Cels - Omohide Poro Poro
A wonderful production cel from Omohide Poro Poro. This comes from my favorite scenes in the film, Taeko's picking safflowers at dawn. As she is collecting the flowers, she explains its history in Japan, its use in the making of cosmetics, and she marvels at the thought of poor farm girls laboring away for the benefit of rich girls in the city. The hard struggles of traditional rural life is depicted honestly, not airbrushed or turned into some romantic fantasy.
This, I think, is one of Isao Takahata's great strengths, as it gets to the heart of his traditionalist views. He makes many of the same observations in his 1987 live-action documentary, The Story of Yanagawa Waterways, appealing to Japan's rural past, yet also embracing the hardship of that existence. No doubt he appreciates and benefits from our modern conveniences, and I'm sure he doesn't wish for people to return purely to a medieval existence. But Takahata is a firm critic of the modern, post-industrial world, and in Yanagawa and Omohide Poro Poro, he asks us to question these modern values.
Is Jello Biafra right? Is our national motto, "Give me convenience or give me death"? Perhaps we should examine that notion, and question just what it was human beings were chasing after modernity. And perhaps we should contemplate just what we have lost. This is probably the central theme of all of the Studio Ghibli films.
Oh, and if you're curious, this production cell from Omohide Poro Poro would set you back $500 easy. Ouch!