Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) is scheduled to be released on Blu-Ray this April 18. The 1993 made-for-television movie, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, is the final Studio Ghibli feature film to see a home video release in North America. This is also the first time this movie has been released on our shores in any format.
Interestingly enough, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has picked up the distribution, under license from GKIDS, and the film has been given a PG-13 rating. This is a bit excessive and overly cautious, in my opinion, but the important thing is that this movie will be available in its complete and uncut form at last.
In addition to the main film, a 40-minute documentary featuring the production staff reunion has been included. This bonus feature was originally included on the Japanese DVD and Blu-Ray discs, and it's terrific that we finally get the chance to have it here (with English subtitles, of course).
Best of all, Ghiblies Episode 2, the outstanding 2002 anthology short film directed by Yoshiyuki Momose (one of Studio Ghibli's great talents) will make its appearance as an added bonus. In Japan, this 30-minute short appeared as the opening slot of a double bill with The Cat Returns the Favor. I think it made more sense to put those two movies together on home video, but it's great to finally have Ghiblies in our collections.
Ocean Waves is presented in its original Japanese language with English subtitles. As expected, there is not enough audience in the US to support an English-language dub or wider theatrical release. I think the distributors are selling audiences short. Animation doesn't have to merely be "The Electric Babysitter," existing solely to pacify toddlers and sell cheap merchandise. More and better options are available. Oh, well, at least we have the home video release, which is no small shakes.
This is definitely a great movie that all Ghibli Freaks and animation fans should enjoy. This release is highly recommended.
This is just super cool. The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro has been recreated as an NES-style 8-bit videogame. The video progresses through the major scenes of the movie, as Chihiro/Sen and her family arrive at an abandoned Japanese theme park, which leads to a haunted bath house for the spirit world, and many exciting adventures for the young girl who must rescue her lost parents (who have been turned into pigs).
I really enjoyed this video. Apart from some 3D effects, it could easily be created for the NES. I could see this working as a side-scrolling adventure game, like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, or perhaps a graphical adventure like Maniac Mansion. Somebody should make this happen. It clearly would never receive the official blessing of Studio Ghibli, but at least Miyazaki might respect the effort. He probably wouldn't tear your head off the way he famously did to those CG programmers who created the mutant zombie demo. Ouch. That was just brutal.
Kudos to the programmers who created this demo. This is a great work of classic digital art.
Studio Ponoc, founded and staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni, has just released the second trailer for their upcoming feature film, Mary and the Witch's Flower. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who previously directed Arrietty the Borrower and When Marnie Was There, is promising his greatest work yet. He clearly sees himself as the heir to Hayao Miyazaki.
Mary will be released in Japan this June. Will the public embrace Studio Ponoc? I certainly hope so. This trailer looks absolutely spectacular, with lush colors and extremely fluid animation. Yes, it is very clearly a "Miyazaki" film, but this may be just what the public wants. And we will discover if Yonebayashi has any new ideas, or if he is content to recreate Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service.
Either way, this movie is going to be something special, and a worldwide release is all but guaranteed. I just hope we won't have to wait a full year or more to get this movie. Bring it over this year! We have money!
After the news broke yesterday that Hayao Miyazaki is returning to feature film production, a few facts have been brought to my attention, so I wanted to correct the official record.
Back in November, NHK TV aired a special about Hayao Miyazaki, Owaranai Hito Miyazaki Hayao ("The Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki"), showing him working on a new short film for the Ghibli Museum called Boro the Caterpiller. During this program, it was also revealed that the director was also reconsidering his "retirement" from feature films, even going so far as to show him working on storyboards.
There seems to be some confusion on the specifics, as these NHK specials are famously vague. Studio Ghibli loves to reveal only snippets here and there, only revealing everything once productions are nearly complete. Because of this, the idea emerged that Boro the Caterpiller, in addition to being a short film, was also the subject for Miyazaki's new feature.
The story first broke on Anime News Network, which detailed the events of the NHK special. The Boro and feature projects are mentioned separately. This was followed by Indie Wire, which conflated the two into a single project. From here, the meme was carried away by the internet echo chamber, which leads us to today.
Let's be clear on this matter. Boro the Caterpiller is a short film created for the Ghibli Museum. Miyazaki's feature film is a separate project, not related in any way. At one point during the NHK program, the director even asks the cameraman, "I think, if I make a feature film, what should I make?" In addition, while he is seen on camera working on storyboards, its contents are never revealed. This, again, is in keeping with Ghibli's tradition of teasing out only tiny pieces for the fans.
I've been writing about Studio Ghibli since 2003, and I can assure you that such misunderstandings are very common. Westerners pick up on bits and pieces, often just casual conversation by Miyazaki himself, that balloons into unofficial news. Movie sequels to Porco Rosso and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind are two good examples. Other examples: the idea that Hayao Miyazaki's career began with Studio Ghibli; that Castle of Cagliostro or Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was his "first movie"; that any number of pre-Ghibli works are "Ghibli Films," even citing Toei Doga movies; and citing just about any anime film as "Miyazaki." For many Westerners, "Miyazaki" is merely shorthand for "Japanese cartoons that remind me of Disney."
We're getting better with accurate news, but the internet is a vast echo chamber for gossip, which spreads like wildfire and quickly becomes "conventional wisdom."
Much thanks to Japanese reader Tsk06, a follower on Ghibli Blog Twitter, for helping me out on this subject. As always, we greatly appreciate our fans and supporters.
Update 2:20 pm, February 25: We have updated this article in light of new information.
Now it's official: HE'S BAAAACK!!!!
During pre-Oscars interviews for The Red Turtle (which is produced by Studio Ghibli), Toshio Suzuki finally made it official: Hayao Miyazaki is working on another feature-length animated movie. The title and subject of the proposed movie has not yet been revealed, but storyboard creation is currently away, with the full animation production set to commence in June of this year. The film is planned for a June 2019 release date.
Back in November, Japanese TV network NHK aired a special on Hayao Miyazaki, detailing his daily activities at Studio Ghibli, as well as his production of Boro the Caterpiller, an animated short film made exclusively for the Ghibli Museum. During this program, the director floats the idea of returning to feature films for the first time since his well-publicized 2013 "retirement."
Hayao Miyazaki is notorious for his "retirements" which never seem to last. I wonder if Miyazaki felt the itch again in the wake of Makoto Shinkai's Your Name, which became a blockbuster hit in Japan, second only to Spirited Away (the movie's worldwide box office numbers have actually surpassed Spirited Away). And let us not forget the imminent arrival of Mary and the Witch's Flower, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) and produced by Studio Ponoc, which is founded and staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni.
It would make sense if Miyazaki felt his time had passed in 2013. Four years ago, 2D animation was "obsolete" and doomed to extinction, like silent movies after the arrival of sound. In 2017, the landscape is very different. While CG animation continues to dominate around the globe, hand-drawn animation features continue to achieve critical and popular success. A much-deserved Oscar nomination for The Red Turtle, a haunting and lyrical movie by Michaël Dudok de Wit, will no doubt help to keep the tradition alive.
Most likely, Miyazaki-san just can't sit still. His idea of "retirement" only ever applied to feature films, as he continued to tinker around with short films, manga comics and overseeing Studio Ghibli. Like Patty and Selma, he's working a job that he'll be doing ten years after he dies. He's not going anywhere, and Thank God for that.
On January 12, Discotek Media finally made it official: the landmark anime masterpiece Horus, Prince of the Sun is coming to Blu-Ray in March. I am really excited to finally share this with you, and all Ghibli Freaks should start saving their pennies.
Back in September, I was contacted by Discotek about their plans for the Horus Blu-Ray. It was something that I had anticipated as soon as I finished production on the DVD, and already had begun preliminary work on the future project. Once the official word was given, I immediately got to work.
The biggest addition to the Horus BD is an all-new audio commentary track, written and recorded by me. This replaces the audio track I recorded for the DVD, and it is vastly superior in every way. On this new audio commentary, I discuss the production of the film, the film's technical innovations, the early career of director Isao Takahata, and the influence of this film on the career of Hayao Miyazaki. We discuss who created the cast of characters (something I discovered when digging around asian fansites), the debate over "Horus" versus "Hols," the story behind the title "Little Norse Prince," and themes involving the Vietnam War and the role of the individual in society.
When recording the DVD commentary, I wanted to just riff in a conversational tone, using note cards as a reference point. That strategy proved to be an embarrassing failure as I suffered a terrible bout of stage fright. I felt like the frog from "One Froggy Evening," and I had to drag every thought and sentence out of my mouth over the course of a week. Finally, I started writing better notes, and took refuge in reading essays from other writers and scholars in the Ghibli fan community. I was found myself reading a Google translation of Buta Connection's Horus essays from French into a slightly mangled Engrish. And all of this happened very late at night. I recorded a series of short audio tracks and finally reached the end as dawn broke on deadline day. I sent over my work right at the moment of the final deadline, and I am eternally grateful to the Discotek crew for their support and patience.
I fought, struggled, quit, felt dejected, returned to the mike, fought another three rounds, and finally completed my first DVD audio commentary. It was hell, but I made it to the finish, completely exhausted. And let us not forget that I also wrote/edited the English subtitles (four revisions, no less), wrote/edited nearly all the bonus material (the only features not mine were Mike Toole's excellent audio commentary and the video interviews), wrote an "official" press release, and wrote the sales page for Amazon and other online retailers. And, of course, I fought like hell for the proper movie title, "Horus, Prince of the Sun" (Toei wanted Discotek to only use "Little Norse Prince").
For the Blu-Ray, I was much more prepared. The written essays were given a much-needed revision and copy edit, I updated the "riffs" feature to include more films, and I wrote a new description for the back cover, which is a great improvement (the DVD lifted the cover text from the Optimum UK DVD). The new audio commentary was the main focus. I wrote an extensive script for the entire length of the film, roughly 10,000 words, covering every Horus-related topic I could find.
Using a $40 USB microphone and a MacBook Pro in my apartment living room, I recorded nine audio tracks (breaking things up into smaller thematic segments) over the course of a long Saturday evening. I did several takes of each audio track, and felt far more loose and comfortable. I even recorded a final "thank you" track at the very end, just to be sure the commentary would run the full length of the movie. When finished, I felt very tired but very satisfied. I left nothing on the table, and said everything that needed to be said.
I have been a huge fan of Horus, Prince of the Sun ever since the earliest days of Ghibli Blog. Working on these projects have been an absolute thrill for me, and a true labor of love. I wanted to give this great movie the "Criterion" treatment that it deserves, and raise the bar for anime on home video. I just wanted to inspire everyone. I hope you will be inspired by this amazing movie.
As always, much thanks for your support. I consider this new BD to be the definitive take on Horus, and I can't wait for you to hold your own copy in your hands. I'll eagerly await your reviews and comments, and look forward to the next movie project. Be sure to pre-order your copy at Amazon today!