Category Archives: hiyao miyazaki

The Secret World of Arrietty

The Secret World of Arrietty ~ Probably one of the most wonderful things Disney has done in recent years, outside of their Cruise Line and keeping Marvel Comics from going under is obtaining distribution rights for Studio Ghibli. Those of us in the genre audience who have loved the breathtaking work of Hayao Miyazaki can now share it with the rest of the world.

The newest import from the Land of the Rising Sun, via Disney distribution is The Secret World of Arrietty, also known as Kari-gurashi no Arietti, is based on “The Borrowers” novels by Mary Norton, which have provided inspiration for many television and film projects. The Borrowers are tiny folks who live in the floorboards of your house and only take what they need.

Here they live in a house soon occupied by a sickly boy who sees them right away, especially a high-spirited young Borrower girl named Arrietty. A tentative friendship blooms in this smaller than usual (pun unintended) Ghibli film. It is wondrously animated and tells a touching story with a surprising voice cast. Amy Pohler didn’t annoy me and Carol Burnett slips easily into a villain role.

Like all the Miyazaki and Ghibli films, this is a joy to watch, a wonderful adventure and character story, highly recommended.

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Howl’s Moving Castle

Howl’s Moving Castle ~ This Hiyao Miyazaki classic is based on an award-winning novel by a British author, Diana Wynne James. Set in a very imaginative 1920s-ish steampunk world where magic exists, this surreal tale is well-suited to Miyazaki’s filmmaking and storytelling talents.

Young Sophie is cursed and turned into an old woman, voiced by the late and legendary Jean Simmons, and starts cleaning a wizard’s giant walking castle – the one referenced in the title. Howl, appropriately played by Christian Bale, is a spoiled brat of a wizard, and a coward to boot, seemingly a perfect role for Bale based on his on-set tantrums of recent years. The voice cast is rounded out by Billy Crystal as a enslaved fire demon, who for the first time in quite some time is not grating on my nerves. The demon, Calcifer, is actually a lot of fun.

The highlight of the film is the subtle way that Sophie ages and de-ages, depending on her emotions and situations, throughout. It’s a wonderful touch. I can’t recommend this enough as I love Miyazaki, but by the same token, it is Miyazaki, and a hard and bizarre pill to swallow at times. The man is a genius, and the animation is visually brilliant, so even just as eye candy, this is so worth seeing.

For another view on this flick, check out the Comic Widows review by Maxine Nelson here.

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Ponyo

Ponyo ~ The first thing that strikes me about Ponyo (also known as Gake no ue no Ponyo) is how terrific it is now that in America, not only are Hiyao Miyazaki’s films distributed mainstream by Disney, but that Hiyao Miyazaki films are now an event. This is just how it should be. He’s a genius, and it’s about time he’s treated this way.

I think a lot of that may be due to TCM. A year or so back they did an entire week of Miyazaki films that brought his work into the mainstream consciousness. I knew about him but then again I have a comics and anime background. I know this was when my wife’s eyes were opened to his brilliance, a probably many others as well.

Ponyo is a simple yet bizarre tale of a goldfish who falls in love with a little boy and then wants to become human. From there it gets complicated. And the complications are what I love about Miyazaki. He always follows the game plan of the Hero’s Journey, yet he takes the roundabout way, the twisted mountain road, so that he is never predictable – and that’s refreshing. When was the last time you could not guess the ending or even the next scene of a film?

This is an enjoyable flick for both adults and children, and highly recommended. I really enjoyed it. And if you like what you see, check out the rest of Miyazaki’s films. You’ll be glad you did.

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