Masaski Yuasa Returns to Feature Film: Night is Short, Walk On Girl

Masaaki Yuasa is, in my humble opinion, the most exciting talent in Japanese animation today. He first grabbed my attention with his wildly inventive (and decidedly Fellini-esque) 2004 anime film Mind Game. In the years since, he has worked relentlessly on television, including Kemonozume in 2006, Kaiba in 2008, The Tatami Galaxy in 2010, Kick-Heart in 2013, and Ping Pong in 2014. Now he has returned at last to feature animated movies, and I couldn't be happier.

Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a fantasy romance adapted from a 2006 novel by Tomihiko Morimi, who also wrote The Tatami Galaxy (a number of key staff from that series has also returned for this film). The teaser trailer demonstrates Yuasa's obsessions with pushing the limits of animation, with cartoon surrealism, and with romantic obsessions. I was definitely reminded of the setup behind Mind Game, where a frustrated young comics artist tried to woo a beautiful woman he's known for years.

As always, I expect the unexpected. I love the elasticity and freewheeling spirit Yuasa brings to his work. He continues to push anime into uncharted territory, exploding and exploiting pop culture cliches, unleashing the limitless possibilities of the cartoon form. He doesn't seem like the type who would be offended by the word "cartoon," as though it were a lesser expression to remind us of Tex Avery and Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones and the Fleischers. I love the cinematic seriousness of anime as much as anyone, but I wouldn't become Puritanical about it. Just look at The Castle of Cagliostro for a perfect illustration of pulp realism mashed perfectly into Road Runner routines.

Night is Short, Walk On Girl will be released in Japan on April 7, 2017. Let's hope a US distributor picks up this movie (I'm still waiting for Mind Game, which popped up on Netflix some months ago). GKIDS, I'm looking in your direction! Don't let us down!

And tell somebody to wake up Ben Ettinger. He's a huge Masaaki Yuasa fan, and he's been in hiding since last summer.

Fun Fact: According to Wikipedia, Yuasa worked as a key animator on Isao Takahata's 1999 Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbors the Yamadas. That's very impressive if true, but it also adds to the great talent to slip through Ghibli's fingers. If only Miyazaki could have held onto Yuasa and Mamoru Hosoda. Heck, open the door to the occasional collaboration with Hideaki Anno and Mamoru Oshii. Then add in the studio's home-grown talent like Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Goro Miyazaki, Yoshiyuki Momose and Osamu Tanabe. Imagine that possible future!

Much thanks to Cartoon Brew for breaking the story. Great job as always, everyone!


Poster: Mary and the Witch's Flower

Here are the first movie posters to Hiromasa Yonebayashi's upcoming feature film, Mary and the Witch's Flower. Its design is pure Ghibli, which is no doubt the filmmakers' intention. They seek to continue the legacy of the world's greatest animation studio, to continue the rich legacy of Miyazaki and Takahata into the new century. And I'm sure there will be many surprises along the way. I can't wait!

Much thanks to Buta Connection for the poster photos.

The Son of Ghibli: Hiromasa Yonebayashi's "Mary and the Witch's Flower"

Today marks a major announcement from Japan. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the Studio Ghibli director behind Arrietty the Borrower and When Marnie Was There, has announced his third feature film. It is titled "Mary and the Witch's Flower," and is an adaptation of Mary Stewart's book The Little Broomstick. Two trailers have been posted online, one for Japan, which promises a Summer 2017 release date; the second for the West, which promises an unspecified 2017 release.

And now for the bombshell news: Mary and the Witch's Flower will not be created by Studio Ghibli. Instead, Studio Ponoc will have the honor. This is a new animation studio founded in 2015 by former Ghibli producer (and Toshio Suzuki successor) Yoshiaki Nishimura. Several Ghibli alumni, including Yoshiyuki Momose, who directed several Ghibli short films, including Ghiblies Episode 2 and the Capsule music video trilogy (seen on the 2005 DVD Ghibli Ga Ippai Special: Short Short). Yonebashi has now joined their ranks.

Nishimura previously served as the producer on Isao Takahata's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature (and clearly deserved to win, ahem). That trial by fire will no doubt serve him well with his new studio. Having a number of key Ghibli animators at the helm will also prove extremely helpful, not only for the shared filmmaking experience, but also in appealing to the movie-going public. Studio Ponoc will position themselves as the "Son of Ghibli," in hopes of winning over all those Hayao Miyazaki fans.

This teaser trailer looks absolutely spectacular, as vivid and lush and imaginative as any of the Studio Ghibli classics. This movie appears to be like a mash-up of Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away, which could be an excellent combination. The animation and art design look sumptuous, wildly colorful. Yonebayashi has grown by leaps and bounds as a filmmaker. He promises that this feature will be very different from Marnie, which is the smart move. It's best not to become pigeonholed into one style.

I must admit, I was quietly hoping that Yonebayashi would return to Studio Ghibli for his next feature film, and the studio would hire its production staff on a contract basis, just as they had done in their early years. This will not be happening, unfortunately, but the artists and their craft will continue. Thank God this movie is being created in hand-drawn animation, and not CG! Given the enormous costs now involved in traditional animation, as well as its limited global appeal compared to 3D computers, this is a very bold move, and a welcome one. Let us hope for its success.

A few questions now emerge. One, what involvement does Studio Ghibli have in this production? Are they providing any financial assistance, or taking on a producer's role ala The Red Turtle? Will Suzuki or Miyazaki provide personal support to Nishimura and Yonebayashi?

And the final, most haunting question to ask: what will become of Studio Ghibli? It now appears unlikely that unless Miyazaki or Takahata return with a new feature film, the studio's days of feature animated movies have ended. There may be new short films created for the Ghibli Museum, and there may be more productions like The Red Turtle, but we should not expect anything else. The studio is now evolving into that of a holding company, a protector of legacies past. The final wild card, as always, is Goro Miyazaki. Nobody knows what he is planning, or if he even wants to continue making anime films. He could continue his father's legacy, move to another studio, or even return to landscape architecture. Anything could happen.

It's hard to face hard truths, but The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya were farewell albums, just like Abbey Road. It now appears that The Beatles have truly disbanded. A reunion is not likely to happen. But we can look forward to the coming solo albums, which will plant the seeds for future greatness, a new Miyazaki, a new Takahata.

Thanks to Genercion Ghibli and Anime News Network for breaking the news.


Poster - Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru)

Here is the newly-released movie poster for GKIDS' theatrical release of Studio Ghibli's 1993 film, Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru). Looks great, very restrained and tasteful and clean. I do hope we will be able to purchase one of these. When is Ghibli going to start selling their movie posters? I always ask this question. One of these days, it's going to happen, trust me.

A big thanks to GKIDS for their support of Studio Ghibli, as always. Next item on the menu: the Studio Ghibli short films, including Hayao Miyazaki's On Your Mark and Yoshiyuki Momose's Ghiblies Episode 2. Stay tuned.

Umi ga Kikoeru (Ocean Waves) Coming to US Theaters

It has taken many years of begging and pleading, and now it has finally paid off: Studio Ghibli's 1993 TV movie Umi Ga Kikoeru (I Can Hear the Sea) is coming to North American theaters! With this release, all of the Studio Ghibli feature films will have been released on our shores.

GKIDS, who hold the theatrical distribution rights to the Ghibli film catalog (in addition to several home video releases), will release the film under its "Western" title, Ocean Waves, on December 28 at the IFC Center in New York City. An expanded theatrical release will then commence in January and continue through March. Cities and dates will continue to be added in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to find out if Ocean Waves is coming to a city near you.

Umi ga Kikoeru/Ocean Waves was a project for Ghibli's younger animators, and the first time Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata was not directly involved in a studio production. It is a romance melodrama involving several young adults who join together for their high school reunion, which sparks memories of old friendships, rivalries and romances. It fits squarely within Ghibli's "neo-realist" style, akin to Grave of the Fireflies and Omohide Poro Poro. This is a style of animation that Japan excels at, and is virtually nonexistent in the West. I would hope this movie helps to inspire artists and filmmakers to create new films in this style.

I'm a great fan of Umi/Ocean. It's a quiet story, understated and subtle and emotionally honest. The art design is restrained and natural, yet full of small details of modern Japanese life. And the final scene makes a dramatic homage to Yasujiro Ozu that never fails to amaze and inspire. I bought the Japanese DVD a decade ago, which also features a 40-minute documentary with the filmmakers, which I do hope will appear on the inevitable GKIDS release, which should arrive sometime next year.

Looking at the official website, I do not see any mention of an English-language dub, nor have I heard anything about any American voice actors cast for the film. We must assume that this movie will be presented only in its original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. This is probably for the best; this is a Japanese movie that doesn't try to sell itself to Americans. Hearing a cast of California actors would just be too jarring (this was an issue I had with GKIDS' dub soundtrack for Omohide Poro Poro). The Ghibli Freaks will buy movie tickets and will probably prefer the original film untouched. The mainstream public will not be interested in an animated youth drama. They'll be much happier watching Finding Dory again.

That's fine. Not everything has to become wildly popular or hugely successful. The most interesting things in life always lie off the beaten path. You have to search out and discover the true hidden gems. Umi ga Kikoeru is a true hidden gem. You should seek it out and treasure it always.


Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind: The Graphic Novel

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind will always stand as Hayao Miyazaki's magnum opus, a true masterpiece of epic storytelling, thrilling action and brilliant art design. As the holiday season is upon us, this is the perfect time to purchase a copy of this graphic novel.  Fortunately, Viz Media offers two excellent versions: a deluxe box set containing all seven volumes in two large books, bound together in a hardcover case; and the individual seven volumes available separately.

Many years ago, Nausicaa was first released in the United States in a four-book series. That was the version I first purchased, and it's now long out-of-print, making it a prized collector's item. The newer versions, however, are superior in every respect, from page side to quality of translation. Die-hard Miyazaki fans, of course, will want to collect literally everything. They should begin here with these two different presentations.

The only improvement I would offer for any future release of Nausicaa would be to include Miyazaki's original publishing schedule for the monthly serial. It helps a lot to know just where he took his many breaks, usually to work on his feature animated films. These long breaks, ranging anywhere from one to three years, allowed Miyazaki to return with fresh insights and new ideas, resulting in a constant evolution of the story and its characters.

Many Miyazaki fans and Ghibli Freaks have yet to discover the man's many works in manga comics. If you've never read them, you're missing out on a third of his career, just as if you've never discovered the many pre-Ghibli films and television series. If you are among them, you owe it to yourself to have the Nausicaa books in your library. Ask Santa or Hannukah Harry to leave a set under your tree this year.

Visit Ghibli Blog on Twitter and Facebook

As Ghibli Blog passed its tenth anniversary this year, we* have been doubling our efforts to grow our brand on Twitter and Facebook. Both "franchises" feature unique content, as I scour the internets for Studio Ghibli swag, merchandise, news clips, and the occasional piece of fan art.

My goal for Ghibli Blog has always been to foster discussions and examinations of these great animated movies, and the longer articles will continue to appear on the main website. For shorter snippets and quick bites of Ghibli goodness, we post on Twitter and Facebook.

As we are planning our expansion into DT Media, our social media sites also cover movies, music and videogames. But I am always very mindful to keep Studio Ghibli in the center spotlight, so I don't want anyone worrying about a lack of focus. And this main Ghibli Blog website will always remain focused solely on "Ghibli, Animation and The Movies."

As always, our Twitter feed is available here on the main website in the middle column. Please join our social media community at Twitter and Facebook. We're very glad to have your support.

(*"We," of course, refers to myself and wife Marcee, who manages our Facebook page.)

Ghibli Blog on Feedspot's Top 100 Animation Blogs

Recently, RSS feed website Feedspot was kind enough to award Ghibli Blog as one of the "Top 100 Animation Blogs" on the internet. We're very honored and thankful for the recognition.

I promised Feedspot founder Anuj Agarwal to acknowledge with a shout-out not only on Ghibli Blog Twitter and Ghibli Blog Facebook, but also on the main website. And, hey, they even gave us a shiny medal. How cool is that?

Thank you very much for the appreciation, and, as always, much thanks to everyone who supports Ghibli Blog in all our franchise locations. We work hard every day to inform and entertain Ghibli Freaks everywhere.


Spirited Away and Ghiblies Episode 2 in US Theaters December 4/5

To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Studio Ghibli, Gkids Films, Hot Topics and Fathom Events are teaming up to release Spirited Away in a limited theatrical run in the US. Tickets are available online, as well as local theaters that are participating.

The English-language dubbed soundtrack (produced by John Lassetter and Disney) will be shown on December 4; the Japanese-language version (with subtitles) will screen on December 5.

The best surprise of all: Ghibli's 2002 short film Ghiblies Episode 2 will also appear at both screenings. This film played the opening slot of a double bill with The Cat Returns the Favor in Japan, and both movies area available together on DVD and Blu-Ray. This will be the first time Ghiblies has been shown outside of Japan. Hopefully, there will be a home video release on our shores in the near future.

Studio Ghibli theater events are pretty popular, so I would strongly advise buying your tickets quickly, before they run out.

Spirited Away 15th Anniversary: Theater Locations


Photos - Boro the Caterpiller

Details of Hayao Miyazaki's upcoming CG short film, Boro the Caterpiller, are few and far between. We still have yet to see any storyboards or production artwork or screenshots. The only detail yet shown is this illustration of the main character, who Miyazaki describes as "a tiny, hairy caterpillar, so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers."

Planned for a 2017 release, hopefully some new details will emerge soon. And perhaps we will also learn new details of the proposed Miyazaki feature film which may or may not happen. And you thought Studio Ghibli was finished!

Hayao Miyazaki Planning His Next Feature Film

You knew Hayao Miyazaki would never stay "retired" for long.

On Sunday, Japan's NHK network aired their latest program on Studio Ghibli, Owaranai Hito Miyazaki Hayao (Hayao Miyazaki: The Man Who is Not Done). The program followed Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli as he worked tirelessly on his latest animation progress, a  CG short film titled Kemushi no Boro (Boro the Caterpiller). This project is scheduled to be completed in another year, and will screen exclusively at the Ghibli Museum in Japan.

The surprise announcement by NHK, however, is that Miyazaki is now in the pre-production stages of a new feature animated film. Miyazaki reportedly grew unsatisfied with only working on a short film, and began creating storyboards for a full-length movie. Snippets of these storyboards are teased in the program (a longtime Ghibli and NHK tradition), and boards for 100 cuts are promised by the director.

This is in keeping with Miyazaki's filmmaking style, in which he creates the first act (of five) before production officially begins. The rest of the script and storyboards are created during the production itself, in a crazed, seat-of-the-pants style that somehow, miraculously, works.

The project has yet to be officially announced or even green-lighted. In his proposal, Hayao Miyazaki names Summer 2019 as a possible release date, or perhaps the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

As always, time is the most pressing issue for Studio Ghibli. The strain on staffing during the twin productions of The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya proved too much for Miyazaki, who was forced to work clean-up animation on many cuts himself. It was this strain that finally convinced him to retire from feature film directing, although it had been planned as part of the studio's long-term strategy (where the baton was being passed to the new generation of directors, including Goro Miyazaki and Hiromasa Yonebayashi).

That physical toll, combined with the exploding production costs (even The Wind Rises failed to turn a profit), resulted in Studio Ghibli dismissing their full-time animation staff and continuing with a skeleton crew. The studio insists they are only taking a break, but their future remains questionable. Could a new Hayao Miyazaki movie turn Ghibli's fortunes around? Or is the Miyazaki brand name no longer bankable? Would audiences turn out for another "final" film?

Will the new Miyazaki movie become a reality? I certainly hope so, but I am also realistic. Time and budgets may be running out. The studio needs a reliable revenue stream to survive. Perhaps they outsource much of the animation work? Perhaps they hire staff on a contract basis, as they did in their early years? Perhaps Goro-san and Yonebayashi-san become reliable successes at the box office? Perhaps other media ventures (television, music videos, videogames) will become viable again? Questions abound from all directions, with few answers and no direction home.

Despite what you may have heard, kids, the long, strange trip is not yet finished. Stay tuned.


Photos - The Story of the Yanagawa Canals


The Story of the Yanagawa Canals is the 1987 live-action documentary directed by Isao Takahata and produced by Hayao Miyazaki (the first project under his production company, Nibariki). It aired on Japan's NHK network and has appeared on VHS, LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-Ray, the latter as part of the excellent Isao Takahata Blu-Ray Box package. This is a lesser known work in the directors' canon, but no less brilliant or compelling.

Yanagawa features a number of short animation clips, describing details of the vast and complex system of waterways, sluices, gates and canals that developed and evolved over centuries. Some segments show moments of daily farming life, and there are even a couple comical bits like frogs swimming about. All of these were animated at Studio Ghibli, although the studio wasn't technically credited for the production, which began in 1984.

Earlier this year, Toshio Suzuki revealed a fascinating story about the early days of Studio Ghibli. After the box office success of Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Hayao Miyazaki's fortunes (which suffered through the difficult years of 1977-83) dramatically turned around, and he found himself with real money for the first time in his career. Suzuki suggested that Miyazaki-san serve as producer of Takahata's Yanagawa documentary project, and so Nibariki was founded.

Unfortunately, as nearly always happens, Paku-san found himself behind schedule and over budget. Miyazaki became exasperated as his money steadily drained away. In a panic, he turned to Suzuki-san, who offered some sly advice: Why not direct another feature film? With the financial backing of publisher Tokuma Shoten (the publishers of Animage Magazine, of which Suzuki was in charge), the decision was made to found a new animation studio.

Hayao Miyazaki would dub this new home Studio Ghibli, based on the Italian word for a hot wind. He, Takahata and Suzuki would be its founding fathers. Miyazaki set to work on Ghibli's inaugural movie, Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Paku-san would serve as producer, as he did on Nausicaa. Suzuki would serve as the Svengali, the power behind the throne. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Story of the Yanagawa Canals was finally completed in 1987, after a very long three-year production schedule. Miyazaki finally hit the brakes and cut off Paku-san's budget. "That's it! End of story! Go to bed!"

These screenshots come courtesy of Generacion Ghibli, everyone's favorite Studio Ghibli website from Spain. Be sure to visit them and follow them on Twitter. And don't forget to purchase the new book, Antes De Mi Vecino Miyazaki.


When Marnie Was There Deluxe Edition Blu-Ray/DVD (UK)

On October 3, UK animation publisher StudioCanal released a new deluxe edition Blu-Ray/DVD package for Studio Ghibli's latest studio feature, When Marnie Was There. This new version features a slipcase cover, an impressive foldout case to hold the discs, and a set of five full-color postcards from the movie.

StudioCanal has always delivered impressive home videos of the Ghibli catalog, and this latest release will be embraced by fans. There appears to be some glitches with the initial print run, but I would expect these to be resolved.

The future of Studio Ghibli remains mysterious and murky. It remains unlikely that Hayao Miyazaki will return for another feature film, as Toshio Suzuki remains squarely against the idea. Isao Takahata has spoken of at least one film project which could materialize into a fully fledged production, but his famously long preparation times (to say nothing of securing financing) make this questionable.

Fortunately, there is still good news to report. Hayao Miyazaki is working on his newest CGI short film, and the US localization for Goro Miyazaki's Ronja the Robber's Daughter has recently wrapped up. The Red Turtle debuted at Cannes to great acclaim and will soon arrive in theaters around the world, and may pave the way for similar projects in the future. And the studio continues to work hard on their catalog titles and merchandising around the world.

The most important announcement will be Hiromasa Yonebayashi's next feature film, which he is busily writing and preparing. He has a long and fruitful relationship with Ghibli, and if their finances are secure (traditional Japanese animation has become ruinously expensive), I would fully expect the successor to Marnie to be produced at Ghibli. At least, that's my own personal wish.

In any case, this new Marnie release is very impressive and always welcome. This is a great movie that deserves to find an audience. If you're getting tired of the formulaic animated movies coming from Hollywood (especially studios not named Disney/Pixar), then you need to give Yonebayashi's coming-of-age ghost story a chance.


Update Roundup: Social Media, DT Media, New Books Coming Soon

I wanted to pass along a few quick notes to everyone who visits Ghibli Blog. Activity on this main site has been quiet for much of this year, but I am working to change that and publish on a more or less regular schedule.

In addition to this site, Ghibli Blog Twitter is very active, with new content available every day. I have been working hard to build our community, with over 1,060 followers. We (meaning Marcee and myself) are also working hard to build up our Ghibli Blog Facebook page.  Content from the Twitter page will also be posted here, in addition to any special messages we wish to send out to our readers.

Most importantly, we have been working hard to create a new indie publishing company, DT Media. Three new books will be published, all written by me (and this is why I've been so busy this year). We will make formal announcements when everything is ready (translation: once we've saved up the money for the books and website). Our Twitter and FB pages will shift to reflect this, combining DT Media and Ghibli Blog.

The first book, Zen Arcade, is a collection of 140 classic videogame reviews for NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, NEC Turbografx-16 and SNK Neo-Geo. The titles have all been released on Nintendo's Virtual Console and all the major digital platforms such as Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, Steam, iOS and Android. This book will be an essential and entertaining resource for all fans and collectors of retro video games.

The second book, Pop Life, is a collection of reviews and essays collected from Ghibli Blog, as well as my other online sites, Daniel Thomas Vol. 4 and Readers will find reviews and essays on movies, animation, music, home audio, videogames, politics and daily life. Many new essays have also been written and the older material has been edited and revised to stay up-to-date. This book is a grand celebration of popular culture and life, and is full of keen insights, smart humor and biting satire. If you're a fan of Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael and Hunter S. Thompson, you'll love this book.

The third book, Greatest Hits, is an anthology of essays taken from four books: Zen Arcade and Pop Life, mentioned previously, as well as two new books which are still in production, Videogame Classics and Masters of Reality. This digital edition (e-book) of this book will be available for FREE to everyone who subscribes to our mailing list. I like to think of this as a welcome to our fans and readers, our way of saying thanks. It is also an opportunity to show you just what we are planning in the future, and share those stories with you now.

Videogame Classics features review essays on the greatest videogames ever made, from the earliest days of Atari to the current hits. We are working hard to dig deep and share with you many beloved classics that may have fallen through the cracks of time, or may have been forgotten. For all lovers of video games, this volume will be a touchstone and reference for the vast history of this great medium.

Finally, Masters of Reality is the Studio Ghibli project that I have been promising for ages. It is a very ambitious project, and is still in the early stages of production. Our goal is to present reviews and essays on the great works of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, careers spanning across five decades. We will discuss television, film, comics, books, and more, with writing that is insightful and inspiring. There may be more than one book in the series, but that has yet to be determined. For Greatest Hits, I have assembled a large number of essays for your enjoyment.

All of our books will be available on e-book and paperback. The complete details will be announced soon. We still need to assemble the books (cover and formatting), build the website, and begin growing the mailing list. And I will continue to work on providing content here on Ghibli Blog as best I can.

Anyway, that's the roundup. Please join our community at Twitter and Facebook, if you have not yet done so. As always, thanks to your continuing support of this website and all that I do.

P.S. One last thing. In September, I was involved on an upcoming Blu-Ray movie project. I shouldn't make any public announcements yet, but you're going to love it. Let's just say that an all-new audio commentary track is involved. Stay tuned.

Poster: Miss Hokusai

Poster: Miss Hokusai

Miss Hokusai, the latest anime masterwork by esteemed veteran director Keiichi Hara (Doraemon, Crayon Shin-Chan, Colorful) and animation studio Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell), is currently enjoying a theatrical run across the US, courtesy of GKids Films.

This movie tells the story of O-Ei, a fiercely independent-minded artist who creates portraits under the name of her famous father, the Japanese painter Hokusai. This family melodrama promises comparisons to the great films of Yasujiro Ozu, as well as the emotional dramas of our favorite director, Isao Takahata. The art and visual design looks fantastic, filled with the many details, great and small, that make anime so uniquely inspired.

This film will open in Minneapolis next week, October 28. Marcee and I are planning to see it and expect to have a terrific time. I'm greatly looking forward to this movie, and strongly urge all anime fans and Ghibli Freaks to attend if it is playing in your city. Let's show our support for hand-drawn animation!

Ronja the Robber's Daughter Coming to Amazon Prime

Ronja the Robber's Daughter will be coming soon to online streaming service Amazon Prime. Studio Ghibli made the announcement via their Twitter page, as recording wraps up for the 26-episode TV series.

Ronja was directed by Goro Miyazaki and jointly produced by Studio Ghibli and Polygon Pictures (Transformers Prime). The art design combines traditional hand-painted 2D backgrounds with 3D CG characters. It's a fascinating combination of old and new, and even if it lacks the lush animation of classics like Heidi, Girl of the Alps (which is clearly a major influence upon this series), I am greatly impressed at what the younger Miyazaki and his teams have created. This is a series that is worth watching, and may point to the future of Japanese animation in the CG-era.

A release date for Ronja has yet to be announced, but it is widely believed to happen before the end of this year. Likewise, a Blu-Ray and DVD release is also widely expected sometime next year, but is yet to be announced.


My Neighbor Totoro Lunchbox Cooler

This is cute. It's a My Neighbor Totoro lunchbox cooler, available here in the States at Hot Topic for $12.99. Marcee uses a small cooler similar to this, and it does a very good job of carrying your food on the go.

I posted a photo of this earlier on the Ghibli Blog Twitter page, and I wanted to share it again here on the main website.

Antes De Mi Vicino Miyazaki

This June 7, a new Studio Ghibli book was published in Spain by the authors of Mi Vecino Miyazaki. This prequel volume, titled "Antes De Mi Vecino Miyazaki," covers the early careers of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and their works from the 1960s and 1970s. Authors Alvaro Lopez Martin and Marta Garcia Villar have assembled a terrific book that is an absolute must for all Ghibli Freaks.

Martin and Villar are the brains behind Generacion Ghibli, the terrific Studio Ghibli website in Spain. They have been big supporters of Ghibli Blog for a long time, and I am always happy to return the favor. I contributed a paragraph to their first book, and for the second, I was asked to write the introduction. I was thrilled to work with such fine people and help share the love of these great animated works, and assembled a lengthy essay detailing the first half of the Takahata/Miyazaki canon.

At present, Antes De Mi Vecino Miyazaki is available only in Spain, and the book is written exclusively in Spanish. I understand that the publisher is interested in an American release in English. That would require a bit of work, but is certainly an achievable goal. I would love to see Viz Media pick up the US distribution rights. Heck, I'd love to pick up the book for my upcoming publishing label. Unfortunately, copyrights issues are more strict in the States than the EU, where these images fall within the boundaries of Public Domain.

Please don't let the language barrier discourage you. This book is packed with full color pictures from such classics as Horus, Prince of the Sun, Lupin the 3rd, Heidi, Girl of the Alps, 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, and Anne of Green Gables. The cover and layout designs are terrific, very professional in every respect.

Every Ghibli Freak owes it to themselves to add their book to their collections. It raises the standard for the rest of us, no question about that. I know that I will have to work twice as hard with my own (ongoing) Ghibli book project. You can order your copy from the Amazon link above. Pick up your copy today!


50 Great Movies: 2016 Edition

50 Great Movies: Mimi wo Sumaseba
50 Great Movies, 2016 Edition

1. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
2. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz)
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
4. Seven Samurai (1954, Akira Kurosawa)
5. Star Wars (1977, George Lucas)
6. Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey)
7. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
8. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
9. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Th. Dreyer)
10. Omohide Poro Poro (1991, Isao Takahata)

11. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean)
12. City Lights (1931, Charlie Chaplin)
13. Spaceballs (1987, Mel Brooks)
14. My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Hayao Miyazaki)
15. Ran (1986, Akira Kurosawa)
16. The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
17. The Fog of War (2003, Errol Morris)
18. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)
19. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989, Steven Spielberg)
20. The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick)

21. The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun (1968, Isao Takahata)
22.. Mimi wo Sumaseba (1995, Yoshifumi Kondo)
23. La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini)
24. The Wizard of Oz (1939, Victor Fleming)
25. Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)
26. Elizabeth (1998, Shekhar Kapur)
27. Network (1976, Sidney Lumet)
28. Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)
29. Floating Weeds (1959, Yasujiro Ozu)
30. The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks)

31. The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
32. Throne of Blood (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
33. Modern Times (1936, Charlie Chaplin)
34. Young Frankenstein (1974, Mel Brooks)
35. Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)
36. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (1984, Hayao Miyazaki)
37. Pulp Fiction (1994, Quentin Tarantino)
38. Dreams (1991, Akira Kurosawa)
39. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1968, Sergio Leone)
40. Fantasia (1940, Walt Disney)

41. Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963, Stanley Kubrick)
42. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (1996, Jim Mallon)
43. Clue (1985, Jonathan Lynn)
44. Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton)
45. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986, John Hughes)
46. Metropolis (1926, Fritz Lang)
47. The Searchers (1956, John Ford)
48. Ben-Hur (1959, William Wyler)
49. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)
50. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, Ang Lee)

I am currently working on one of my book manuscripts that will be published later this year. This book (tentatively titled "Hang Time") features movie and music essays, as well as personal essays. Right now, I am performing one final copy-editing sweep, tightening up the chapters, cutting out what works, and seeing what needs to be added in order to reach my goal of 80k words. One other manuscript is finished, and there are two others I'm planning to complete before launching.

Four years ago, I published a list of "50 Great Movies," give or take a couple extras. I decided to rewrite and revise that list for Hang Time, and share the results with everyone on Ghibli Blog. This is a very lean and mean list of great movies that mean everything to me. These movies have inspired me, thrilled me, challenged me. It's all very personal and not meant to be an academic study of "the greats," whatever that means. Art is only valuable if it means something to you. Right?

I wonder if I should turn this list into a book? That's always a possibility for a future project, however I believe there are already many Greatest Movies books available now. What do you think? Would you like to see this list expanded into a book? For now, I will leave that decision to you. My plate is very full at the moment. I need to figure out what to do with the Studio Ghibli book project.

Anyway, please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions, and thank you very much for supporting Ghibli Blog. You are the reason all of this exists.


Photos: Antes De Mi Vicino Miyazaki

Here are some sample pages from the upcoming Studio Ghibli book, Antes De Mi Vicino Miyazaki. Just like its predecessor, each page features full-color photos and artwork from the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. The layouts and artwork are absolutely superb, and I find myself completely rethinking my own Ghibli Book plans. Just let me get through the next two manuscripts first.

This is going to be a terrific book, a must for all Ghibli Freaks. I can't wait to see the fans go crazy when this is released in May 27. That's only next week!

New Studio Ghibli Book Coming May 27 in Spain

Excellent news, everybody! We have a new Studio Ghibli book coming soon!

Alvaro Lopez Martin and Marta Garcia Villar, the authors of last year's excellent full-color book, Mi Vicino Miyazaki, have returned with their second volume, Antes De Mi Vicino Miyazaki. This book details the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata before the founding of Studio Ghibli. It will be released in hardcover, in Spain, on May 27.

Once again, the authors have kindly asked me to contribute, and I wrote the Preface for the book. It was a joy to work with Alvaro and Marta again, and humbly thank them for their kindness and generosity.

For my English-speaking readers of this site, I should advise you that Antes De Mi Vicino Miyazaki is entirely in Espanol. No English-language translation or US release of either book is currently planned, but Alvaro and Marta both tell me they would love to see that happen.

I am currently working on the manuscripts for my indie publishing company, which will launch this year. Among my book projects will be two volumes about Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki and Takahata, based on the many essays from Ghibli Blog. I am greatly anticipating these volumes, and appreciate the competition from the excellent Mi Vicino Miyazaki series. I will have to work extra hard to ensure that I can keep up.

Also, for the record: Yes, I would be thrilled to secure the US rights to these two books and publish them in English and Spanish. But securing the copyrights for the use of art assets would be a major expense. It might also prove challenging with the second volume, as we would need to contact Toei (Horus), Zuiyo (Heidi, Girl of the Alps), Nippon Animation (Marco, Anne) and TMS (Lupin, Conan, Sherlock) for clearance. You see, Lisa, grownups have this thing called "money."

Alvaro and Marta can be found on the excellent Ghibli fansite Generacion Ghibli. I highly recommend that all fans bookmark and follow the site. If you are interested in these terrific books, visit them and show your support!


Ghibli Blog 10th Anniversary (3/29/06)

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Ghibli Blog!  Our first post was published on March 29, 2006. Here's free cake for everyone...well, a photo of a cake. It's still free.

I wanted to do something special for the occasion, but my desktop PC broke down (thank you for making crummy hard drives, HP). This happened a lot to me over the last decade. You'd be surprised just how many essays were written at coffee shops.

Anyway, I'll see what I can do this week to mark the anniversary. I am working on the writing projects, of course. I still have no idea how many volumes the Miyazaki-Takahata books will include, at least a couple. And there's a videogame and film review book on the way. And an art gallery book if I can pull it off. I would also like a nap. That would be nice.

Much thanks to everyone who has read and supported Ghibli Blog since 2006.

Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesteday) US Box Office

Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)

Isao Takahata's 1991 masterpiece, Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday), is closing out its limited theatrical run in the US. This is a good time to take stock of its performance.

According to Box Office Mojo, the movie has earned $415,941 as of March 27, 2016, playing on a total of 44 screens. A dozen theaters await their releases in April (our master list will be updated to reflect this), which will add to the total. I personally remain hopeful that we can break $500,000, which would be a very good achievement for a movie of this nature, and its very limited run.

I used to get worked up whenever a Studio Ghibli film failed to gain any mainstream momentum in US theaters, but not much anymore. Animation in this country remains stuck in the ghetto of "electric babysitter," suitable only for pacifying small children and getting them out of their parents' hair. That paradigm is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. And it's pretty obvious that Isao Takahata doesn't fit into that paradigm at all, unless we were to consider the 1974 Heidi TV series.

Omohide Poro Poro is an Ozu film set to watercolors. It's very unique and unlike anything seen in the West. Even diehard film buffs will require multiple viewings, and a knowledge of Japanese history and culture, to appreciate its depths. It's far easier to run to the multiplex and watch Batman v Superman, and sit back and have a fun time.

This film, like all of Studio Ghibli's works, will find its audience on home video, and its reputation will grow in time. Even then, these will always remain off the mainstream path, in the thickets. But that's alright. Many of the best discoveries in life lie off the beaten path. If you want "mainstream," you'll end up with shopping malls, fast food chains and reality shows. The gormet food requires some effort to discover, but the rewards are there.

I'm definitely looking forward to GKIDS' inevitable Blu-Ray release, which should include both English and Japanese language soundtracks and some nice extras. If you have the chance, definitely go see the movie. You'll never know when you'll get a chance to see Ghibli on the big screen again.


Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray "Silhouette Series"

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray
Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray
Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray

In Japan, Studio Ghibli has completed their long task of releasing all of their feature animated films to Blu-Ray, informally known as the "silhouette series." These packages come in thick cardboard, with magnets underneath the cover. Booklets and postcards of the movie posters are also included in each package. Prices are rather expensive, roughly $70-$80 USD, but each movie includes English subtitles (and in some cases, the US dubs), and the packaging is absolutely wonderful.

Is it necessary to buy these import discs in 2016? With a few exceptions, probably not. Most of the Ghibli features are now available in the US on Blu-Ray, either by Disney, GKIDS Films or Sentai Filmworks. Umi ga Kikoeru (Ocean Waves) and My Neighbors the Yamadas have yet to be released on our shores. Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) is currently playing in select US theaters, and will arrive on home video later this year.

In addition, a number of Disney-released Ghibli titles were released with "dubtitles," transcriptions of the dubbed script instead of the original Japanese. This list includes Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service, Pom Poko and Princess Mononoke. Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind has an issue with US credits burned onto the film image, regardless of language selection. And Ponyo uses lossy audio on the Japanese soundtrack. All of these issues are resolved, aside from Kiki, on the Japanese BDs, and all issues have been resolved on The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki box set.

Personally, I would either save for the spectacular BD box set (which also features new film transfers and a number of key extras) or import the above-mentioned titles. I would be thrilled to collect the entire set, but that's a very expensive proposition, so I'm not losing sleep over it right now. I am also happy to support smaller distributors like GKIDS or Sentai, who do excellent work with the Ghibli catalog. I still have bitter memories over the collapse of the retail anime market at the turn of the century. We need to support these companies so that they can continue to give us great movies.

If I had the money to burn, absolutely I'd buy the Ghibli silhouette series. Heck, yeah. But grownups have this thing called money.

These excellent photos come from Ghibli Collector, Tumblr fan site that is loaded with photos and .gifs for all the Ghibli films, and a few prior works, including Future Boy Conan, Lupin the 3rd: Castle of Cagliostro and Gauche the Cellist. I recommend adding this site to your bookmarks. Much thanks for the great photos.


Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) Cities and Theaters

Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)

The following is the complete list of cities and theaters playing Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday) in the US, courtesy of distributor GKIDS. Each link takes you directly to the theater's respective website, please go there for specifics on times and choice of soundtrack (US or Japan). More cities and theaters may be added in the future, and we'll be sure to update the list if and when that happens.

(Last Updated: March 29, 2016)

January 1New York - IFC Center  

February 26
Los Angeles, CA - Landmark Nuart Theater
Irvine, CA - Regal University Town Center 
Washington DC - Landmark E Street Cinema
Boston, MA - Landmark Kendall Square
San Diego, CA - Landmark Ken Cinema
Denver, CO - Landmark Esquire Theater
Austin, TX - Regal Arbor 8 @ Great Hills
Austin, TX- Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane
Philadelphia, PA - Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
Charlotte, NC - Regal Ballantyne Theater
Toronto, ON - TIFF Bell Lightbox
Columbus, OH - Gateway Film Center (2/26 only)
Seattle, WA - SIFF Uptown Cinema
Buffalo, NY - North Park Theatre (2/27-28) 
San Antonio, TX - Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes (2/29 only)
Winchester, VA - Alamo Drafthouse Winchester (3/2)

March 4
Los Angeles, CA - ArcLight HollywoodP
asadena, CA -Laemmle Playhouse
Santa Monica, CA - Laemmle Monica Film Center
San Diego, CA - Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas
Kalamazoo, MI - Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo
San Francisco, CA - Landmark Embarcadero
Rochester, NY - Little Theater (3/5)
Berkeley, CA - Landmark California

Akron, OH - Nightlight Cinema
Victoria, BC - The Vic Theatre
Saskatoon, SK - The Roxy
Littleton, CO - Alamo Drafthouse Littleton (3/7)
Palo Alto, CA - Landmark Theatres
San Jose, CA - Camera 3 Cinemas
Houston, TX - Landmark River Oaks
Littleton, CO - Alamo Drafthouse (3/7)
Providence, RI - Cable Car Cinema (3/5)

March 11
Beverly Hills, CA - Laemmle Music Hall
North Hollywood, CA - Laemmle NoHo
Berkeley, CA - Landmark Shattuck Cinemas
Baltimore, MD - The Charles
Asheville, NC - Carolina Asheville
Camarillo, CA - Regency Paseo Camarillo Cinemas
Cleveland, OH - Cedar Lee Theatre
Honolulu, HI - Consolidated Kahala 8
Portland, OR - Regal Fox Tower
Cincinatti, OH - Esquire Theater
Milwaukee, WI - Landmark Oriental Theatre
Minneapolis, MN - Landmark Uptown Theatre
Atlanta, GA - Landmark Midtown Art
Tempe, AZ - Harkins Valley Art
Waterloo, ON - Princess Cinema
Ithaca, NY - Cornell Cinema (3/12-13)
Houston, TX - Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park
Katy, TX - Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
Vancouver, BC - Vancity Theatre (3/14)
Notre Dame, IN - DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (3/13-16)
Knoxville, TN - Regal Downtown West
Albuquerque, NM - United Artists High Ridge 8
Grand Rapids, MI - Celebration Cinemas Woodland
Vancouver, WA - Kiggins Theatre

Santa Cruz, CA - The Nick
Dallas, TX - Angelika Film Center and Cafe
Plano, TX - Angelika Film Center and Cafe
Chicago, IL - Music Box Theatre
Santa Rosa, CA - Summerfield Cinemas
St. Louis, MO - Landmark Tivoli Theatre
Lubbock, TX - Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

March 18
Minneapolis, MN - Landmark Edina Theatre
Seattle, WA - SIFF Film Center (3/18-21)
Washington, DC - Angelika Pop-Up Cinema

Tampa, FL - Tampa Theatre (3/21-22)
Montreal, QC - Cinéma du Parc

Hartford, CT - Real Art Ways
Salt Lake City, UT - Broadway Centre Cinemas
Jacksonville, FL - Sun-Ray Cinemas
Indianapolis, IN - Landmark Keystone Art
Albany, NY - Landmark Spectrum 8
Lowell, MA - The Luna Theatre
Iowa City, IA - FilmScene
Lambertsville, NJ - ACME Screening Room (3/18-3/20)
Santa Fe, NM - CCA Cinematheque

Pittsburgh, PA - Row House
Tuscon, AZ - The Loft Cinema
Lancaster, PA - Zoetropolis
Salem, MA - CinemaSalem
Camas, WA - Liberty Theatre
Olympia, WA - Capitol Theater (3/19)
Memphis, TN - Wolfchase Galleria Cinemas
Hilo, HI - The Palace Theater
Jefferson City, MO - Capitol City Cinema
Oklahoma City, OK - Oklahoma City Museum of Art

March 25
Eugene, OR - Bijou Art Cinemas
Montpelier, VT - Savoy Theatre (3/26)
Howell, MI - Historic Howell Theater (3/26-4/3)
Keene, NH - Putnam Theater

Miami, FL - O Cinema Wynwood
Winston-Salem, NC - Aperture Cinema (3/26-27)
Fort Worth, TX - Modern Art Museum of Ft Worth
Edmonton, AB - Metro Cinema

April 1
Halifax, NS - Carbon Arc CinemaVancouver, BC - Rio Theater (4/6)
Omaha, NE - Film StreamsWilmington, DE - Theatre NGainesville, FL - The Hippodrome 

April 8
Oakland, CA - The New ParkwaySan Francisco, CA - The Roxie
St. Johnsbury, VT - Catamount Arts Center

April 15
Gloucester, MA - Cape Ann Community Cinema

April 22
Potsdam, NY - The Roxy Theatre
Athens, GA - Athens Cine

April 29
Lincoln, NE - Mary Riepma Ross Arts Center

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