Fanart Friday returns, armed with a heavy-handed message about how the environment is precious. Last week, we rocked out in the house of Rockman with a Capcom-themed installment, but this week--in honor of Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch--we'll be checking out fanart featuring the works of Studio Ghibli and its founder/CEO/regular film director Hayao Miyazaki.
No matter the trends in anime, from the manly men and mecha of the '80s to anime's American takeover in the '90s to, well... what we have now, Studio Ghibli films always have a timeless quality to them. Let's get started!
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Let's actually start a little ways back, with a movie that isn't even a Ghibli movie. After working as an animator on A Dog of Flanders, then director on Sherlock Hound, Hayao Miyazaki's anime film debut was the second Lupin III movie, The Castle of Cagliostro. A cool bit of trivia: a bunch of early Castlevania stages and level architecture are based around scenes from this movie!
I could go on and on about the epic scale of Princess Mononoke, but it always comes back to that scene where Ashitaka blows a dude's head off with an arrow. Seriously, Ghibli movies are usually so relaxed and personal and, well... action-free that it came as a real shock. Before Mononoke, the only Ghibli movies I'd seen were Kiki's Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro.
I remember reading Diana Wynn Jones' Howl's Moving Castle shortly after the movie came out. What really surprised me was how different the book was from the movie--they got a lot of important things right, and the movie is still good, it's just not as memorable as the book.
The finished product isn't always great at Ghibli, though--let's never, ever forget Tales of Earthsea. Apparently, Hayao Miyazaki initially didn't want his son Goro directing this film, thinking he lacked filmmaking experience. Guess who won that family bet?
Honestly, though? Ponyo didn't do anything for me. I need to give it another re-watch sometime. Every time a Ghibli movie comes out, you get a set of reactions: either people unconditionally love it, they unconditionally dismiss it, or they've finally found one that just isn't for them.
I mean, not everything can be Porco Rosso. I dunno, there's something about having a kickass pilot of a kickass plane (who will happily throw down) that makes a movie--hey, wait, is she wearing a Nausicaä dress, but... pin-up style?
For those of you who don't know, Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind was a manga by Hayao Miyazaki that's basically Fallout with an environmental undercurrent. To be totally honest, I'm not as big a Ghibli/Miyazaki fanboy as a lot of people out there, but I absolutely love Nausicaä. It has just the right mix of action, story, and heart to keep me interested.
Goro Miyazaki is getting another chance, this time with the really, really well-received From Up on Poppy Hill. Truth be told, the safest thing that anime can do these days is make a nostalgic story about growing up in Japan (like Kids on the Slope or anything by Mitsuru Adachi), so it was kind of a given. I'm looking forward to seeing this one!
Tales from Earthsea wasn't all bad, though. I guess most of the backlash came from the movie barely being anything like Ursula K. LeGuin's books. I feel the same way about the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Oh my freakin' God, if only. Pom Poko was really good, and gives that powerfully nostalgic Ghibli feel, but I wasn't expecting to see human beings get knocked unconscious by tanuki testicles. Tanuksticles? Whatever. Turn this boxing tanuki's fists into giant dangly bits, and you've got the action sequences in Pom Poko.
You remember that part in Castle in the Sky where a giant Totoro ascends from the clouds and freakin' eats the castle whole?! THAT PART WAS F**KING AWESOME! ...It didn't happen? What are you talking about? I remember that happening.
Whether it's The Borrowers or Arrietty or Secret World of Arrietty, it's still based off the same story: Arrietty and the Borrowers. I appreciate that Ghibli looks to the "new classics" of fantasy literature for their adaptations--they've got that covered while Disney gets all the classic standards.
Jade Cocoon only kinda counts. The PS1 RPG (and its PS2 sequel) featured character designs by Katsuya Kondo using Studio Ghibli's distinctive, Hayao Miyazaki-influenced style. On the other hand...
by Danica Brine READER SUBMISSION!
...Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch's developers constantly ran their material by Studio Ghibli, specifically to make sure they got the feel just right, not to mention the Katsuya Kondo character designs and Joe Hisaishi soundtrack. The game is also exceptionally fun to play, a love letter to JRPGs past that is at once comfortingly nostalgic and very well-designed from a modern perspective. Oliver, Drippy, and Mitey have the right expression: "LET'S DO THIS!"
Y'know, to be honest, it's been a really long time since I've seen Castle in the Sky. Reading up on it, though, its influence is everywhere: the Final Fantasy spin-off Secret of Mana, GAINAX and Toho's Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, and Disney's Mike Mignola-styled Atlantis: The Lost Empire are all mentioned on the Wikipedia page, and I didn't realize it until I saw them there. Holy crap, I need to watch Nadia and Atlantis again!
The first time I ever saw My Neighbor Totoro, I thought that somehow, through some freak accident, Totoro was going to die at the end. What can I say? The Iron Giant had just come out, and I was in a very bleak mood.
The Cat Returns is one I'm not as familiar with. All I know is that it focuses on Baron, a pretty cool character from Whisper of the Heart, and a look at the Kingdom of Cats. What do you guys think? Should I give this one a shot, or pass on it?
I don't often get in the mood to watch Ghibli movies, but Whisper of the Heart is one of those rare gems that gets rewatched--at least if my roommate's copy of the movie wasn't scratched to all hell. Don't you just hate it when you lend stuff to people and they totally demolish it?
My best memory of Spirited Away doesn't come from the movie (which is great)--it comes from the promo tape of trailers that plays at Hollywood Video. Y'see, I was working at the now-defunct Hollywood Video rental chain when Spirited Away hit DVD, and the only clip they saw fit to play was Chihiro screaming "HAKUUUU!" Just imagine Lilo (dubbed Chihiro is voiced by Daveigh Chase) screaming that over and over and you can see why I didn't want to watch Spirited Away at first.
If I have to pick a single film out of Ghibli's library as my absolute favorite, I would have to say Grave of the Fireflies. I don't watch it much, though. Seriously, it's one of the few movies where 1- I get out-and-out enraged at a side character (their heartless aunt) and 2- I feel like crap for being American, even though nationalism doesn't factor much in the story at all. It's a very sobering film, and it does deserve repeat viewings just to drive its point home: war sucks.
Seriously, I can't talk about Pom Poko without making a joke. How much do you wanna bet that Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto wanted to make one of Gaara's Ichibi/giant sand tanuki attacks ball-based, like crushing an enemy under a giant swarm of packed-sand cojones? Or somebody at Nintendo wanting to have Tanooki Mario swinging his nads like a morning star?
Kiki's Delivery Service is right up there with Princess Tutu and Puella Magi Madoka Magica as a "different" take on traditional magical girls--just not as overwhelmingly dark. Kiki is a much more mellow coming-of-age story than most, which makes for pretty relaxing viewing. Good stuff!
Let's start closing up for this week on a high note--and it doesn't get much higher than Porco Rosso's awesome final duel with Curtis. Ghibli movies don't often cover the topic of manliness, but as usual, Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki handled the subject with a very realistic and grounded bent.
What? Yes, it's another Tales of Earthsea joke. Just a quick look through Pixiv shows that a lot of artists have it in for this movie!
Good, I'm not the only one who remembers Castle in the Sky differently from how the movie actually went. Seriously, the whole place would've gone to hell a lot faster if Bender were around.
And that's everything for this week! It's a safe bet that most of you anime fans have seen quite a few Studio Ghibli films--which ones are your favorite? I covered almost everything here, but which titles stand out the most to you?
Like I say every week, your art is always welcome here on Fanart Friday, regardless of your skill level or experience. Just PM me a link to your work, and I'll be sure to include it in a future installment! For those of you wanting to get a head start on next week's theme, we'll be prepping for Super Bowl Sunday (WHERE THE 49ERS ARE PLAYING! It's only been, what, almost twenty years) with a special EYESHIELD 21-themed Fanart Friday!
Thanks again for checking out Fanart Friday--we hope to see you next week, and have a great weekend!