New Miyazaki Book: Princess Mononoke: The First Story

Newly published from Viz Media is Hayao Miyazaki's famous storyboard book, "Princess Mononoke: The First Story." This story consists of watercolor image boards created by Miyazaki in 1980 for an unrealized film project. The artwork was first published in his 1983 artbook, "Hayao Miyazaki Image Boards," and ten years later as a standalone volume.

I've written about the history behind the 1980 Mononoke Hime, going into greater detail, so I won't recount that tale yet again here. I also published the entire story, with fan translations, on Ghibli Blog back in 2008, eventually finding its way across the internet and generating great interest in Hayao Miyazaki's "lost" anime.

I have edited my 2008 Mononoke post to remove all but a small sample of pages. And now I strongly urge all Miyazaki fans to purchase this new book. The quality of the paintings is superb, and the presentation is the same high calibur we expect from Viz. This is an excellent storybook, one that will make wonderful gifts for friends and family this holiday season.

Hayao Miyazaki's manga comics remain largely unknown to Western audiences.  I do hope this latest release will begin to turn that around. There should be a whole series of "Hayao Miyazaki Comics" in our libraries and bookstores.

P.S. The 1980 Princess Mononoke share nothing in common with Miyazaki's 1997 blockbuster anime film, apart from the heroine, who reappears in the movie as Ashitaka's love interest. Mononoke, the giant cat, obviously resembes a close cousin to Papa Panda and Totoro. And some of the scene designs would resurface as the bath house in Spirited Away.


Sherlock Hound: Complete and Unabridged (DVD)

Sherlock Hound: Complete and Unabridged is a 6-DVD box set that contains the complete 1984-85 TV anime series in Japanese and English soundtracks. Discotek Media secured the rights from previous owner, Manga Entertainment, earlier this year. This series began production at the Telecom studio for TMS, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and helmed by such animation luminaries as Yoshifumi Kondo, Kazuhide Tomaga,  Nobuo Tomizawa, Kyoto Tanaka, and Nizo Yamamoto.  You may recognize this team (sans Miyazaki) as the ones who created the famous 1984 Nemo pilot film, one of the all-time great anime masterpieces.

Sherlock Hound was conceived as a fun, lighthearted romp, aiming back to the goofy cartoon chaos of Animal Treasure Island. It's style feels very similar to Lupin III and Future Boy Conan, which makes sense since most of the top animators were involved on those projects. This series never tried to change the world, just have a lot of fun with cartoon Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, and a lot of thrilling car chases that exist purely for its own sake.

As we all know, the Sherlock Hound (Meitantai Holmes, or "Famous Detective Holmes," in Japan, the same title given to Arthur Conan Doyle's stories) series was produced in 1981, but mothballed after only six episodes were completed, due to disputes with the Doyle estate.  For Miyazaki, this was another setback during a time of many setbacks.  Future Boy Conan and Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro failed to become hits, and the Lupin III "red jacket" TV series had ended its successful run. A number of animation projects, including an early draft of My Neighbor Totoro, and a radically different Princess Mononoke, were stuck in the image board stage.  Hayao Miyazaki was unable to find work as an animation director.

The final blow came in 1983, when Miyazaki joined a Japanese delegation headed by Isao Takahata, and including Yasuo Otsuka and Yoshifumi Kondo, to the United States as part of the infamous "Little Nemo" film project.  Both Takahata and Miyazaki walked away without any success,* and Miyazaki returned home feeling deeply dejected and defeated. His nearly 20-year career in animation was all but finished. And so he returned to his first love, Japanese manga comics, and began crafting a monthly adventure serial titled, "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind."

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure if Sherlock Hound is available or not.  There is little to no press coverage, no publicity, no reviews, no hype whatsoever. The box set is currently listed on the Discotek website for "pre-order" status, yet gives a release date of October 23, 2014. I shall have to investigate a little further.

I do enjoy the cover design for this newest Sherlock Hound, although it's nearly identical to the old Manga design. Discotek is probably using the same source, which means the show merely exchanged hands. Both Japanese and English language soundtracks are included, which is very helpful. As for extra features, I'm not aware if this box set has anything.  This may be a bare-bones release, which would be very unfortunate, if true.

What I'd really like to see is a single-disc release of just the original 1981 Miyazaki-directed episodes. The latter 1984-85 episodes aren't nearly as good, in my opinion, nor were the animators anywhere near as skilled as that legendary Telecom crew.  But I'm sure most kids won't mind. This is a fun after-school cartoon, with slapstick gags and car chases.  Just the perfect thing to take your mind off your homework for a little while.

Every Miyazaki fan owes it to themselves to have Sherlock Hound in their library.  I highly recommend purchasing a copy from Discotek, and put it on the shelf next to Lupin and Horus.

(*There is a bright moment in Miyazaki's 1983 visit to California. It was on this trip that he met a young Disney animator named John Lasseter, who was experimenting with the new frontier of computer animation. This new friendship would pay off handsomely for Miyazaki, and Studio Ghibli, decades later.)

The Next Wave of Studio Ghibli BD's - Porco Rosso, Pom Poko, and Tales From Earthsea Starring Julian Lennon

Hot on the heels of this week's release of The Wind Rises, Princess Mononoke and Kiki's Delivery Service on Blu-Ray, Disney has announced its next wave of Studio Ghibli movies in the States for February 3, 2015.  The next movies to arrive on BD...Porco Rosso, Pom Poko, and Tales From Earthsea.  Terrific!

This is very welcome news.  I had all but given up on Disney, who are notorious for dragging their heels on releasing Studio Ghibli movies on home video.  They appear to have all but given up at this point, leaving GKids as the new de-facto face of Ghibli in America. Now this sudden rush to get everything out the door...this is a very welcome surprise.

Porco Rosso is a favorite of mine.  It's quintessential Studio Ghibli: inspired by romantic adventure movies of yore, quietly nostalgic, more interested in telling a story about people instead of mindless action or dumb violence, and filled with humanity.  This is a wonderfully rich and layered movie, one that only could be told by the middle-aged Hayao Miyazaki; the younger Miyazaki of Horus and Animal Treasure Island, Lupin and Conan, couldn't possibly have pulled it off. This story requires that bittersweet nostalgia that only comes with age and experience.  And it's also very, very funny.  For years, Porco Rosso was my go-to "Miyazaki show-off" movie.  I hope it will be the same for you.

Heisei Tanuki Gassan Pom Poko, shortened to just "Pom Poko" in the West, is a harder nut to crack. It's less accessible for those not steeped in Japanese folklore or culture, and director Isao Takahata really isn't interested in meeting us halfway.  You must do your homework and meet on his terms. I think this film is a near-masterpiece, a sprawling, densely packed epic fable that fuses a mock documentary style with cultural history lesson and social satire, all wrapped in Paku-san's trademark character melodrama. The visual style is wildly inventive, darting from neo-realism to surrealism without warning. Pom Poko is a classic rock double album of a movie, a Physical Graffiti for animation.  It may be too sprawling, too dense, too much.  But the same could be said of Graffiti, or Exile on Main Street, or The White Album, or any double album.

I think Pom Poko suffered visually from the DVD format; colors were too washed out, too bleached out. Expect the Blu-Ray to restore all that rich color and visual detail previously missing from home video. I also think this movie suffers from its US Disney dub, which is clearly a weaker effort in the Ghibli catalog.  It's a hard movie to translate and pass off as American; this movie doesn't want to be assimilated. And it needs to be said: Johnathan Taylor Thomas was a clunky choice. Maurice Lemarche was much better, but isn't he always?

Pom Poko is one of only two Takahata films - the other being his 1987 live-action documentary, The Story of Yanagawa Canals - based on an original script, and not an adaptation. Perhaps that explains the epic, rambling nature. Paku-san just keeps piling on details, episodes, topics of discussion, hurling out ideas that lead to yet more discussions about yet more topics. He seems hellbent on solving the riddle of Modern Japan, a Westernized nation in danger of dissolving its sacred past.

Finally, Tales From Earthsea, Goro Miyazaki's 2006 directorial debut.  This movie took a drubbing from fans and critics, while Goro himself was ridiculed for coming across as the Ungrateful Son. I was not very fond of Earthsea when it was released, but I am willing to give it another chance, to try and appreciate the movie on its terms, and not as a running commentary on the Miyazaki clan and Studio Ghibli's quest to find a successor to the throne.Is it possible to appreciate this movie without all that bagging hanging overhead?

Picking the middle book in Ursula K. Le Guin's fantasy saga feels odd, particularly when only a single feature film would be made and not a trilogy. A television series would probably have been wiser. The greater story needed to be fleshed out, the mythology needed room to grow.  And Goro-san needed every opportunity to develop his skills. He's a third-string quarterback thrown into the big game without even learning the entire playbook. It shows. Goro Miyazaki is the Christian Ponder of anime.

That said, I did enjoy Tales From Earthsea's rich color palette, its impressive locales and scene designs. It will look sumptuous on Blu-Ray. Fans will be thrilled and Ghibli Freaks will have another title in their movie libraries. It might not get played, but it will look great sitting there on the shelf.


New Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies Released This Week

As all good Ghibli Freaks know, this week sees the release of three new Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray movies in the USA: The Wind Rises, Princess Mononoke, and Kiki's Delivery Service.  It's always so rare that we get anything released by Disney at all, having three movies at once is especially grand.

I haven't had a chance to examine these BDs for myself, but reviews have been mostly positive. Picture quality should be excellent, if a step below the Japanese BDs, color tones will be rich, warm and extremely detailed. Studio Ghibli looks so much better on high definition over DVD, it's worth upgrading your home theater system just for these movies.  But that's just my opinion.

The only negative is that Mononoke uses dubtitles - what, "dubtitles?" - instead of the literal English translation from earlier releases.  That's completely baffling and frustrating, but it wouldn't be the first time this has happened; Disney's US Blu-Ray of Castle in the Sky is also plagued with incorrect subtitles.  It's a puzzling oversight, and one that's completely unnecessary.  Because of this, I cannot recommend the US release over the Japanese.  That's just me.  If you prefer Neil Gaiman's US script, then you'll be perfectly happy with this release.  It was a fairly good anime dub for its time, more respectful than most.  But it still would be nice to enjoy the Japanese soundtrack as well, and using incorrect subtitles detracts from that experience.

Kiki's Delivery Service, similarly, also uses dubtitles instead of a literal translation, but this has always been the case. We have never had proper subtitles of this movie, in any format. Fortunately, the subtitles are taken from the old Streamline Pictures dub, which was very enjoyable.  There's one throwaway joke about the Hindenberg that I could do away with, but it's never really bothered me. Kiki is underrated in the Miyazaki canon; for me, it continues the gentle, pastoral pace of My Neighbor Totoro, and its insights on emerging adolescence, and any period of transition in one's life, ring true.

Years ago, I was grappling with long-term unemployment, the kind where you fear that you'll never find work again. When watching Kiki's Delivery Service, the scene where Kiki sat in a park, lost and uncertain, stuck me to my core. I felt that moment, that disorientation, that worry.  Where will I go?  What will happen to me?  That scene has always resonated in my memory, because of my experience.  If there's anything I respect about Miyazaki, it's his emotional honesty.  This is a great movie.

And The Wind Rises? Still a masterpiece, still controversial, but always destined to spark debates and deep discussions about Miyazaki, World War II, and the movies.  It was criminally ignored by the so-called fans when it was released in US theaters early this year.  Here is your chance for redemption, kids.


Photos - Peanuts Movie (2015)

Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age) has released five new screenshots from their upcoming Peanuts Movie, which is scheduled for a November 6, 2015 release.

I'm a huge fan of Peanuts - who doesn't love Charlie Brown and Snoopy? - and I'm greatly looking forward to this newest attempt to revive the classic comic strip and cartoon characters.  Also, like many of you who are traditional animation fans, I feel a slight unease at the thought of Sparky Shultz' characters rendered in CGI.  Just look at the train wreckage from similar attempts with Rocky & Bullwinkle, Mr. Peabody, The Chipmunks, Astro Boy...don't get me started on those damned Smurfs.  Ugh, my eyes! The goggles do nothing!

That said, I am greatly impressed the work Blue Sky has shown so far.  They have managed to capture the classic hand-drawn look, with the additional detail and color that only CGI provides.  This feels like a very reverent interpretation of Peanuts, a respectful one.  This doesn't appear at all like a cheap, cynical cash-in.  For that, I am very thankful.

I do hope this movie will be a good one.  Western animation, despite its tremendous commercial success, is stuck creatively in the mud.  Ice Age was a good movie, owing a lot to classic cartoons without becoming crass, commercialized or cynical. Is Blue Sky the right choice to helm a new Charlie Brown cartoon?  Let's cross our fingers and hope for the best.


Photos - Horus, Prince of the Sun (2014 DVD)

If you've been wondering where I've been lately, here's your answer. I have been working on Horus, Prince of the Sun, Isao Takahata's groundbreaking 1968 anime masterpiece.  This DVD will be released by Discotek Media on December 23 in the United States.

What did I create for the Horus DVD? Damn near everything. Apart from the audio commentary by anime scholar Mike Toole, and two video interviews with Isao Takahata and Yoichi Kotabe (taken from the 2008 French Horus, Prince du Soleil DVD), I created all the disc's features.  I wrote and edited the new subtitle translations, all of the special features, recorded an audio commentary track (while battling the worst case of stage fright in my life!), contributed to the menu layout design, and assisted on the cover design. Finally, I wrote the official press release and content for Discotek's Horus DVD page, and the product pages for Amazon and Best Buy.

These following screenshots accompany the press release, which I posted in full in the previous post.  I'm now sharing those screenshots with you here on Ghibli Blog.  My apologies from being away from the site so long. I'll get back to work now!  Enjoy the screenshots, which lie after the jump!

Horus, Prince of the Sun (DVD) December 23, 2014 - Official Press Release



Discotek Media announces the release of DVD, “Horus, Prince of the Sun.” Available for purchase December 23, 2014 (MSRP $17.95).

Minneapolis, MN, November 17, 2014 -- Horus, Prince of the Sun (Taiyou no Ouji Horusu no Daibouken), Isao Takahata’s directorial feature film debut, stands as the most influential Japanese animated feature film ever made. Vivid, visceral and violent, yet charged with kinetic energy, Horus shatters the Walt Disney mold, establishing a new paradigm of adult storytelling, psychological realism, visual complexity, social themes and stylistic violence. This film marks the birth of the anime revolution.

Unofficially based on the mythic tales of Japan’s indigenous Ainu people, Takahata tells the story of Horus, the young warrior seeking revenge against the ice devil Grunwald, who destroyed his home; Hilda, the survivor of a massacre tormented between good and evil; and the fishing villagers caught in the middle, unsure which side to trust.

Available in the US for the first time in its original Japanese, Discotek is proud to present this groundbreaking anime feature by the creators of Lupin the 3rd; Heidi, Girl of the Alps; Anne of Green Gables; Gauche the Cellist; Grave of the Fireflies; My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke.

Directed by Isao Takahata (co-founder of Studio Ghibli). Animation Direction by Yasuo Otsuka. Scene Design by Hayao Miyazaki (2003 Academy Award Winner, co-founder of Studio Ghibli). Character Design and Key Animation by Yasuji Mori (Hakujaden: Tale of the White Serpent), Reiko Okuyama (Belladonna, The Little Mermaid), and Yoichi Kotabe (Heidi, Girl of the Alps). Musical Direction by Michiyo Mamiya (Grave of the Fireflies). Screenplay by Kazuo Fukuzawa, based on his play, “The Sun Above Chikisani.”


New and improved English subtitle translation

Two audio commentaries: one by Ghibli Blog author Daniel Thomas MacInnes, featuring readings from Anipages Daily, Critic After Dark, and Buta Connection; and one by anime scholar Mike Toole

Every Poet a Thief: Inspirations From Horus, a gallery of influences and themes seen in the films of Studio Ghibli

Hilda and Horus: Just Like Twins, an essay on the film’s main protagonists and its themes of trauma and revenge

Reiko Okuyama: A Tribute to a Legend, an essay by animation scholar Benjamin Ettinger on pioneering artist and feminist icon Reiko Okuyama

Message of Hope: A Conversation With Isao Takahata, an interview with Isao Takahata conducted in 2010 by film critic Peter van der Lugt

2008 video conversation with Isao Takahata and Yoichi Kotabe

Production gallery, featuring publicity stills, movie posters and home video releases around the world

Theatrical trailer

PLUS: Rare photographs of the film's creators: Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, founders of Studio Ghibli, with Yasuo Otsuka, Yasuji Mori, Reiko Okuyama, and Yoichi Kotabe


For press inquiries, please contact Discotek Media at For interviews and appearances, please contact Daniel Thomas MacInnes at

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