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Tag Archive: Hayao Miyazaki


Aardman Studios is that British animation company known for director Nick Park and his stop-motion clay animation films, most notably the Academy Award winning Wallace & Gromit, and the groundbreaking series Creature Comforts.  Its full length feature Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit also won an Academy Award for best animated feature.  And the studio produced the popular Chicken Run, Shaun the Sheep, and Pirates! Band of MisfitsDirector Hayao Miyazaki, widely considered one of the best animators of all time, counts himself as a fan of the Aardman movies.

Haven’t seen this kind of animation before?  It’s the style every kid in the 1960s grew up with.  Start with the three Wallace & Gromit shorts A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave featuring a cheese loving British inventive chap named Wallace and his smart, loyal, and cynical dog Gromit.  The animation, and the quick speeds of certain segments, are simply stunning.  Then try Creature Comforts, a half-hour television series that aired in both the UK and USA, where every day folks were interviewed on the street, then their voices were dubbed into farm and zoo animal characters.  The result is laugh-out-loud funny.

Just released is the preview to the next stop-motion, full-length film, Early Man.  It features the voices of Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Tom Hiddleston (Thor), Maisie Williams (Doctor Who, Game of Thrones), and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter series).  Check out this trailer for the film:

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With Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki transported Japanese anime into the mainstream consciousness in the United States.  A dramatic fantasy story with gravitas and an incredible journey, Spirited Away would win the Oscar for Best Animated Film–Miyazaki’s only Oscar (except his lifetime honorary Oscar).  A modern fable in the classic tradition, 16 years ago audiences first met Chihiro Ogino, a brave ten-year-old girl not happy with her parents moving her into a new neighborhood.  But when she wanders off, she finds herself trapped in a world of spirits, beasts, and uniquely imaginative surprises.  Wondrous, curious, and even grotesque, something of everything is tucked into Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is not just any other movie.  Like Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind, it transcends the typical use of animated cinema, providing the kind of experience that will leave audiences discussing it long afterward.  Critics across the globe lined up in agreement–not only was it the highest grossing film in Japan’s history, the critical acclaim seems to know no end.  In 2016 it was listed as the fourth best film of the 21st century as picked by 177 international film critics.  Earlier this year the New York Times called it the second best film of the century so far.

spirited-away

The film is back in theaters for a limited three-day release beginning this weekend as part of the Fathom Events series, in partnership with Studio Ghibli and GKids.  Spirited Away follows the brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In a year of retrospectives that included the return to theaters of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), would you have guessed that the film to fill the most theater seats would be Hayao Miyazaki’s 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind?  Sunday I saw just that, as Ghibli Fest 2017 and Fathom Events presented the first of three screenings nationwide.  Tonight you, too, can see Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at select theaters nationwide, the subtitled version, followed by the 2005 English dubbed version screening again Wednesday.  Check out the Fathom Events website here for participating theaters and to get tickets.  If you are a fan of Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, epic fantasy films, or great cinema in general, Nausicaä is a completely different film in the theater than as seen on the small screen.  In the theater you will be immersed in Miyazaki’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific, post-apocalyptic world.  You’ll surrounded by the prolific composer Joe Hisaishi’s sweeping, gorgeous melodies and breathtaking emotional cues.  And if you’re an anime fan debating which of Miyazaki’s creations is the best–Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, or My Neighbor Totoro…  you may decide Nausicaä is the winner.

Nausicaä is chillingly timeless and current.  I discovered what began as a rather chatty theater suddenly became quiet as the story’s themes unfolded: the consequences of unchecked technological advances, the price of decades of polluting the environment, the likely outcome of warring nations bent on total destruction of the other, the results of failing to take responsibility for the animal kingdom.  Miyazaki combined more compelling and important drama in one film than many top directors have created in the entirety of their careers.  But the film is not the stuff of your typical bland mainstream drama–it’s chock full of action and daring adventure of the fantastical variety while also considered a science fiction tale because of its dystopian vision of the future.  Set one thousand years into the future, the world was once ravaged, and cities destroyed, by mutated insects and beasts created by humans as bioweapons that laid waste to everything like military tanks, all during the horrible Seven Days of Fire.

But over the centuries a balance has formed between the Toxic Jungle, humans, and the animal world.  A young woman named Nausicaä, a princess of the Valley of the Wind, is praised and respected by her people.  She studies the forest, its creatures, dangerous spores, and the environment, all in secret, searching for anything to help her preserve the progress that has been made.  Her world is soon upset by the people of Tomekia, militant humans led by Princess Kushana (voiced in the English version by Uma Thurman) bent on destroying the insects and sending the world out of balance.  But it is Princess Nausicaä that steals every scene.  From the very beginning she emerges as a great leader, clever and resourceful, never hesitating to protect the people and things she cares about.  And the plot threads are entirely unpredictable–Miyazaki’s entire grasp of fantasy, interlocked with amazing special effects for an animated film, suck us down into the quicksand with Nausicaä and a boy named Asbel.  Miyazaki created a flying contraption for our heroine, a glider so wonderfully conceptualized every viewer will believe it could be real, based on sound aeronautic principles, from the soaring trajectories, weight, and movement in flight to Nausicaä’s different ways she grasps the ship to maneuver it.  Even the enormous multi-eyed Ohms feel ominous and threatening.

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Think fast, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon players–where can you find the lead actors of Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica all in one film?

He is one of the top ten filmmakers of all time–Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, known for Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and much more, but Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is considered by many to be his masterwork.  It is a grand work that the film medium could not yet hope to transform into live action—a devastated world destroyed by atmospheric poisons, and barraged by gigantic insect beasts, sweeping cinematography, and a post-apocalyptic world layers and layers deep.  And from this arises a young woman named Nausicaä, princess of the Valley of the Wind.  Innocent and driven, can she piece back together what divides man and nature?

It’s a story of dangers and sacrifices, of epic scope, feuds between warring clans, a dying planet, and the forging of a new heroine.  A sci-fi adventure fantasy first released in Japan in 1984, Nausicaä’s story of protecting nature is a timeless tale.  Miyazaki adapted his own 1982 manga story for the screen, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year with so many other great science fiction works internationally.  The film stars the voice talents of Sumi Shimamoto, Goro Naya, Yoji Matsuda, Yoshiko Sakakibara, and Iemasa Kayumi in this month’s subtitled screenings, with English voice actors including Alison Lohman, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, Edward James Olmos, Shia LaBeouf, and Chris Sarandon in the dubbed screenings.

Frequently ranked as one of the greatest animated films of all time, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is being presented by Fathom Events in the States as part of Studio Ghibli Fest 2017.  Tickets are available now here at the Fathom Events website.

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spirited-away-clip

He may be the world’s greatest living director.  Hayao Miyazaki, master storyteller and moviemaker, retired but rumored to be coming back for another film, and animator extraordinaire.  He is one of Japan’s national treasures and international film icon.  His catalog of works have garnered literally hundreds of awards and nominations.  Miyazaki’s only film to receive an Oscar, 2001’s Spirited Away, is returning to theaters next month to celebrate the 15th anniversary of its release.

Spirited Away is on many critics’ lists as one of the top five films of the century thus far, and it is Japan’s highest grossing film.  It’s the story of a brave young girl who enters a spirit world to rescue her parents and herself.  It is an incredible fantasy, with dark undertones about real-world concerns including human greed, borrowing bits and pieces from classic children’s stories Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Pinocchio.  It offers spectacular characters and is a story of great courage.

spirited-away

We have yet to be disappointed with any anime production from Miyazaki and the house of Studio Ghibli.  Whether it’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Princess Mononoke (1997), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), Ponyo (2008), From Up on Poppy Hill (2011), or The Wind Rises (2013), you know you’re getting sumptuous visuals and a compelling story.

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Three years ago I reviewed a comic book from an aspiring artist named Mickey Lam.  Lam, a self-taught illustrator based in London with a degree in biomedical materials who was then a secondary school science teacher before committing to illustration work, creates a variety of artworks for his clients, using all types of media.  He also writes and illustrates comic books to experiment with his style.  With his most recent projects it’s clear that it is time for publishers to take note of not only Lam’s finely honed illustrations, but his excellent writing, too.

I read three recent works by Lam: two from his cheerful Fwendly Fwuit characters and a more serious book about the horrors of deforestation.  When I first reviewed Lam’s stylish action book Mr. Yang Fights Aliens here at borg.com I took note of his great artwork.  What jumps out at me today is his incredible writing.

As for Lam’s Fwendly Fwuit books, these are perfect for kids of all ages.  His first in the series, Summer Adventure, shows the coming together of a banana and strawberry as pals, and reminds of me of Frank Cho’s early writing in his University² comic strips.  The content is completely different, but like Cho, Lam’s characters pop off the page from the get-go as fully realized, likeable leads.  With his high-quality, magazine-sized follow-on book, Winter Wonders, Lam catapults into the realm of Adventure Time and SpongeBob SquarePants.  These are unique and creative characters in the same vein as the outside-the-box critters in those popular lines.  His environments visually are superb and his creations, like the Melon Wagon in Summer Adventure and his updated Space Melon Wagon from Winter Wonders, are like imaginative features you’d see in a Hayao Miyazaki movie.  Lam could be writing the next Adventure Time series, with his Fwendly Fwuit pals or with whatever the mind of Lam creates next.

Mickey Lam Please Save Our Rainforests

His more serious content work, Please Save Our Rainforests!, is entirely different and shows a very clean writing style conveying a message that can change the minds and actions of its readers.  Please Save Our Rainforests! is the kind of publication that should be picked up and distributed by groups like Greenpeace and PETA, and reminds me of the classic 1960s Smokey Bear comic books handed out by the U.S. Forest Service carrying Smokey’s “Only you can protect forest fires” theme.  Lam’s message in his book is no less important.  His characters are cute and adorable, and they are juxtaposed against an effort to spread awareness of the ugly, illegal deforestation in Malaysia for palm oil production in Malaysia involving the mass slaughter of orangutans.  The story and the message are completely effective.

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Only Yesterday

One of our favorite anime films out of Studio Ghibli is the film Whisper of the Heart, a romantic drama written by the great Hayao Miyazaki, based on a 1989 manga.  The 1991 Japanese hit Only Yesterday has been compared to Whisper of the Heart in its theme and more mature target audience.  Only Yesterday is a groundbreaking anime film, a realistic drama for adults, centered around women characters, unique for the time and the medium.   And now after twenty-five years, for the first time American audiences have access to the film with its U.S. release this week on DVD and Blu-ray.

Fans of Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley who can’t wait to see what’s next for the young actress will want to jump on the new release, as Ridley voices the lead role.  Other actors dubbed into the 2016 version include Dev Patel (Chappie, The Last Airbender, The Newsroom) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars Rebels).

Only Yesterday clip

Only Yesterday is surprisingly slow to arrive as an English version particularly since it is a stand-out among Studio Ghibli films.  Only Yesterday was the #1 highest grossing movie in Japan in its first year of release, netting nearly $2 billion.  Miyazaki served as a producer, and the film was directed by the Academy Award-nominated Isao Takahata.  With this week’s release Studio Ghibli completists can add the only remaining film from the studio to make it into their home viewing collections.

Check out this preview of Only Yesterday:

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Miyazaki collection Blu-ray boxed set 2015

If you’ve ever tried to pick up a complete collection of the works of Hayao Miyazaki on DVD or Blu-ray, you may have had the misfortune of buying one of the several bootleg or substandard quality sets available frequently on both eBay and Amazon.  Finally Disney and Studio Ghibli are set to release a Blu-ray boxed set by year-end, including all eleven of the director’s full-length films.

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki will be available exclusively from Amazon and is expected to ship November 17, 2015.  It includes Blu-ray editions The Castle of Cagliostro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and his last film, The Wind Rises.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

If you have already purchased the individual Blu-rays, the special features may entice you:

  • Yuki no Taiyo (Yuki’s Sun) — a 1972 television pilot based on a manga by Tetsuya Chiba.  It was directed, storyboarded and animated by Hayao Miyazaki.

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When Marnie Was There

We have yet to be disappointed with any anime production from the house of Studio Ghibli.  Whether it’s My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Whisper of the Heart (1995), Princess Mononoke (1997), the Oscar award winning Spirited Away (2001), or Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), you know you’re getting sumptuous visuals and a compelling story.  It’s been rumored that the production company’s next release may be its last, after years of success from the studio’s now retired director Hayao Miyazaki.  That next, and potentially last, film from Studio Ghibli is director Hiromasa Yonebayashi‘s When Marnie Was There, based on a Joan G. Robinson novel from 1971.

The American dubbed version hits theaters in the U.S. this month, featuring the voices of several award winning actors, including Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, and John C. Reilly.

When Marnie Was Here

After the break, check out the trailer for When Marnie Was There:

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Wind Rises clip

Hayao Miyazaki, along with becoming the well-established premier creator of Japanese animation, has brought Japanese art and culture to American audiences in past decades like no one before him.  His films have expanded what audiences expect when they see animated films, challenging viewers with a balance of the dramatic and the humorous and at the same time offering films that can entertain children as well as adults.  Miyazaki recently announced he was no longer making full-length feature films and his last film, The Wind Rises, comes to theaters in the U.S. in February 2014.

Although most of his work has passed muster with both the box office and critics, Miyazaki has veered from the type of controversial films you might find in other major international directors, using myth and magic as tools to express ideas about relationships and the importance of the natural world.  His new film appears to verge from the norm, as he documents the life of real-life Japanese engineer Jiro Horikoshi from boyhood to adulthood.  Based on a short story by Japanese poet Hori Tatsuo, The Wind Rises follows Jiro through pre-World War II Japan, the country’s devastating 1923 earthquake, a tuberculosis epidemic, and hard economic times that preceded the war, as Jiro comes to be the creator of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane.  The Zero was one of Japan’s most well-known tools of the war, used in kamikaze operations and its most successful fighting plane, having a kill ratio of 12 to 1 at the height of Japan’s brief period of air superiority.

Wind Rises Jiro Zero

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