Ghibli Short Short - The Capsule Videos

Alright, kids. Last one for the night. Between this and Jarinko Chie (w/subs), you're plenty served for videos. I give you Momose's three Capsule videos, created in 2004 and 2005 at Ghibli's stepchild Studio Kajino. Each video follows an overarching storyline about a young fashionable woman of the future. She visits futuristic places, flies around in her own Jetson car, crashes a fashion show, engages in a car chase, becomes ensnared by a gaggle of robots (I've been itching to use that word all day), and finds true love. Not a bad way to spend a couple afternoons. Thank goodness the music's so good.

Portable Airport, Space Station No.9, and L.D.K. (Lounge Designers Killer) is the next generation of Japanese animation. Its visual style holds more closely to Yuasa's Mind Game than the old masters at Ghibli. Miyazaki, Takahata, even the newer filmmakers like Otomo and Oshii (Satoshi Kon may fit in with the new generation, but his roots are still clearly in Takahata's domain) represent the old guard, the postwar generation. They were the pioneers, the trailblazers, and now it falls into the hands of the next group of kids to take anime to the next level.

Or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Momose was born in 1953. You wouldn't think that by watching his anime films. His is the energy of a 25-year-old, the energy of those young punks who created Horus, Prince of the Sun.

Here's one thing that strikes me about Momose's Capsule videos - it demonstrates how fully animation is embedded in Japanese culture. The videos are young, hip, trendy, feminine - qualities you could never even think to find in the West. We're still stuck in some Eisenhower-era time warp. It's kind of like the way I felt when rave culture finally trickled its way down to Minnesota - a decade after the whole thing peaked everywhere else in the globe. There's nothing worse than being the last to show up at the party, only to see everyone's already left.

I don't know if the gender equality that's glamorized in modern anime like the Capsule videos, Dore Dore, Mind Game, Paprika and their peers testify to the youth culture as it really exists, or the ideal dream of the future. It's probably a mix of the two. But it still seems so much more grown up, so much more cool and exciting than what we have here. American culture is dominated by a hyper-macho aggression, at times veering dangerously into proto-fascism. We seem gripped by fear, dread, and the only outlets are torture and violence. Small wonder we're in the mess we find ourselves in.

Japan just seems to have its act together. They're your cooler older sister, the one who's moved on to makeup and cars and new music - the future. Theirs is the futuristic world we once dreamed of, before dreaming became outlawed and terror reigned. That's the vibe I get from Portable Airport, Space Station No. 9, and L.D.K. I'm curious to discover how Momose and Japan found their groove, and what I can do to get ours back. It's the 21st Century. When the hell do we get our Jetson cars?

Ghibli Short Short - The Sky-Colored Seed

Aw, heck, since we're on a roll tonight. Sore Iro no Tane ("The Sky-Colored Seed"), animated and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo; and Nandarou ("What is it?"), animated and directed by Miyazaki. These are the first shorts to play on the Short Short DVD. I've always enjoyed this one. Pull it out the next time someone complains about all those doggone bug-eyed anime characters.

Ghibli Short Short - House Foods Ad #2

Here is a second set of television ads for House Foods, created by Ghibli in 2004. These newer shorts are now directed by Yoshiyuki Momose alone. You can notice immediately that Miyazaki's trademark nostalgia has been replaced by a more modern, hip vibe. Pop group Capsule provides some music, some really catchy electronica - and I'm the guy with the Jimi Hendrix vinyl records.

This collaboration, of course, sets the stage for Momose's three videos for Capsule in '04 and '05, created at the Ghibli side studio, Studio Kajino.

And, again, I'll offer these ads as an example of the true diversity computers can offer animation. That is, if we choose to stop following the pack and search for new discoveries. Unless, of course, you're perfectly happy with your Shrek sequels. Your call.

Ghibli Short Short - House Foods Ad #1

Here is a collection of several television ads for House Foods. If my understanding of kanji holds, I believe Yoshiyuki Momose directed these, with Hayao Miyazaki as his direct supervisor. Which would probably mean he was hanging over Momose's shoulder the entire time, struggling to resist the urge to barge in and take over everything.

This is just spectacular animation. Studio Ghibli has mutated and evolved computer animation in different directions than here in the West, and when you see something like this, you know they've hit the real paydirt. They've always emphasized the traditional art of hand-drawn animation, instead of completely throwing the pencils and paintbrushes away as we've done here. And now we see how that classical style can be brought into the computer age.

What we're seeing on the screen is mostly computer models, with hand-drawn characters, but what's most striking is the painterly way everything is presented. Everything is a lush, wonderfully detailed watercolor painting, but moving in three dimensions. It's the perfect realization of Ghibli's brilliant sketches and storyboard paintings.

It's a shame that the House Foods ads are so short. I don't know about you, but I want to see a lot more. It's still largely the domain of the studio's more experimental shorts. Ghibli hasn't committed to bringing this art style to feature-length animation, and that likely won't change as long as Miyazaki is still around (remember that Ponyo will be entirely hand-drawn). So that means some other artists are open to walk through these doors and really let loose. How about the Yanks? Getting tired of that rubber doll look? Missing the good 'ol days of hand-drawn animation? Well, here's your solution, gang. Get to work.

Ghibli Short Short - Ghibli Museum Ad

Here's a real treat. Totoro and Catbus whisk by in a couple short television ads for the Ghibli Museum, animated and directed by Hayao Miyazaki himself.

Here's a little pop-quiz for everyone to ponder: if Totoro was an American creation, just how many direct-to-video sequels would we have been hit with by now? Ten? Twenty? God bless Miyazaki for staying true to himself and leaving his creations well enough alone.

Ghibli Short Short - Doredore no Uta

I discovered a number of Studio Ghibli shorts on YouTube from the Short Short DVD, so I decided I'd better move quickly and post them here before they're all shut down. Hopefully, these will be around for a little while, perhaps long enough to inspire you to grab the DVD.

This is Osamu Tanabe's 2005 short, Doredore no Uta, a music video featuring the music of Meiko Haigou. She was a discovery of Toshio Suzuki's, and apparently he was involved in launching her career. The Short Short DVD includes a lengthy video segment featuring the both of 'em, and there's even a CD single as an extra. Really nice. The song is amazingly catchy, too.

Tanabe's video is the latest incarnation of that Ghibli watercolor style birthed by My Neighbors the Yamadas. As always, the animation and attention to details is exquisite, and I'm a real sucker for color saturation like this. It follows the daily lives of bugs-as-modern-citydwellers, a nice metaphor for Tokyo and Japan. The passing of the seasons brings about the cycle of life, from birth to death, comedy to tragedy. Everything is cartoony, but poignant, and that gives Doredore a real sentimentality.

There's a shot of bugs in a line busy at work, handing off nuts, that reminds me of all those early title sequences from Animal Treasure Island, Panda Kopanda, and Heidi. Perhaps a way of paying tribute to Ghibli's roots. All in all, this is one of my favorite Ghibli animations, and I hope you enjoy watching.


Yuri Norstein Commercial (1994-5)

Here's a real surprise for me - an animation short by the master himself, Yuri Norstein. He created four ads in 1994 and 1995 for Russian Sugar. This was his first released work since Tale of Tales, and as always it's a sublime work of poetry in motion. It was also awarded the Breakthrough Prize at the Open Russian Festival of Animated Film.

I don't know if anyone is familiar with these ads, but this was the first I've heard of them. Unfortunately, only one ad is available on YouTube. Hopefully, we'll see others. Are there any other Norstein works that I've still yet to discover?

Downloading Sucks

Downloading has become a real pain for me ever since I set up the new cable modem at the apartment. I really ought to get on Comcast's case about that.

The good news is that I've found a couple of new torrents for Horus, Prince of the Sun. The newest one is brand-new, having been uploaded just this week. I found a segment of the title sequence on YouTube, and the subtitles are terrific and fully comprehensive. More importantly, it's all integrated into the video file (instead of having a separate file), which means I can upload the entire movie - and we can all watch with the subtitles.

The down side is that download speeds are practically nonexistent. I may take me as long as a week to get this damned thing on my computer. Thanks a lot, Mininova!

The moral lesson here, kids? Downloading sucks. It would be far easier to go to the bookstore and buy a DVD, but Horus has yet to be released here in the States. You have been buying those Discotek DVD's like I asked you, right?

UPDATE: Okay, things are improving. The new Horus fansub may be finished downloading by tomorrow. If anything happens, you'll be the first to know. Cross yer fingers.


Movie Review: But You're So Much Fun - Thoughts on Satoshi Kon's Paprika (2007)

Review: Paprika

It probably helps you if you can go outside and walk for a while after seeing a good picture like Paprika. You'll need the time to sort everything out and figure out just where your loyalties lie. You'll certainly need to think your way through its mindbender of a story.

I saw Satoshi Kon's latest feature at the Lagoon Theatre in Uptown Minneapolis, which is the only independent theatre chain in the Twin Cities. Apart from Lagoon, Lagoon Edina, and Uptown theatres, it's all multiplex. This is our sole source for any independent or foreign movie to protect ourselves against the never-ending assault of stupidity and crass swill we now call American Popular Culture.

I'm pointing all this out as a reminder to myself not to get too critical, and also to remind everyone just how difficult it is when you're not living in a major city. You're at the mercy of big studios' summer cartoons: Shrek 3, Spiderman 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Fantastic Four 2, Surf's Up (aka Penguin Movie 3), Hostel 2, yadda yadda. The idea of an animation film that's intelligent, provocative, and visually inventive - instead of sensory overload - is completely foreign to Americans. How did things ever get so bad?

Satoshi Kon is one of the smartest filmmakers around today. His are the kind of psychologically-driven character tales that great American directors once tackled. We used to make these sort of movies, albeit live-action. A whole generation of Americans are accustomed to expect movies to be little more than toy commercials, videogame demos, and wall-to-wall explosions. And fart jokes. I'm afraid that Mike Judge's Idiocracy would one day be seen as prophesy, the way we look back on Sidney Lumet's Network. Yuck! Help!

The last Satoshi Kon movie was Tokyo Godfathers, and it was a spellbinding, poignant, and endlessly funny adaptation of John Ford's Three Godfathers. It was one of the year's best. And yet it was only shown in Minneapolis for one weekend, at the U of M Film Society, after being suddenly bumped from the Lagoon. When I attended, there were only three or four others in the seats. And then we wonder why anime remains such a niche product, and why animation in this country will never grow up.

There's a reason you see nothing but junk food on the shelves, folks. Junk food is all that you consume. It's as simple as that. No corporatist conspiracy theories, no nightmare scenarios of Dick Cheney peering into your brain for unpure thoughts, no Ned Beatty howling about the primal forces of nature. You're stuck with Shrek the Third because you shelled out good money for Shrek the Second. And you didn't show up for Tokyo Godfathers. Or Innocence. Or Triplets of Bellville. Or Metropolis. Or Howl's Moving Castle. Okay, that last one really wasn't your fault.

I have this thought in the back of my head that I could make a short movie about fray boys farting on a couch and make a fortune. It's got all the ingredients for a hit - frat boys, lots of farting, lots of different sound effects for farting, and an old, beat-up couch. Heck, set the story at a college party, just to see how all the hot chicks freak out. It'll be the biggest thing since Scary Movie, Part 6. Which is a hell of a lot worse than Leonard, Part 6. And for that, gentle readers, we should all be ashamed.

Pauline Kael often extolled the virtues of trolling through the movie trash. What the heck would she say about the state of things today? I sincerely hope that, if her soul still lives somewhere in Creation, she's far enough away so she can't see us.

All of which brings us back to Paprika. This movie arrived in town last week, and I didn't attend on the opening night as I usually do with foreign animated features, so I can't comment on how folks have seen it. But when I walked into the theatre this afternoon, I was the only one there. Only three or four others arrived at all.

The movie has, to date, grossed a little over $340,000. Shrek the Third has hit $300 million. Remember what John Lennon once said, folks. War is over, if you want it.

Review: Paprika

Now here's my favorite moment in Paprika. It's not one of the dazzling effects pieces, or any of the surreal dream sequences. It's just a short confessional between two main characters. One is a computer geek, a comically overweight man who invents things with the mind of a child. The other is a woman who's the head of her department, all work and all business. Alright, she's the main character in the movie. The one in that screenshot up there. Like any of you will be able to see it in a theatre.

Anyway, the good doctor Chiba Atsuko has pulled the dreamy, chubby inventor, Tokita Kohsaku, out of an elevator, a dream-world reenactment of an earlier scene in the waking life. She's always known of his affection for her, and she's remained friendly yet at a distance. But here she has finally let her guard down and chosen sides.

With her arms around him, she recounts all of her stock refusals, her excuses for resisting him. You're a slob. You eat everything. Looks aren't everything, but there is a limit. And through all this he nods and sheepishly agrees. Yes, yes, I know.

She exhausts her lines, then leans in closer, and with a faint smile, whispers out to him, "But you're so much fun."

It's a sublime moment, the best damn line in the whole movie. If Charles Chaplin were still alive, bless him, he'd be leaving the theatre with tears in his eyes.

Paprika deals with a lot of characters dealing with their own inner impulses and urges and repressed desires, and it's driven by an internal action that's only accentuated by the action on screen. This may surprise folks saw the trailer, and expected another action thriller, something on par with The Matrix or Mamoro Oshii's movies. That's not really the case, which is to say that you're not completely off the mark. This is a deeply visual film, deeply surreal and stylized. But I don't think we're seeing another animated roller coaster ride. I think Kon's interest is in the psychology and emotions of the characters.

In that sense, Kon really is the successor to Isao Takahata, that greatest of all animation directors. I came away from Tokyo Godfathers with that strong suspicion, and Paprika, while a completely different kind of film, still confirms it. It's a psychological thriller in the purest sense, a mind-bender that really understands the mind.


A bit about the plot, if just for formality's sake. A psychology institute develops a futuristic machine, the DC Mini, which enables one with the power to enter another's dream. The device is intended for therapy sessions, as doctor and patient travel through the REM landscapes, while other doctors watch all on their computer screens. Pass the popcorn, wait for the trailers. Have I mentioned that this dream has a sequel?

Things become complicated. DC Minis are used unofficially, for recreational purposes. One or more devices may be stolen, an act immediately blamed on "terrorism," but admitted to be an inside job. Dreams are invaded, stolen, and inserted into unwilling people. The lines between the dream state and the waking state becomes blurred, then completely shattered. And a growing collective dream threatens to overwhelm everything.

At this point, it's easy to say that most viewers - certainly in the case of the movie critics - will become lost on the story, and just enjoy the highly surreal animation. Take it all in as a post-millenium LSD trip, loaded up on paranoia, conspiracy, and suppressed dreams. And I'm not one to be critical of that, if you enjoy yourself and have a good time. This is a spectacularly visual movie, after all; certainly at the peak of Japanese animation.

But I think you'll miss out on a lot of deeper ideas if you just expect pretty pictures. Paprika is about as surrealist as any movie gets these days, but it's an honest surrealism, fueled by the ideas of Freud and Yung, one eye on the days of legal LSD experiments, the other on our modern obsession with escapism and fantasy. Wouldn't it be wonderful to share another person's dream, Tokita asks. Well, Kon responds, we already have that little miracle. It's called the movies.

What makes Paprika work as an idea film is the way all these common motifs, of movies as a dream factory, the internet as a virtual world, dreams as a window into the soul, the realization of archetypes, and the inner selves that we never reveal to others in the waking world. It's extremely smart. Too smart? Eh, maybe, maybe not. I'd rather have too smart than too stupid.

One major subplot involves a middle-aged detective, himself something of a movie archetype. He's haunted by terrible nightmares, a fusion of Fellini and Kurosawa, brought upon by an unsolvable case, and his own repressed past. His whole life is wrapped in movies; when the dream and waking worlds melt together, he's the one who's most able to adapt, because he's been playing the role his whole life.

I'm reminded of the Howard Beale speech in Network - you people have been watching the tube so long, you're beginning to think the tube is real, and your own lives are fiction.

The title character is, likewise, an archetype avatar for the dream world, but she's also the idealized version the repressed Dr. Atsuko has of herself. Both are roles she plays to the hilt, and like everything else in this movie, you can't tell which one is real, and which one is the illusion.

Which one gave birth to the other? That's one of the central questions Kon poses, right up to the end. We should probably figure that answer out, before our fantasy worlds overwhelm us completely and we find ourselves turned into empty shells.


And now, finally, dear readers, the things I didn't like about Paprika. I'm still telling myself to go easy, and overlook the flaws, but we need some way to end this thing before it really gets out of hand. I haven't even gone into all the ways the movie mines Japanese culture, from the modern pop obsession with giant robots and monster attacks, to their traditional, ancient mythology - which is pretty damned surrealist, too, if you think of it. And why am I reminded so much of Takahata's Pom Poko?

Whatever. Here's my big beef. The last 20 minutes or so dissolve into a series of big-budged action scenes. Chases, loud music, big villain, lots of explosions. What's the deal with this? Practically every movie nowadays finds itself stuck in the end, and can't find any way to resolve it without resorting to that other movie archetype, the Death Star Battle. Let's just end it all on a big action scene, and all is fine.

Except it's not. The original Matrix (Paprika's spiritual cousin) had this problem. The Incredibles was saddled with it. You can't have an idea movie that ends on a Death Star Battle. Big huge chase, end everything with a bang, everyone is happy and back to normal at the end. Every movie turns into Rambo in the final 20 minutes, and frankly, it sucks. I'm tired of it.

That said, the image of a girl devouring an old man, and growing in his place, is a really great image.

And I don't like the cheap melodrama of the bad guy. Why is there a "bad guy" in a movie like this? What was his whole point for causing trouble in the first place? Why couldn't he be treated as another screwed up human being, like the others? Shouldn't a movie that calls attention to the mechanisms of the movies not rely on those mechanisms as well?

Ah, Paprika. You're so complicated. Hardly anybody understands you. You're stuck between being an idea film and an action film. Nobody really buys into that villain. And that plot framework really was just an excuse to set everything in motion. If I try to think rationally, try to think critically, I could really spell out all of your flaws.

But you're so much fun.

Photos: Paprika

Photos: Paprika
Photos: Paprika
Photos: Paprika
Photos: Paprika
Photos: Paprika
Photos: Paprika
Photos: Paprika

A collection of official photos from the new Satoshi Kon movie, Paprika, courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. This is the only major anime release this year, so don't miss out.


Ghibli Blog-a-Thon Roundup

Checking around the dial for various Ghibli-related commentary, I found a number of terrific blog posts, reviews, and essays that are currently revolving around the Ghibli blogathon begun last weekend by Joe's Movie Corner. In the interest of spreading the word as widely as possible, I want to share some of these with you.

- First off, a write-up on Whisper of the Heart from This Distracted Globe. I wanted to start here because it's a quality essay, because blogger Joe Valdez includes links to more web reviews, because his blog banner pairs My Neighbor Totoro with The Big Lebowski, and, last, but not least, he stole my Whisper screenshot (the middle one) from its review page.

Now, I'm not on a vengeful streak here, even though this is the second time in two consecutive posts the subject has come up. But it is a thorn in my side, and was actually a widespread problem for - the Boondock Saints screenshot was the most widely stolen. But all these people who took pains to visit my sites and help themselves to the goodies never once gave any thanks or returned the favor with the proper text links.

Google. Rankings. Exposure. Traffic. Am I getting through to you, Mister Beale? I shouldn't have to be explaining how this works in the year 2007. Borrow my art assets all you want, but don't take anything without proper thanks - a text link back to the original page. And no hot-linking.

- Second, SamuraiFrog has a comprehensive Miyazaki/Takahata history on his blog, Electric Cerebrectomy. He does a great job, even covering all those pre-Ghibli years I'm always writing about. Oh, and he's got a picture of Christopher Eccleston's Doctor Who. What more do you want?

It's a nice, long essay, there are YouTube clips, photos, and...wait a minute! Is that my screenshot for Kiki's Delivery Service in there?! And is that my Spirited Away shot? And do I see any links back to the blog or the main site? Seriously, I'm lucky to get 100 daily visitors to the blog; would it kill you to get off your ass and help out?!

- Noel Vera's writing is just fantastic. These are the kind of Ghibli essays I've been trying to write for the past three years. He makes it seem so effortless, while I struggle every step of the way. His movie blog, Critic After Dark, includes not one, but two must-read posts. The first is a comprehensive essay on Omohide Poro Poro; the second is a spirited back-and-forth concerning Ghibli and that wonderful chestnut, Why Are These Movies Animated Instead of Live-Action. That's gonna get the blood boiling.

Noel is a great Takahata fan, which always earns kudos in my book; he's also written about Grave of the Fireflies and Pom Poko - the Pom Poko post is exceptionally precise. Given that his Takahata discussions are strictly limited to the Ghibli era, does this mean he's still unfamiliar with everything that came before? Horus? Heidi Marco Anne? Gauche or Chie? Yanagawa Canals? Somebody tell 'em where all the download and DVD links are.

Ghibli Blog-a-Thon

I've discovered that Joe's Movie Corner is currently running a Ghibli blog-a-thon, inviting other bloggers to share their thoughts on everyone's favorite animation studio. It was originally planned to run last weekend, but it seems demand, and Joe's interest, is keeping the project alive.

You can find all the big details on his blog, which I've added to the blogroll for your convenience. Some of the other blog entries have been very good, and I'm hopeful to see more. Give Joe a hello. Thank him for supporting the cause. And thank him for hotlinking my pictures from without permission. Cough.

Update: Joe informs me that it's actually a "Ghiblog-a-Thon." Oh, and it's Joe's Movie Corner, not Joe's Movie Blog. My mistake.

Totoro is Not the God of Death

Now this is just weird. In Japan, there's a running theory about My Neighbor Totoro that has been making the rounds. The theory? Totoro is actually the god of death, and Mei is actually dead by the end of the picture. This conspiracy has been growing in popularity, to the point where Studio Ghibli had to publicly debunk it on their official blog.

Of course, here in America, we have popular movie conspiracies all the time, mostly involving Pink Floyd records. I always have a good time playing along, even though it's all complete nonsense. Still, I have to be honest. This Totoro theory is really creepy. It kinda freaks me out. Perhaps that's just because it serves as such a vivid reminder of my own horrifying premonitions of death last year, months before the sudden and shocking loss of my aunt. Just hits a little too close to the bone for my comfort, a year-long ordeal that I struggle to come to grips with.

One of the great things about Totoro is that you have this large, ferocious-looking creature that is completely benign and happy. He's peaceful. He's the monster you invite from under your bed and have tea parties. The idea that such a character could be turned into a spectre of death strikes me as a moral violation, like the rash of torture movies that have invaded our theatres the past few years. What sort of mind imagines these things?

Hmm. The more I think about this, the more I find myself wondering aloud whether Miyazaki was consciously attempting to disarm our primal, childhood fears of dark forests and large monsters. I think the conspiracy crowd in Japan has got it completely backwards on this. As if today's world needs more conspiracies. We live in an age of religious fanaticism, "enlightened" atheism, and nihilism; burning down forests, waging permanent war, crucifying their gods, and turning Totoros into monsters. Something is dangerously wrong with the souls of men.


How Everyone Voted in the Contest-Type Thing

Alright, let's take a look at what everybody - alright, all 12 of you - voted for in the annual blog contest. For those just tuning in, I asked the readers of this blog to list their Ghibli Top 5. This could also include Takahata and Miyazaki's extensive and fruitful pre-Ghibli years. Pretty much everything.

I have to say, I'm really quite impressed at the depth of this list. I kind of expected all the favorites to be crowded by Totoro and the more recent movies. Instead, these voters demonstrate a genuine love of the medium, and a great variety of interests. No doubt they would provide some interesting after-dinner commentary.

At first I tried to tally votes based upon their ranking; five votes for first place, four votes for second, and so on. This ultimately proved fruitless. On one hand, some readers just couldn't place one movie over another, and just grouped them all together. On the other hand - and this is something my college-educated brain should have foreseen - the results were pretty much the same if I just tallied one vote for each pick, regardless of rank.

So, I suppose, this would have been easier all along. I'll remember that next time. Just list whatever's in your top-five at the moment. That's all. Yeah, that does sound easier. Note for future reference.

So here's how the final votes were stacked. I'll bet you'll be surprised by this. Drum roll:

Conversations on Ghibli Total Vote Tallies

Kiki's Delivery Service - 6 votes
My Neighbor Totoro - 5 votes
Whisper of the Heart/Mimi - 5 votes
Howl's Moving Castle - 4 votes
Spirited Away - 4 votes
Grave of the Fireflies - 3 votes
Omohide Poro Poro - 3 votes
Pom Poko - 3 votes
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind - 2 votes
Panda Kopanda - 2 votes
Princess Mononoke - 2 votes
Anne of Green Gables - 1 vote
Castle of Cagliostro - 1 vote
The Cat Returns - 1 vote
Future Boy Conan - 1 vote
Laputa: Castle in the Sky - 1 vote
My Neighbors the Yamadas - 1 vote
Porco Rosso - 1 vote

That's an interesting layout, very diverse. These are just the tallies of one vote for each pick. Here's how things stack when you list only the number-ones:

First Place Vote Tallies

My Neighbor Totoro - 3
Kiki's Delivery Service - 2
Princess Mononoke - 2
The Cat Returns - 1
Grave of the Fireflies - 1
Laputa: Castle in the Sky - 1
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind - 1
Omohide Poro Poro - 1
Whisper of the Heart/Mimi - 1

Klaus didn't give rankings for his picks, so I counted it as a five-way tie for first. Still, this is remarkable. Totoro sits at the top spot, which seems more appropriate, but Kiki and Mononoke earned two votes each. And you can see the spread of single votes for all the rest. That's an amazing find. It surely speaks to the diversity this animation medium offers, and the wide range of people it connects to.

Now I really wish we had more voters, just to see how these numbers play out. Maybe we should do this every month. We'll have Ghibli Top 40 - vote for your favorites on the first of every month. Hmm. Think I'll look into that.


1st Annual Blog Party - Everybody Wins!

Yay! Everybody's a winner! I couldn't bear to let any of you walk away empty-handed, so I'll have to work hard to burn many, many discs so I can send them out. Fortunately, I'm just about finished with burning Sega Saturn games, so that means the computer disk drive is free.

My deepest thanks to everyone who sent in their top-fives and wrote their opinions down. I'll be printing each and every one of them here on the blog. This, really, is the reason I started this website in the first place - bringing people together and sharing their affections for all things Ghibli.

First, let's give a big thanks to all the following individuals who participated and played along:

James Mar
Jessica Fairclogh
Benjammin De Schrijver
Anthony Tardiff
Marissa, the mom, and her kids,
Aarik and Athena
Reuben Dillon
Edmond M. Boys and
Gabrielle Lucas
Klaus Wiesmuller

Give a big hand to everyone. How much does postage cost these days? D'oh.

Movie Night - Jarinko Chie

(Update 1/22/11: Since this post was published, the Youtube videos were taken down.  A new Youtube video of Jarinko Chie is now available.  You can watch Jarinko Chie here.) 

Thanks to the tireless efforts of our most dedicated fans, Jarinko Chie is now available with subtitles! The film has also been uploaded fully to YouTube - with subs! James Mar was kind enough to direct me to them, so obviously I had to make them available to everyone here (well, it's not like I can spend all my time writing about Sega Saturn).
I can't remember too much if I've gone into detail on Chie, aside from my endless pleas to provide the subs, so here's a short rundown of the movie. This movie is an adaptation of a popular manga, produced by Telecom, and written and directed by Isao Takahata. Yasuo Otsuka and Yoichi Kotabe, the old friends, were the Animation Directors. It was released in 1981 and became successful enough to spawn its own television series, which lasted for two seasons. Takahata served as General Director.

Jarinko Chie is a slice-of-life comedy, centering on the young heroine and her misfit family, and the oddball assortment of characters in orbit. The film is very much tribute to Japan's western Kansai region and the city of Kobe, where it is set. Takahata presents many details of daily life, giving the city a real sense of atmosphere and beauty.

The slightly episodic structure is closely paralleled in 1999's My Neighbors the Yamadas, although Chie's overall plot is more solid. Chie's yearnings for her parents - a hopelessly mismatched couple if ever there was one - to come back together and reunite their family. This isn't the sole storyline to the movie, but it does largely serve as the main trunk where all the other subplots cling to.

You may be surprised at the amount of blue humor and slapstick comedy in this picture. If you're one of those Westerners who couldn't get past those Tanuki testicles in Pom Poko....well, you're really in for it this time. Heavy on the slapstick, some genuine gross-out gags (that scene with the crime boss and the omelet...ah, don't eat anything), and testicle jokes galore.

In any case, you might be surprised. Takahata's penchant for emotional human drama doesn't lend itself into Adam Sandler territory. And yet he still demonstrates a complete mastery of his craft, managing to weave several tapestries together with considerable ease. The wide emotional scope is there for all to see; the humanity, the warmth, that ability to chuckle at humanity's foibles, with a tear in the eye.


Uploading Problems With Computer

Hmm. I've been having problems uploading videos from my computer to YouTube and similar sites. I haven't determined the cause for this, though I assume it's related to my new wireless cable modem at the apartment, or possibly the new virus software I've been running after an especially nasty virus battle a couple weeks back.

Also, while my BitTorrent downloads are working fine, there is no uploading. Again, I'm suspicious of the settings on my computer. Sure would be nice if I knew my way around a computer better. I was fine with Apple IIe - what happened to me?

Fortunately, I can still upload pictures to Blogger, which is a requirement for both the Ghibli blog and Videogames of the Damned. I still want to fix the video upload issue, especially when there's still so much cool stuff to show off.

More Ghibli Blog Posts To Discover