaa BD are thin, however, and this is where Disney deserves a good scolding.  The Japanese release includes a small art book, postcards and trailers for The Borrower Arrietty, a 40-minute discussion involving Evangelion director Hideaki Anno (he worked as a key animator on Nausicaa), and the audio commentary track from the 2006 region-2 DVD.  The UK version, released earlier this year, does include the audio commentary and the interview, both with English subtitles, so there's no excuse for its omission in the States.

The US Nausicaa release will include the interactive "World of Ghibli" feature that is also available on the films released earlier this year, and that is nice to see.  The sprawling map is covered with characters from the Ghibli movies, which suggests that Disney will release the entire catalog (sans Omohide Poro Poro and Umi ga Kikoeru) eventually.  Heck, even Mononoke is represented, so that gives me hope.

The Behind the Studio documentary could be interesting.  These sort of things are usually just filler, but there is a great story to tell...please please please let somebody at Pixar put it together.  Nausicaa is the defining work of Hayao Miyazaki's later career - literally the difference between becoming the biggest film director in the world, and being an obscure, forgotten manga artist.

One thing Disney has done that I really love are the postcards, featuring the Japanese movie posters.  I can't thank them enough for including those.  The paper stock is thick, durable; the colors and details are vibrant and sharp.  I fully expect Nausicaa to include this as well.

In any case, the extras are all nice, but the only thing that really matters is the feature film itself, and the Nausicaa Blu-Ray promises to be spectacular.    I still remember watching a blackened, bleached-out VHS bootleg of Nausicaa a decade ago. Heck, I still remember Warriors of the Wind! Carly Simon was right; these are the good 'ol days.


New Years Resolutions for 2011

In the new year, could Disney please, kindly, sorta, maybe, finally release Omohide Poro Poro and Umi ga Kikoeru in North America?  It's been how long by now?  Heck, give those movies to Criterion if you're afraid of a backlash from the fundamentalist set.

I've said it a thousand times, and I'll probably say it a tousand times more, but Isao Takahata's Omohide Poro Poro is the greatest animation film ever created.  It is poetry painted in watercolors.  And you won't get your Ghibli Freak merit badge until you've watched it twice.

And Umi ga Kikoeru/I Can Hear the Sea remains criminally underrated.  The fact that it was the work of the studio's younger staff shouldn't deter you.  There is far more to Studio Ghibli than Miyazaki, and sooner or later, everybody is going to have to realize that.

Ghibli GIFs

Now this is interesting: a website dedicated solely to Studio Ghibli-themed animated GIFs.  Looks like a new site, so let's give some support and pay the new kid a visit.

Ghibli GIFs

Photos - Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Blu-Ray #2)

There are so many fantastic screenshots from the new Castle in the Sky Blu-Ray that I had to add in a second blog post.  As always, my thanks go out to High Def Digest and their dedicated forum crew for sharing.

I know the price of the disc is outrageously expensive ($80!), but we have no idea when we'll see the Western releases.  My guess is that everyone but the good 'ole USA will have it by next Christmas.  But that's a very long time to wait.  I'd rather have four Studio Ghibli films on Blu-Ray now than only one (Ponyo).  Besides, true anime fans and Ghibli Freaks want the extra bragging rights.

As always, everyone is free to steal whatever they need.  Share and pass along the screenshots and spread the word.  Then we'll hang out at my house for Ghibli Blog Movie Nights.*

(Ya know, I seriously ought to do that.  "Ghibli Blog Movie Night" has a nice ring to it. Any anime clubbers from the Twin Cities?)

Photos - Laputa: Castle in the Sky (Blu-Ray #1)

I am SO looking forward to seeing this movie on Blu-Ray.  The standard DVD looks terrific to my eyes.  Imagine how good this will look on your big screen.  Castle in the Sky probably steals a bit too much from Future Boy Conan, and there is a certain "kitchen sink" quality in the way Hayao Miyazaki threw in bits and scraps of ideas from earlier projects, but so what?  This is an exhilarating movie, full of humor, romance, revealing layer after layer of depth.  Here is a movie that is far smarter than it first appears.

The picture quality in these screenshots is stunning.  You just want to get lost in these deep colors and finely-crafted textures. paycheck won't be direct-deposited into my bank account until midnight.  I don't know if I can hold out that long.

Photos - My Neighbors the Yamadas (Blu-Ray)

My Neighbors the Yamadas and Laputa: Castle in the Sky arrived on Blu-Ray in Japan last week, selling for about $80 (ouch) in a stylish cardboard package design similar to the Nausicaa Blu-Ray released earlier this year.  Here are the screenshots.  Click on them to see the full size, as they're quite large.

There are currently no announcements as to when these BDs will be released in the West.  I would hope Disney moves quickly.  Heck, why not release this in March along with Nausicaa?  I certainly hope we won't have to wait until Christmas 2011 or Spring 2012.  Needless to say, I'm grabbing the import.

We Want a Better Mononoke DVD!

C'mon, Disney!  Get with the program and give us a better Princess Mononoke DVD, already!

My big Christmas present this year is a Sony Trinitron HDTV, a 36" CRT model that looks absolutely terrific (it's as big as an elephant and just as heavy), so now I'll be working on rebuilding my DVD collection.  Naturally, this includes Studio Ghibli, especially the newly-released Blu-Rays in Japan, but it also includes a few region-1 discs that I'm trying to hunt down, like Grave of the Fireflies, Puss in Boots, and Animal Treasure Island.

Which brings me to Princess Mononoke.  I have the region-2 DVD from Japan, and the picture quality is terrific.  Color tones are richly painted in green and brown, light and shadows are nicely balanced, and the screen is always popping with detail.  If you want the best home version of Miyazaki's 1997 blockbuster, this is the one to get.

Meanwhile, we in the States are still stuck with the crummy Miramax DVD that was released a decade ago.  For reasons I have never understood, the picture quality is terrible, just bloody awful.  Contrasts have been boosted to maximum, colors are bleached out, and the overall picture has been overly smoothed out.  One could almost mistake it for a late-generation VHS.

I've probably touched upon this subject before in the past, but it bears repeating again, as we patiently needle and encourage Disney to import more Ghibli DVDs.  Mononoke remains the first Ghibli film to be released to disc here in the States, and fans have waited long enough.  It's time for a proper re-release.  Take a look at the above screenshots and see for yourself.  The first photo comes from the Japanese region-2 DVD; the second photo is the region-1 Miramax disc.

I am aware of the challenges of reissuing the very adult Mononoke Hime on the Flanders-family Disney label (and I mean that in a kind way).  I still remember seeing this movie at the Oak Stree Cinema some years ago, and marveled at all the parents who arrived with very small children in tow.  It was pretty obvious they signed up for another children's film like My Neighbor Totoro...and were handed a bloody, violent Kirosawa epic.  Odds are those children are now among the 25% of American kids hooked on prescription drugs.

This is precisely why I believe the wisest decision is to place the Studio Ghibli films under their own label, as a subset of Disney.  "The Complete Studio Ghibli Collection" is the label used for these DVDs and Blu-Rays around the world, and I think it offers a degree of separation from the Disney moniker.  This would make it possible for the more adult-oriented Ghibli films - Grave of the Fireflies, Omohide Poro Poro, I Can Hear the Sea, and Princess Mononoke - to see a commercial release without fear of backlash.  Unfortunately, the more fundamentalist elements of American society will always make business difficult.  And we don't want to see Disney become an easy target for cynical politics.

I would also love to see Disney release the Ghibli ga Ippai Collection, which includes films crafted before Ghibli's founding (Panda Kopanda, Jarinko Chie, Gauche the Cellist), as well as the studio's other films, like the Short Short DVD, Ghiblies Episode 2 (package it with The Cat Returns!), the Yasuo Otsuka documentary, or Isao Takahata's masterful 1987 documentary, The Story of Yanagawa Waterways.  I'm very fortunate that I've been able to see these movies, and your family should enjoy them, too.

Bottom line: there's a whole side of Studio Ghibli that Americans have yet to discover.  Oh, and get with the program, Disney.


The Next Studio Ghibli Feature Film: Kokuriko Zaka-Kara (From Up on Poppy Hill)

Kokuriko Zaka-Kara (From Up on Poppy Hill)

Goro Miyazaki is back!

Time is short for me right now, so I'll write my longer impressions on my next post. But I had to share the news of Studio Ghibli's next feature film. It's Kokuriko Zaka-Kara, an adaptation of a 1980 shojo manga (girl's comic) about a teenage girl inYokohama, Japan.

Goro Miyazaki will be directing, after a long period of properly paying his dues at the studio. You will be reassured to know that Hayao Miyazaki is in charge of the movie's planning and its script/storyboards. This is very similar to this year's Ghibli movie, The Borrower Arrietty, which was a blockbuster success.

Few details are available as of now, only the preliminary movie poster. The movie trailers will arrive later in the spring, in anticipation for a summer 2011 release, as is the Ghibli tradition. Again, I'll write my impressions when I have some time later tonight. But I will leave these notes:

1) Goro's career rests in the balance. This movie will seal his future as a director, as well as Studio Ghibli.

2) We are now firmly moving into the post-Hayao Miyazaki era. We are entering the next generation of Ghibli.

3) Hayao Miyazaki's and Isao Takahata's next features might possibly be their last. I hope I'm wrong about that last point.


Buy These DVDs Already!

I always make it a personal habit to pitch for the Discotek DVDs once per year, and since the topic came up, here we go again, kids.  Buy these DVDs for Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island!  These are excellent discs, containing the full movies with Japanese language, as well as long-lost English language dubs, trailers, and very nice packaging.

Of course, I would wish the image quality was better, but this is the fault of Toei, who only released their classic animation movies in single-layer DVD format in the year 2000.  That's right, they haven't touched their "Golden Age" films in a decade.  Amazing, isn't it?  Well, let's show some support and prove the demand is out there.

Oh, and lest I forget, Discotek also released Toei's excellent 1979 anime Taro the Dragon Boy.  It's a rare return to form for the company, whose fortunes had long since faded by that time.  It's very much in the style of the lavish production and Disney-esque visuals from Toei Doga's golden era (1958-1972).  Be sure to grab this one while you can.  If Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island have only sold a few copies in the USA, than Taro probably sold in the single digits.  Again, anime fans need to support their history.


Downloads Updated and Expanded!

Hello, everyone!  I just spent the morning and early afternoon revising and expanding the Downloads section on Ghibli Blog.  The number of fansub downloads have steadily increased over the years, and I wanted to keep everything simple and easily accessible.  Now the downloads are separated into four categories: Toei Animation, Television, Pre-Ghibli & Misc., and Studio Ghibli.

In doing so, I've also searched around and found more movies and television series for you to enjoy.  I'm especially happy to find new fansubs for two Toei Doga classics, 1963's Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon, and 1972's Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.  I've also added the downloads for Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island because, frankly, the DVDs may no longer be commercially available.  I certainly can't find them anywhere, and I've been looking around ever since I lost my discs on a plane trip last year.

Our goal should be to translate and release all of the movies from Toei Animation's "classic" era, 1958-1972.  There are still a number of movies we need, all of them from the pre-Horus years.  I'm hopeful that this crucial era of anime history will be preserved.  All Ghibli Freaks owe it to themselves to become immersed in the classic Toei films.

As always, my deepest thanks and gratitude to all those individuals who bring us these translated fansubs.  None of these works would ever be seen in the West otherwise, as there simply isn't enough commercial demand.  That's really too bad, because these are the defining classics of Japanese anime.  And you cannot consider yourself a true anime fan unless you've been exposed to the classics.

(EDIT:  I removed Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island from the Download links since they are still readily available on Amazon.  Of course, I'm sure every one of you already own these DVDs, right?  Right.)


Anime Director Umanosuke Iida Dies: Assistant Director on Castle in the Sky

On November 26, anime director Umanosuke Iida died from undisclosed complications.  He was 49 years old.  He is best remembered as director of Hellsing and Devilman (shout-out to White Zombie).  Ghibli fans will remember him as Hayao Miyazaki's assistant director on Laputa: Castle in the Sky.  To the best of my knowledge, he was never involved in any other Studio Ghibli production.

According to GhibliWiki, Hayao Miyazaki and Nagai Go organized the funeral.

Thanks to Anime News Network for sharing the news.

More Ghibli Blog Posts To Discover