(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
Aww, heck, here it is! Let's throw up a double-header tonight. You'll need extra time to work off that hangover. Bugs and Wile E. at their best....hehehehehehehe!
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
I was going to post "Operation: Rabbit," but I saw this one with Yosemite Sam and couldn't pass it up. This might be my favorite Sam and Bugs cartoon of them all. It's perfectly paced, the jokes are hysterical, and Sam's swearing is perfect.
Bonus points for the BSG fans who spot "frackin'" among the tirades. hah hah hah hah hah hah
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
After a short hiatus, we're back in action with the evening's Looney Tunes cartoon. "To Hare is Human" (yeah, the cheesy title puns never get old) is the second of several Bugs Bunny cartoons to feature Wile E. Coyote. These are some of my favorites, possibly because Wile E. gets to boast and brag about what a super-genius he is. Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah....ahh, I think I'll get a large bowl of sugary breakfast cereal.
Amazing how you couldn't get up at 7:00 am for school, but you can be wide awake at 6:30 for your Saturday morning cartoons. That's a tradition that the broadcast networks should be forced to bring back. At least two hours of Looney Tunes - uncensored this time! - will be mandatory.
Wasn't this supposed to be a Studio Ghibli blog? I actually had planned to show a number of Ghibli films (honest!), but wouldn't ya know it? YouTube shut them all down. We'll just wait another week or two until they reappear. :P
Update: I thought this was the first Bugs/Wile E. cartoon. It's actually the second. "Operation: Rabbit" was the first. There were five cartoons in all.
The US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia is run by Soup Nazis. Heaven help you if someone you know wants a tourist visa to the States.
Marcee and I are gonna have sooooo much fun when it comes time to apply for a K-1 fiancee visa. Thanks for paying your non-refundable fee. Rejected! No soup for you!
We're long overdue for a new poll, so here's a cheap and easy one. What grade do you give the new Pixar movie, Up? Pick your letter grade, A-D, or be a clown and go for the pie. This is another one of those week-long polls, so you'll have plenty of time to see Up and cast your vote. Have fun!
As everybody is aware, Pixar's Up opens nationwide today. All of the reviews have been glowing, and it's going to be interesting to see where the scores settle on Rotten Tomatoes. A ranking in the high 90's is pretty much a given.
I plan on seeing the movie next weekend, once the next paycheck arrives. I'm actually pretty far behind in my movie watching. So perhaps I should just spend a whole Saturday getting caught up.
So, if any of you has seen Up, feel free to share your opinions in the comments section. And, of course, please be polite and avoid any spoilers.
Just so everybody knows, the internet connection at my apartment has been pretty weak, if not non-existent, for the past couple of days. I haven't been able to write and post in that time, which is unfortunate. Just think of all the Looney Tunes cartoons we're missing out on.
On a brighter note, we Americans are heading into the Memorial Day holiday, which is the unofficial start to the summer season. Pixar's Up will be entertaining us and thrilling us, Ponyo will arrive before you know it, and there might even be some interesting movies playing in the indie circuit. The Anvil documentary looks especially good. I'll definintely have to go see that. What else is playing?
I'll continue to send out carrier pigeons whenever I find an interesting movie thought that's remotely Ghibli-related. And hopefully the internet connection will actually be working. Stay tuned, kids.
The Los Angeles Film Festival (June 18-28) will be screening the US version of Ponyo as its closing film. Tickets will, ahem, be a bit expensive. How much? $100. D'oh!
Surely, this is more about spreading the word about Ponyo than anything else. Don't forget that Spielberg's producers are the American producers for Miyazaki's latest. A week later, the Ponyo trailer will debut in theaters across the country.
An impressive rollout for Ponyo. We can see that Ghibli's latest is being given greater exposure than any of the previous films. Expect more exposure as the summer season rolls along.
As for me, I would love to go to LA, but I'm moving into a new apartment at the end of June and cannot afford the trip. Hey, hopefully next time, kids.
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
This was too good to pass up. Rifftrax has given the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment to The Last Unicorn. We've replaced our normal movie with Folger's Crystals. Let's watch.
The best thing about Rifftrax is that the audio "commentary" by Mike, Kevin, and Bill (yes, they're the Sci-Fi Channel cast of MST3K) is that they are so amazingly cheap. $1.99 is a fantastic price. It's very tempting to buy and download shows for all of the movies on the site.
The downside, of course, is trying to sync up the audio commentary with the DVD you're watching. It's far easier to pull it off on your computer.
Okay, kids, just for kicks, we're going to shake things up. Instead of classic Looney Tunes cartoons, here's a classic from your favorite and mine - Animaniacs! Yaayy! This is the Barney parody, a character who's just a perfect target for cartoon violence.
This is the way American cartoons should be: anti-authoritarian, anti-establishment, no preachy moral lessons, no nutritional value, and lots of gratuitous violence. Now these are role models, kids.
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
It's another Yosemite Sam sea captain cartoon! Huh, I don't quite remember this one. Either that, or all these Bugs Bunny cartoons are blurred in my mind over the years. They're all so hysterically funny. And there's enough of that rebellious, anti-authoritarian streak to keep me happy. Yeah, this is what turned me into the hippie punk I am today.
The Japan Times had a very interesting interview with Miyazaki back in December of last year, and it's one of those things I've been meaning to post here on the Ghibli Blog. Since the famed director is so reluctant to give interviews, I decided now would be the right time, in light of Ponyo's arrival in Europe and the US.
The event being covered was Miyazaki's November 20 appearance at the Foreign Correspondant's Club in Tokyo. The typically cheery-but-grumpy film director is never short for opinions.
I particularly liked this one wisecrack:
At the same time, Miyazaki does not expect his films — or any films — to find wide appreciation 30 years after their release. "That is, audiences today can no longer enjoy films that are more than 30 years old, save in a historical sense," he said.
When an elderly journalist countered with the example of the 1942 classic "Casablanca," Miyazaki was unfazed.
"The films you value can be lifelong friends, but if "Casablanca" were released now, it wouldn't be a hit," he said. "If (Yasujiro) Ozu were making his movies today, they would play in one theater."
Kitaro Kosaka is one of the senior artists at Studio Ghibli. He was the supervising animation director for Hayao Miyazaki's last four feature films, and his tenure stretches as far back as Jarinko Chie.
In 2003, Kosaka wrote and directed his first film, the OVA Nasu: Summer in Andalusia. It's a movie about the Spanish bicycling circuit, and it's an excellent, if short (40 min.) movie. It has been released around Europe, and was even given an English-language translation and dub by Animax. Weirdly enough, Nasu have never been shown or released here in the US.
In 2007, Kosaka followed up with a sequel, Nasu: A Migratory Bird With Suitcase, which one the Best OVA award at the Tokyo Anime Awards.
I've had a fansub copy in my collection for a few years. If I remember, I'll try to track down a suitable link. It's a good movie that you're sure to enjoy; that is, if realistic dramas about professional bicyclists appeals to you.
Eh, it's a slow day for me. I got nothin'. So let's continue to clear out my reserves with another movie poster for Miyazaki's 1984 Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.
This is a pretty good poster, if a little plain. At least we have the anime stylings from the film, which fuses images of both movie and manga versions of Nausicaa. The focus is squarely on the main character and her relationship with the Ohmu, and I suspect this assumes you already know something about the story. That's the built-in advantage to adapting a popular comic to the big screen.
Of the three Nausicaa posters shown on the blog, I'd place this one squarely in the middle. Does it do anything for you? Any ideas? Bueller?
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
Yet more fun with Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam, yaaayy! These are some of my favorite cartoons. They're good enough to make me switch off George Carlin. Is that the gold standard for a good cartoon? Should be. Enjoy.
Okay, I found a color photograph of the poster for Taiyo no Oujii Horus no Daibouken. That's nice to finally have on hand. So here it is. It's a really terrific movie poster. If Toei was smart, they would be selling prints of all their classic movie posters.
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
A little overdue, but technically it's still Saturday night until the sun comes up. And most of you should be stumbling home after the bars and parties just about....now. Now lay off the alcohol, eat some magic brownies, and enjoy some Bugs Bunny cartoons.
You just have to love the absurdity of this piece. And, yeah, this is what I've been doing with myself all evening long - amusing myself with Keyboard Cat.
I didn't know which Keyboard Cat video to show here, so I went with the one that started the whole craze.
It's the middle of May. Shouldn't it start to be getting warm by now?
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
I had to make doubly sure we got our evening Bugs Bunny fix. So which one should it be? Hmm...how about this one? This is one of the "fat" Elmer Fudd cartoons. I always liked these ones.
This is something I discovered recently while I was searching Flikr for some of the paper crafts. It's an exhibit from Japan for Howl's Moving Castle, and wowww, is that ever big! I'm afraid I don't have any compelling backstory about this piece. It just looks really, really amazing and cool. Just click on the photo if you want to see just how large this sculture really is.
Now this is how you bring Horus to DVD. This is a release worthy of the revolutionary film. Everybody else is officially put on notice.
Currently, Horus is only available ouside of Japan in Portugal, the UK and France. The UK release is a threadbare affair, only a single disc and no extras save the movie trailer. And it's slapped with that asinine slur, "The Little Norse Prince." It's one saving grace is that it includes English subtitles, but they're very poor subs and they're far below the level of the Horus fansub we all know and love.
Thank goodness the French show some proper respect. It helps greatly that Isao Takahata is recognized as a great film artist in France. Takahata has made numerous appearances for lectures and honoers, most of his films are available on DVD (Jarinko Chie was given a small theatrical release last year), and a documentary film on his career will see release this summer. Given all that, it makes perfect sense that Horus is treated so well on DVD.
The French DVDs were released in 2004, both a single and double disc set. The deluxe version includes an hour's worth of documentaries, interviews with Isao Takahata and Yoichi Kotabe, a karaoke mode, interactive DVD-ROM features, and a 24-page book. This is comparable treatment to The Criterion Collection, and, frankly, this is precisely how all of Takahata and Miyazaki's films should be handled.
Now here's where it gets interesting. The photo I posted above apparantly comes from a new re-release. This French retail site says this new version was released in October, 2008. You can pick this up for 15 Euros if you're so inclined.
What's weird is that only a couple sites show this package; it certainly is new, but most retailers use the old cover. As far as content goes, I have nothing to go on. I haven't found any information, so at this point I'll assume that it's the same extra features as the previous DVD. It would be great if the picture was properly remastered, since this was originally a single-layer disc from 2000. All of the classic Toei films are in desperate need of a proper restoration.
In any case, the design of the cover is so striking that I couldn't pass it up. It's very flashy and modern, and hues very close to the original movie poster from Japan. This is miles better than dreck like this, and certainly better than the crummy DVD that was swept under the rug in Britain.
Is there anybody out there with information about this DVD? Anybody in France? C'mon, Pixar, pretty please - send one of your gophers out to investigate. I don't want anyone to miss the movies and parties on my behalf, but this really couldn't take that much time. Hah hah hah...yeah, like it's that important. But I'm just really, really nosey about things.
Here are a pair of high-resolution photos (click for full view, as always) of Isao Takahata's 1994 Studio Ghibli film, Heisei Gassan Tanuki Pom Poko. These both come from the spectacular visual high point of the movie, the Tanuki "Spooking War." This sequence is a visual marvel, wildly surreal, packed to the rafters with icons and figures from Japanese mythology and folklore.
Pom Poko is a virtual encyclopedia of Japanese culture, a lost culture that is now completely alien to modern eyes. Never before has any movie so skillfully portrayed the alienness of Japan's rich heritage. An American counterpart to the Spooking War would involve a parade of the Founding Fathers, of Paul Revere on his Midnight Raid, of Lewis and Clark, of Harriet Tubmand and Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.
The Tragedy in the Spooking War is not that one of the old Tanuki masters dies, or that the parade of ghostly images dissipates. The tragedy is that the people have been brought face to face with the ghosts of their cultural past, and they cannot recognize them. By the next morning, the entire event is cynically passed off as a hoax.
Takahata's hope lies in the faces of the children. They are the ones watching, wide-eyes, captured by the mystery and awe of these ghosts. The hope is that they, in time, will reawaken to their own past, before all of Japan is completely consumed by Western materialism, in concrete and steel clear to the horizon.
Were you smart enough to figure that out? Or were you too busy pointing and giggling at the pee-pee parts?
This comes courtesy of Dragonfly, a bakery that creates amazing custom cakes and pastries. I've never seen anything quite like this. It's just wonderful, and I just wish they could ship to the US. Maybe if we wave enough cash in their general direction, that will do the trick.
I'm not sure where Dragonfly is from. Their website is written in English and Portugese, and according to the contact page, they can deliver to all parts of Japan. So I'm guessing they're based in Japan. Interesting.
This custom cake, obviously, is based on My Neighbor Totoro. This is a wonderful work of art, and I can only imagine how much time it takes to create one of these. I'm speechless. All I know is that it would be very difficult to eat this cake; you just want to admire everything and leave it untouched.
This is a rather unconventional movie poster for Nausicaa. The style is much more Western than Japanese; notice the heavy details on everything, the gritty "realistic" look of the piece. I happen to like this poster because of all these details; it reminds me more of Moebius than anything, and that happens to work for me, since Moebius was a major influence on Miyazaki when he created his Nausicaa manga.
This is a very impressive illustration, full of color and rich saturation. The "action" feels somewhat static and posed. It's clearly not something Hayao Miyazaki conceived. His action illustrations are the work of a master - the equal to Eisenstein, Kurosawa, and John Ford. All aspiring filmmakers should be studying his techiques and theories. Wouldn't that be so much better than stealing from video games or George Lucas? Sigh.
I'm not quite sure what the appeal is to signing up with Amazon's "blogs on Kindle" program. Is anyone seeing an upside to this?
It just seems like the latest attempt to play middleman for the internet and sell Amazon's little machine. You pay a monthly subscription fee to read a blog on your Kindle. But isn't this absurd? You can already get my blog for free online. What's the point? This makes as much sense as that toll booth in Blazing Saddles.
Companies want to make money from the internet, especially if they trade in digital media - print, music, movies, tv. But the internet itself is opposed to this. All Digital Media is Free in the age of the internet. And this is something that is inevitable; this beast is far, far too big to be stopped now. Perhaps if those in charge clamped down on the world wide web 15 years ago, they would have been spared. But it's too late now; that genie is out of the bottle.
And this is the great crisis for producers of digital media. How do you make money on this? Why pay $15 for a CD when you can get it for free? Once "free" becomes accepted as a given, especially by the younger generations, the business model is doomed.
Which comes back to Kindle and Amazon's blog program. Who's going to pay a subscription fee every month to read a blog that you can easily get for free? It seems to me that you have to go out of your way to play this game. First buy a Kindle, then pay the fees. But everyone has a computer, and cell phones are practically universal in 2009. Which means everything is available to you for free. And that's how it should be.
I think at some point, there's going to be a realization that the internet, by its very nature, is diametrically opposed to corporate capitalism. And that is going to be a very interesting future to play out.
Oh, no! I completely forgot about Looney Tunes last night! The reason is very simple - I was spending the night bashing away Babes in Toyland albums with Marcee. It's an easy way to kill time when you have a lot of energy to burn.
Man, oh man, I miss Babes in Toyland. They were nothing less than the greatest rock band ever. Here's the cover to their second album, the 1990 EP "To Mother." This album, naturally, is the greatest rock album ever. Loud, heavy, aggressive, full of sound and fury. The Babes were definitely more notorious than famous, but from where I was standing, that was a good thing. Love or hate, no one could walk away without having a strong opinion one way or the other.
Is the idea of women playing loud rock music still seen as a novelty? The culture has regressed since the 1990's. Now we're back to the mindless Barbie Dolls who become manufactured corporate products solely for their looks. And it's all a damned fraud. What's this I hear about not wearing the purity rings?
Everybody from my generation is getting old except me.
Wow! This is just superb. I always feel so envious and impressed at all the Ghibli Freaks who have collected production cels. This would be a magnificent find to any collection.
This, of course, is from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, from that terrific scene of the birds on the rooftop. I'm greatly impressed with the composition of the piece, with several hungry birds dropping in on Sheeta to be fed. Here is an excellent example of my mantra for animators - show action with a single pose. This shot moves, it flows. You can see the birds flying in your head, and Sheeta reacting, laughing. This is portrait that comes to life, and a skillful example of what makes Hayao Miyazaki a master of the artform.
As an American, I am also greatly impressed by the naturalism of the moment. The birds are not portrayed as cartoon caricatures, but everyday, ordinary birds. The character designs are iconic and simple enough, but there are plenty of details, both in the textures and the poses. American animation is rooted firmly in caricature, both in the designs and the movement, and while it's useful for some things (like, say a Bugs Bunny cartoon), it's far less effective when working on a more cinematic style. An action-adventure like Castle in the Sky requires that iconic naturalism - it's the element that gives gravity to the emotional, human elements of the story.
This production cel is an excellent example of what makes Ghibli's anime work. Give it some serious study.
One of these days, when I'm in a really cranky mood, I'll have to tear Warriors of the Wind to pieces.
Since we're discussing Miyazaki's Nausicaa film in depth, I thought it the perfect time to show off some excellent hi-res screenshots. Unless I'm mistaken, these photos coincided with the Ghibli DVD releases in Europe during the last few years. These are really spectacular high-resolution photos, that are really better suited to the inevitable Blu-Ray releases.
I really ought not to complain about the Nausicaa DVD. It looks quite excellent, and for fans, it was the first time most of us could see the movie in its full frame, or even its complete length (I'm looking at you, Warriors of the Wind). For many years, the only fan copies of Nausicaa floating around were worn out, burned down copies, with blackened pictures and almost non-existent colors.
I remember my first time seeing this movie, courtesy of internet peer sharing programs, back in 2002 0r 2003. You couldn't see anything in the darker scenes but faint shadows, and most of the backgrounds were washed out. These were copies of copies of copies of old videotapes, and it showed. When the Ghibli DVD was finally released in Japan (the last of Ghibli's major films to arrive), it was a revelation. The screen was big and bright! You could make out colors! And you could see what was going on.
It's a testament to how great this movie is, when I saw it in that earlier, crummy version and was instantly hooked. Here was a science-fiction film with brains, with ideas. It's themes and questions lumbered in my head for days. And to any Westerner only accustomed to Disney cartoons or "adult" schlock like Heavy Metal, Rock 'N Rule, and Ralph Bakshi, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was a revolution. There still hasn't been an American movie of similar calibur. Isn't that bizarre? I guess if you want an intelligent, adult cartoon, there's always The Matrix, and that movie was wrecked by its lousy sequels.
And, of course, if you have sisters or daughters, Nausicaa is nothing less than the greatest movie ever made. Tired of the Stepford Wives fairy tale princesses? Try this.
Now I think it's time for a short breather, after unloading that epic on your laps. Is everybody reading it? Good. Now here's a couple more hi-res photos of Miyazaki's Ponyo, which is only three months away from its US release. This will be a rush to see on the big screen, and hopefully many of you will be able to see it in your city.
I have to admit, these hi-res screenshots are making me spoiled. It's becoming harder and harder for me to go back to the old DVD resolutions. Disney had better release the Blu-Ray version this Christmas, because I'm not waiting forever while Ghibli's Japanese BR is sitting on shelves.
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
It's getting late, and I keep telling myself to post the Looney Tunes cartoon by 10pm, but things always get in the way. In any event, here we go! Here is another one of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons, with Yosemite Sam, of course. Isn't cartoon violence a wonderful thing? The Great American Export. At least this way it bring joy into your life. The real-life violence royally sucks.
Enjoy your evening Looney Tunes fix! And you guys and gals in France get lots of rest. And bring us back extra leftovers. I could go for some pancakes.
Part XI: Miyazaki Anime Changes the Heroine Back Into a Monster
If you think about it the wire-crossing had already started back at the stage of "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind." "Nausicaa" is also about a female hero [onna no hero] rather than a heroine, and it succeeded in making a female image worthy of being called a hero [eiyuu]. However, as "heroes" Nausicaa and Kushana act like they have men's personalities that have been
transplanted into women's bodies--they are images of women based on the male hero model. It's the realization of the male standard. From this point it's only one more step to evil masculinity/macho women images.
The reason the logic behind the Eboshi-led Tatara-ba fails is that it hasn't learned from history and the reasons why women were removed from labor production and military action in the first place. So why were they? The answer is very simple. Women's reproductive labor--pregnancy, birth, and nursing--was thought of as a handicap when doing labor in the workplace. (Which is why it's a matter of course that the Crimson Soldiers of the Boys' Land were young women around the age of 20.) The Tatara-ba is a literal Boys' Land, with neither children nor the elderly, and it could have been gender-equal but it ends up being a caricature of evil modern society instead.
The Boys' Land won't save humanity. That's why Monsley left Industria and defected to the enemy side. If Kushana and Eboshi hadn't sacrificed a part of their bodies, they wouldn't have lasted as leaders of the Boys' Land. (By any chance if they give birth someday, the Boys' Land will probably drag them right out of the leader's seat.)
So can the Girls' Land save humanity? If we think of how Lana and Nausicaa finally reverted to using magic, its clear that it can't. Still, the ecological lands where Lana and Nausicaa live embody people's naive desires.
The mistake is to think, if the modern (masculine) can't save the world, can the anti-modern (feminine) save it instead? The lineage from Lana to Nausicaa to San shows high expectations placed on "the girl who lives with nature." However, if we pursue that ideal, in the end we'll return to the form of the beast/the primitive. If the anti-modern doesn't look squarely and honestly at the modern, it will end up as no different from the pre-modern.
Part X: Eboshi Gozen is an Evil Emperor with Red Lipstick
Eboshi is the woman boss who leads the Tatara-ba. The Tatara-ba is an iron-producing factory (industry) as well as an armed, self-defending commune (military) and Eboshi heads both sides. Part of her character is a veteran who doesn't even fear the gods. She is also an open-minded figure who actively accepts oppressed minorities, such as ex-prostitutes and people who apparently have Hanson's disease (leprosy). Her people adore her.
What's interesting about the Tatara-ba is its unique atmosphere. Of course it has men, but they are totally spiritless. In the Tatara-ba (historically, a place where women were prohibited) the people stomping on and pumping the tatara bellows are women. The people using ishibiya rifles
to defend the camp are also women. Generally, the women here shoulder "male" physical work and military activity. It's the same kind of negative-positive flip as in "Evangelion"--a reversal of male and female social roles. However, we must also note that the women here behave like
men from the Boys' Land. Chewing out their husbands is a piece of cake. "You lazy pig!" They also don't hesitate to aim and suddenly fire at the enemies outside the gates. When the boy Ashitaka arrives from the outside, the women casually surround him and call out, "what a handsome fellow" as if to imitate some kind of sexual harassment. There is even a lighthearted
scene where they tease a large man, laughing together heartily. "You would have been better as a woman!"
However, we must not see this as evidence of a "utopia of sexual equality" or the achievement of "feminist" ideals. The Tatara-ba is a caricature of the traditional Boys' Land. It's a macho, woman-centered society that simply copies the foolishness of traditional 'manliness'. Perhaps for that reason, the women of the Tatara-ba are all aunties with manners like middle-aged men [oyajippoi nori]. In contrast to the Shishi-gami forest where San lives, the Tatara-ba is a society without children or the elderly.
There are some ill present in full-body bandages but they are there as grotesque victims of discrimination, not as a non-working group. (They take part in developing the rifles.) They are dressed in garments for the poor and ill but here there are only adult men and women who are capable of being part of the workforce. This could be called the pinnacle of modernism.
So why is Eboshi Gozen a woman? If the production and weapons groups were led by a man here, the Tatara-ba would appear no different from today's modern society; just the same Boys' Land, or a plain old Evil Empire. Eboshi's sensuous appearance (with deep red lipstick, for example) adds some color to the bloody story-world, and that's it. She isn't an "evil queen," she's more like a masculine "evil emperor." She's the master not of magical spells, but of rifles at the forefront of technology. If we left the story as is and just changed the picture of the character to a male, Eboshi Gozen wouldn't be much different from "Space Battleship Yamato's" Commander Deslar.
In the later half of "Future Boy Conan," Lana and Monsley made peace and became friends. In "Nausicaa," Nausicaa and Kushana continued to oppose each other but left some room to negotiate. The formation of peace negotiations is set up in both of these cases. However in "Mononoke Hime" San and Eboshi are both extremists, living in a world where neither can
understand the other, destined for eternity to tread along parallel lines. Basically they're drawn as a couple of bitchy, short-tempered sisters, and words can't connect between stubborn girls like them. They're bound to keep fighting forever.
Let's remember that generally female monsters [kaijuu] (for example the witches in "Sailor Moon") are the villains in the Girls' Land [aka in girls' anime], and heartless commanders (like "Yamato's" Deslar) are the villains in the Boys' Land. Here, the battle between the Boys' Land and Girls' Land is changed into a fight between the usual "enemy" characters.
One outstanding sequence in "Mononoke Hime" is the direct confrontation scene between Eboshi Gozen and San, which plays kind of like a kaijuu movie parody; San climbs over walls like an animal and flies from roof to roof while Eboshi Gozen mercilessly orders her troops to fire their cannons...what we would expect from the culmination of Miyazaki's work. This kind of scene, which is anything but rare when it features male characters, becomes a bit more interesting as a confrontation between women.
The boy Ashitaka rather stupidly jumps into the rift of the dispute between the women. In "Mononoke Hime," the women fight and the men advise. The women are impulsive and the men are rational; this is symbolized in the scene where Ashitaka picks up the unconscious San and Eboshi in his arms. In "Future Boy Conan," the boy from a "developing nation" (sangokujin)
intermediates on Lana's behalf and overwhelmingly becomes an ally of High Harbor. In "Nausicaa" Asbel, also from a developing country, becomes an ally of The Valley of Wind by cooperating with Nausicaa. Ashitaka on the other hand slips in the gap between the Shishi-gami's forest and Tatara-ba, San and Eboshi, moving back and forth like a cockroach... "There is a demon inside you, and inside the girl!" "You mustn't entrust yourself to hatred any further!" Ashitaka proclaims these ideas triumphantly, a Mr. Smarty Pants from the outside. He's like an honor student who volunteers to mediate in the fight between the two female gang leaders, or like Ultraman, out to preach to the monster and Commander Deslar. However, the story brings forth a rather convenient resolution. The conflict stays the same, and the women on both sides just take a liking to Ashitaka.
San says, "I love you Ashitaka, but I cannot forgive the humans." Even after losing an arm in battle, Eboshi urges her troops: "Let's thank [him]. Somebody go get Ashitaka." Full of himself, Ashitaka keeps showing a good face to both women until the end.
At any rate, if they're just going to be two stubborn women, neither one willing to flinch, at least they should have used this chance to conspire to kill the boy. Thanks to hero-faced guys like him, the anime world has treated women like doormats.
Part IX: San is a Monster in a Girl's Skin
San was thrown into the woods as a sacrifice while still a baby and raised by mountain dogs. Considering that she can communicate with animals it's clear that she is connected to Lana and Nausicaa, but it might not be quite right to call her a magical girl. The "mononoke" (hybrids between beasts and gods) world is San's headquarters, and San herself is something of a "mononoke." So what in the world is a mononoke? If we think about it the answer turns out to be very simple. Mononoke is another name for monster [kaijuu], the same monsters that Anime Land (the Boys' Land) has been using modern logic to dispose of since "Ultraman."
San speaks human language, calls the mountain dog that raised her "mother," wears a white blouse and skirt costume and has earring and necklace accessories dangling. She has fashionable "make-up" (tattoos) on her face and in battle transforms [henshin] into a costume with a Jomon-style mask and a white mane, skillfully wielding weapons, spears and short swords. She
is not just a monster, and in the scene when she appears in the Tatara-ba alone and the people put their strength together to defend the village and kick her out for example, we're shown that she's also more than just a girl.
Crying out, "I'm a mountain dog!" and with only the straightforward determination that "I hate humans!" she dashes headlong into an attack on human society/Tatara-ba. San is a suicidal terrorist and a unique "Pretty Girl-Monster" [bishoujo kaijuu].
The mononoke living in the ancient forest are a society of weaklings; just children and the elderly. The parent who raised San is Moro no Kimi, a 300-year old mountain dog who is just waiting to die. We see Okkotonushi, a 500-year old wild boar, reaching the final stages of his life as a senile old man. Okkotonushi says with regret, "Look at my clan! Everyone is becoming smaller and stupider." Whether it is the boar group, or the ape group, or the kodama forest sprites, all of the mononoke/monsters are, to put it kindly, innocents. To put it badly, they lack intelligence.
So why then is San in the form of a human? There is just one reason--so the boy Ashitaka can fall for her at first sight. She finally makes a human-like expression when Ashitaka shocks her by saying, "Live! You are Beautiful." It's a scene that makes one wonder, what would have happened if she hadn't been beautiful? As the monster-beast she is we could call this a
sort of primal eroticism.
The Girl who Penetrated Heroism--"Mononoke Hime's" Failures
Part VII - "Mononoke Hime" is the Battle Between Evil Civilization and Weak Nature
Miyazaki anime critique the Boys' Land and rewrite the Girls' Land. They draw a logical confrontation between the two, and by initially giving victory to the girls, have won the support of adult women--something that is quite rare in anime. However we can't quite say that they show an awareness of the contradictions embraced by hero and heroine images in anime.
This lack of awareness was exposed in Miyazaki's latest film. As soon as "Mononoke Hime" was released in the summer of 1997 it became a great hit, setting new postwar distribution and attendance records. It could very well be considered the pinnacle of Miyazaki's work.
It would be best to say that "Mononoke Hime" is a parody of the Boys' Land and Girls' Land. In that sense it is an extremely interesting work.
"Mononoke Hime" is set not in a post-apocalyptic future, but in a forest land modeled on medieval Japan. We could say it's a return to a "Once Upon a Time..." type fantasy, but the modern vs. anti-modern, civilization vs. nature setting appears even more strongly than in "Future Boy Conan" or "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind". In "Mononoke Hime" the former side is the iron-producing "Tatara-ba" commune and the latter is the Shishi-gami's forest, a commune in a primeval forest where a group of confused animals live crowded together.
Following the examples set so far, the Tatara-ba would be the Boys' Land. Iron production, the pinnacle of scientific advancement, is the camp's occupation. The people manufacture rifles called ishibiya and organize a defense force to protect themselves from invaders. On top of that, they try to hunt down and kill the Shishi-gami, the monster-like deer creature who is the master of the forest. The Tatara-ba residents work within the principles of the Boys' Land, yet the people holding up the supports of the Tatatra-ba are women. Their boss, Eboshi Gozen, is also a
Following the models we've seen, the Shishi-gami's forest is the Girls' Land. The forest is a magical land, but it's also a little unusual. It's a great land of super-animism where mountain dogs and wild boars, beast-god hybrid-like "raging gods," as they're called, run rampant. The mononoke hime herself, a girl named San, is the lone human. Instead of "kouitten," one woman in a group of men, it is "hitoitten," one human in a group of animals.
Rather than following the long-established models of these "lands," the Boys' Land and Girls' Land that appear here are caricatures [giga] of them. It's inevitable that the heroine in this kind of setting will also become a caricature.
Part VII - Kushana is an Enemy Hero in a Skirt
The Torumekian Empire's Commander in Charge of Remote Regions is a cool and calm beauty. Seen wearing a golden armor and a helmet, with a white mantle fluttering as she rides atop a Tormekian tank, Kushana is a gallant "Evil Queen."
However, what is remarkable about Kushana is not her role as a gear in the organization, but the way she tries to disobey the nation for her own reasons. She ignores an order to dig up the God Soldier (a large, Evangelion-like monster-robot) and take it back with her. Instead, she informs the enemy people of her ambition to turn the Valley into an ideal nation. "Because of the Sea of Corruption, you're on the brink of annihilation. Follow us and take part in our cause. Burn down the Sea and revive the land! To those who choose to follow me, I promise a life without the fear of poison or bugs!"
The concept of using technology to build a human-centered civilization is a thing of the Boys' Land. Kushana embodies this Boys' Land ideal well.
The difference between Kushana's and Monsley's personalities becomes clear in the scene where Nausicaa saves Kushana's life. When she is saved, Monsley mutters, "I lose" and betrays her country on the spot. Kushana says just, "Good job." We wonder, why save her in the first place? Kushana responds coolly, "How naive. Did you think I would grovel and thank you?"
The movie doesn't enter into an explanation of how she became so strong-willed, but her body, which people would probably call "deformed," speaks well of her life story and her desire for revenge against the bugs and forest. Half of her body, including her left arm and both legs, is
covered by a gold-colored metal. Kushana takes off her arm and shows it to the prisoners in one scene, leaving a very strange impression. "The person who becomes my husband will see even more hideous things."
As you can see, Kushana is not on the same level as those other, cheap "evil queens." Instead, she is another superstar. As an enemy hero with a shadow who looks like she could eat Nausicaa up, Kushana reigns inside the film. Only a hero like Char Aznoble in "Gundam" would be cool and nihilistic enough to take her on. Drawn in the same kind of post-apocalyptic world, "Conan's" goody/baddy, enemy/ally distinction was very obvious in its time. In "Nausicaa" however, the border between the goodies and baddies starts to blur. We're able to glimpse a loss of direction on the axes between modern/anti-modern and civilization/nature that start to indicate neither one is really correct.
The climax is when the ideological differences are boiled out. A giant herd of Ohmu start heading for the Valley. Kushana responds with a strategy to use the giant God Soldier weapon to annihilate the Ohmu. Her rationale is very 'modern,' very Boys' Land. Nausicaa's strategy is to dive straight into the heart of the Ohmu stampede and try to soothe the animals' anger. Well, "strategy" might have a nice ring to it here but Nausicaa is still clinging to her magical powers. It's not a "rational" decision; it's very anti-scientific, very Girls' Land.
Nausicaa succeeds and the story ends there. She calms the Ohmu's hearts, gets Kushana and the Tormekian army to retreat, raises the banner of the Girls' Land and the movie ends. We could call it a very blunt conclusion. In an instant the Ohmu are calmed, and there is no real resolution to the conflict.
There is also some confusion regarding Nausicaa and Kushana's characters. "Conan's" Lana and Monsley were both the type of characters to withdraw into their femininity at the end. They didn't depart from the traditionally drawn category of heroines in anime. Along those lines, Nausicaa and Kushana are closer to the traditional hero image in anime. They are drawn under the main controlling ideas that "Masculinity's good points = men's strength and cleverness," and "Femininity's good points = women's gentleness and cleverness." There's room for debate over what masculinity and femininity really mean, but in this case we can take masculinity as brave
strength in the face of danger and femininity as the cleverness to avoid meaningless battle. We could call Nausicaa and Kushana boys in girls' dress or mental [seishinteki] beauties wearing men's clothes... they are androgynous; genderless.
An ideal human model? Well, certainly. However it's not reality. In fact it's a fairly transparent decision. In an age without heroes, the only way to present a heroic hero is to make the protagonist a woman. And these women are not just anybody. They are both, formally, princesses by blood. Nausicaa is the daughter of the head of the Valley of Wind's royal family and she is called "princess" or "big-sister princess" [hime neesama] by her people. Kushana is not only a military commander, but also the princess of the Tormekian imperial family, called "Your Royal Highness" by her troops. As such young women, the fact Nausicaa has the absolute trust of her people and Kushana can call her troops "omae" out loud shows that they do have real power. However this is because they are chosen by their bloodlines and are legitimate successors = daughters = princesses. To tailor girls into heroes, it's still best to do it by lineage.
Part VI - Nausicaa is a Hero in a Skirt
On one hand Nausicaa may be the representative girl among the "Crimson Heroes" in anime history, but she is also well prepared to be a Girls' Land heroine (magical girl). She is a teenage girl. She is a princess. Also, like Lana in "Conan," she can mentally connect with non-human creatures. Above all else this is her most important ability.
The reason for her ability is that in this world, being able to coexist with the Ohmu and other forest creatures is a matter of life and death. Nausicaa, who can read the wind and understand the hearts of bugs, is a magical girl who holds humanity's key to survival.
Like a magical girl in the Girls' Land, Nausicaa has a fox-squirrel pet named Teto (a strange, small kind of animal that exists in the story) that follows her around. Of course she also has the cooperation of a boy friend--prince Asbel of the Pejite royal family. However, she is free from the magical girl's weak spot: the idea of romance as supreme. Her friendship with Asbel is one stripped of love. Nausicaa, who files through the sky on her mehve glider, pilots aircraft, jumps from craft to craft in mid-air and even researches the Sea of Corruption on the ground, is a mentally and physically capable supergirl. Instead of a heroine, it might be more correct to call her a shoujo hero.
It follows that her few weak points are also those of a hero. When her father is killed by the Torumekia forces, the normally quiet, intelligent girl goes into a rage. Screaming, "Damn you!! [onoree-!!]" she draws her blade and demonstrates splendid swordsmanship in cutting down the enemy troops one by one. It's such an un-heroine-like action that it even makes the enemy commander remark, "What a [yatsu], she went and killed them all!" [Translation note: "yatsu" is a somewhat impolite pronoun that is generally used to mean "he." The "she" that I added to complete the sentence in English is not in the original Japanese.]
However, after those other flawless heroes, when we see such a dazzling one pass through there is a certain sense of sarcasm. There's a legend in the Valley: "That one, dressed in blue, will stand in a field of gold. Tie the bonds to the lost lands... finally leading people to the pure land." The figure in the picture is a middle-aged guy with a beard, and the conclusion of the story hints at Nausicaa being this person. If we think about it such an ending is quite meaningful. Nausicaa is a "Man-hero" dressed in the skin of a magical girl.
The Woman that Became a Hero (eiyuu)--A Just Argument for "Nausicaa of the
Valley of Wind"
Part V - "Nausicaa" is the Battle between Civilization and Nature
"Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind" (1984) goes one step further than "Future Boy Conan." This theatrical-release film pushes the civilization vs. nature theme and the female characters to the forefront. Some make the complaint that the film is too simple compared to the manga version, which took over ten years to complete. However, the film was a more major production and many say that it is the highest accomplishment of Miyazaki anime and even Japanese animation in general.
It is 1000 years after the "Seven Days of Fire," when apocalypse destroyed civilization. A strange forest called the "sea of corruption" is spreading across the battered landscape, leaving only a few human survivors. The character Nausicaa is the daughter of the chief in "The Valley of Wind," a small kingdom at the edge of the forest. One day, the Torumekian Empire occupation force enters the Valley and kills the king.
The story that follows is very complicated. In "Nausicaa," the heads of both the friendly and enemy sides are women. Nausicaa is the head of the former and Commander Kushana is in charge of the latter. Kushana of Tormekia (Boys' Land)--trying to burn down the poisoned forest and build a new nation--versus Nausicaa from the Valley (Girls' Land)--insisting on living cooperatively with the forest. With these two on opposing sides of the axis and a third power, Pejite, also involved, a violent war breaks out. Meanwhile, Nausicaa and Kushana both hold ideals slightly different from that of their respective nations.
The modern vs. anti-modern, civilization vs. nature theme is much more severe here than it was in "Conan." It is no longer just between industry and farming; it's ultimately an opposition between the ecosystem and humans themselves. "Nausicaa" also includes a severe criticism of the Boys' Land. A large variety of unusual creatures including the giant "Ohmu" worms live in the forest. Instead of trying to drive the animals out of the forest, calling them "beasts" and "monsters" as the Boys' Land does, Nausicaa tries to reassure the animals and choose a path of harmony.
The two heroines in "Nausicaa" are unrelated to the old series' style of half-way "womanliness," which is very different from "Conan." In "Nausicaa," both women are unmistakably intelligent and powerful and they both possess excellent military skills.
Part IV - Monsley is the Treacherous "Crimson Soldier"
Monsley is the Vice-Chief of Industria's Administration Bureau and a subordinate of Administrative Chief Lepka. This woman, who leads the troops to invade High Harbor, plays the role of the typical "Evil Queen." She is an adult woman. She spits orders out at the male soldiers and must obey orders from her male superior (Lepka). However, she isn't just a witch wrapped up in a strange costume. She's a commander, dressed up in the same kind of jersey uniform that the other team members wear. If we try thinking of Industria as a satire of the Boys' Land it might be easier to understand the situation. Monsley is closer to a Crimson Soldier in the Boys' Land than the proud "Evil Witch" with overwhelming power.
By the way, I mentioned that the weaponless High Harbor had no way to avoid being occupied. Actually a very easy solution was devised to solve that--the commander's treachery. Yes, in the middle of everything Monsley betrays Industria and joins the High Harbor side. She does it only because her life is saved by Conan once and she is moved by High Harbor's natural environment. Following her change of sides, other Industria soldiers conveniently transform into farmers and are let in to work and cooperate in the harbor. Originally, Monsley lost both of her parents due to the great changes on the earth. She reacted by denying her own femininity and becoming a tough soldier. Isn't that indeed a Crimson Soldier from the Boys' Land?
Lana is, from the start, a girl with a very weak sense of independence; the "type of girl that sticks to guys." Monsley, on the other hand, is drawn as a woman who sealed away her femininity due to trauma when she was young, a "manly woman (but who really is womanly)." The two traditional ways to explain "strong women" are exposed here: "A woman who quietly
perseveres is the truly strong woman" and "The woman who acts strong is actually gentle and sentimental."
To prove their "womanliness," Lana leaves High Harbor and follows Conan to go back and rebuild Remnant Island, and Monsley marries her former rival Captain Dyce at the story's conclusion. The climax in the final episode is a scene with Monsley all dressed up in a white wedding gown, head turned down and silent during the wedding ceremony on the ship. What both Lana and Monsley receive at the end of their long battle is a bridegroom and a path into marriage. If we follow the principle that the ultimate goal of life in the Girls' Land is to find a lover, we could probably say that "Conan" depicts the victory of the Girls' Land very clearly.
Part III - Lana is the Waiting "Magical Girl"
Lana is a High Harbor girl. Even though she's just a kid (which I probably shouldn't say), she is in love with Conan from the time she drifts ashore on Remnant Island. From the beginning, Conan's battle is to save Lana after she is kidnapped and imprisoned in Industria. To Lana, Conan is a wonderful prince who will protect and save her. That explains how the Girls' Land is the good side.
In truth, Lana carries all of the characteristics of a Girls' Land heroine. She is an eleven-year old girl [shoujo] (child [kodomo]). She has telepathic powers and is able to communicate mentally with animals and people in remote places. It would be appropriate to call her a magical girl who doesn't transform. When she leaves her physical body to go searching for Conan on the ocean, it is very "magical girl."
However, this girl isn't playing your ordinary "waiting woman" [matsu onna] or "persevering woman" [taeru onna]. She is the granddaughter of the scientist who holds the key to solar energy. Due to that fact she is kidnapped by Industria, but to an admirable degree she takes no action on her own. Even when kidnapped and imprisoned, she just waits quietly and bears it. This girl can't even walk on her own two feet. What an extreme contrast to the wild boy Conan, who's able to get everything done with just his toes. Scenes in the series where Conan lightheartedly picks Lana up and flies, runs or swims around holding her are very, very frequent. Couldn't she even try saying something like, "I can at least raise the mast by myself"?
The time when Lana's role shines the most is the scene when Conan is about to drown on the bottom of the ocean. She brings him air and gives it to him mouth-to-mouth in order to save him. Rescue and romance... There is no scene in "Conan" that expresses the show's ideals more than this well-discussed underwater scene. Wonderfully appropriate for a magical
Part II - Less than Heroic Women: The Simplicity of "Future Boy Conan"
Future Boy Conan is the battle between an agriculture-based state and an industry-based state.
I said that Miyazaki anime depicts the battle between Boys' Land and Girls' Land. The first anime that shows this fairly simply is "Future Boy Conan." The series was broadcast on NHK in 1978 and it is what made Miyazaki's name known in the world.
It is 2028, twenty years since advanced magnetic weaponry brought on a final war that caused five continents to sink into the ocean. The few people who survived the destruction live on a small island named "Remnant Island." All of these people eventually die, leaving only the one boy who was born on the island to fend for himself. Soon we find out that other lands survived on the earth as well. One is Industria, and industrial nation that still clings to past civilization. The other is High Harbor, an agricultural country--"paradise on earth"--that lives cooperatively with nature. The story that follows becomes fairly complicated. Troops from Industria enter High Harbor looking for the secret of "solar energy" (the professor who holds the key to solar energy lives in the Harbor). Conan joins the conflict and fights on the side of High Harbor.
This simple setup of Industrial Nation = bad, Agricultural Nation = good might seem pleasant compared to what we've seen, but we must pay attention to the fact that Industria is not simply an evil empire. Even after the apocalypse, the country defends the scientific tradition of the past, somewhat resembling the earth in "Space Cruiser Yamato." Furthermore, the protagonist Conan comes from a third land (Remnant Island) that is not part of either of the fighting countries. Conan just defies battle, with the personal objective of saving High Harbor's number one girl. The plot is not only about protection of the good country, but also about the liberation of the hostile nation's people (Industria is a class society that uses humans as slave labor).
So in a variety of meanings, it could be said that "Future Boy Conan" relativizes the 'justice' created by the old regime's Boys' Land, clearly setting it on an axis in a technology vs. ecology, civilization vs. nature, modern vs. anti-modern, boy vs. girl opposition. There is one problem with this, however. Battle between the military state Industria and the weaponless High Harbor doesn't break out in the first place. How will High Harbor overcome the crisis of invasion?
The position of the female characters is deeply related to this. In "Conan" there are two heroines--High Harbor (Girls' Land) resident Lana and Industria (Boys' Land) officer Monsley. The two create an ambiguity that could be called the first version of the "two main heroine" figures in later Miyazaki hero anime.
Chapter 3 - Patriotic Girls: "Conan," "Nausicaa," and "Mononoke Hime"
Part I - Miyazaki Anime is the Story of "the Boys' Land vs. the Girls' Land"
We probably can't talk about contemporary animation without mentioning the successful works of director Miyazaki Hayao. His theatrical films are one explosive hit after another, and they continually set new records for profits and attendance. Is Miyazaki anime just anime, or is it a sparkling star in the world of Japanese film?
Miyazaki has written several different kinds of stories, but in this chapter I would like to concentrate on the patterns in his sci-fi adventures such as "Future Boy Conan" and "Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind." As futuristic stories of battle and heroes, they do have some points in common with "Yamato" and "Gundam." However, I am sure that many feel Miyazaki's work is different from those others. Miyazaki's films do seem a bit unlike Boys' Land stories of macho heroes, yet they're also somewhat removed from Girls' Land stories of fashionable magical girls.
The special characteristics in Miyazaki anime are the active girls. They aren't just for show; female characters with will power equal to or stronger than their male counterparts play leading and supporting roles in Miyazaki's work. One might say that Miyazaki's works have received broad support as "anime for the people" for that reason. If we examine the stories more closely however, we notice an interesting point--Miyazaki's anime is neither Boys' Land nor Girls' Land anime, but it is deeply related to both. Miyazaki anime actually depicts a battle between the Boys' Land and the Girls' Land.
As we've seen so far, the Boys' Land in anime is the military nation based totally on science and technology. The Girls' Land is the land of anti-scientific dreams. In Miyazaki anime however, those positions are slightly altered. Here, states based on science (= Boys' Land) become the enemy, but they also demonstrate some reconsideration of the excessive principles of scientific supremacy. The Girls' Land is the 'good' side. Still, it is not simply a dreamland based on an infatuation for fashion and love; it is drawn as an ecologically-motvated nation that lives cooperatively with nature. The Girls' Land too has reconsidered the standard infatuation with fashion and love. Accordingly, we can expect that there will be some reconsideration of the stereotypical female character as well.
In Miyazaki anime, the good side is the land where girls live. The other team, the enemy team, is always lead by a woman commander. Boys belong to neither of these two sides, and as members of a third land they cooperate with the girls. In short, in Miyazaki anime females are representatives for both the Boys' Land and the Girls' Land, and boys are just an extra [omake].
This kind of situation is something not found in anime before Miyazaki. However, as "Yamato" and "Gundam" make us consider the number of female characters in the 'team,' "Conan" and "Nausicaa" are connected to a more qualitative question--are the leading women able to become heroines [eiyuu]?
Now that we are discussing women's roles in animation, I felt this was the perfect time to unload this epic monster on your laps. This is a chapter from a book titled, "Kouittenron: The Heroine Image in Anime, SFX (tokusatsu) and Biography" by Minako Saitou. This chapter is devoted to three of Hayao Miyazaki's works: Future Boy Conan (1978), Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (1984), and Princess Mononoke (1997), and examines women's roles in each.
This is a masterful read, and it has helped me to understand Miyazaki's work from a Japanese perspective. This book has never been released in the West; it was instead carefully translated by a dedicated fan and posted on message boards a decade ago. This was purely an act of love, meant to share any and all news about Hayao Miyazaki long before DVD and YouTube made it possible.
These segments are in sequence, based on the sub-sections from the book. There are 11 sections in all. Parts I-IV discuss Future Boy Conan. Parts V-VII discuss Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. Parts VIII-XI discuss Princess Mononoke.
Update: Here are the links to all 11 posts from Minako Saitou's essay. Enjoy!
Future Boy Conan
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
The Pixar crew are at the Cannes Film Festival, where Up was screened as the opening movie to great acclaim. They even set up their own Twitter account (titled, funny enough, "Up_dates") where they inform us on their latest antics. As you can see, they're having a great time, and they're posting photos regularly. We'll be sure to check on them regularly.
Even more good news: the Up_dates guys are now followers of The Ghibli Blog's Twitter page! Break open the soda and balloons! Yaaayy! Now everybody has to go visit them and drag each and every one of them back here to the blog. If we're going to have a blog called, "Conversations on Ghibli," it would be great to hear from Ghibli's best and brightest students.
Go pay Pixar a visit on Twitter and bring 'em back here!
I saw this other paper model based on Howl's Moving Castle from searching around on Flikr. It's really very impressive. Does anyone have experience with making these? I don't know if I'd be able to piece this thing together without making a collosal mess. I can do paper airplanes, and that's about it.
Still, I am sorely tempted to order one of these paper craft books and give it a go.
Check out these photos of a paper craft of Howl's Moving Castle. Groovy.
There were actually a number of books in Japan where you could construct your own replica of Howl's Castle. Also, if you don't mind losing the color, you can download templates and print them off of your computer. Just give it the 'ol Google try and see what you come up with. Or you can just check out this person's blog (see the links on the pics) and he should be able to help you. Good luck!
I really love the classical romanticism of this poster for Porco Rosso. It's a bit unconventional by modern movie standards, but it's perfect for this film. This is not the umteenth ripoff of Star Wars. This is not a movie that revolves around noisy action scenes and explosions and firefights. This is a movie about romance and lost youth.
I often think of Porco Rosso as the definitive Studio Ghibli film, because it captures all of the great qualities of the studio's work - the impressionist artwork, the rustic adventurism, the Neorealist attention to detail, the emphasis on nuanced, three-dimensional characters, the sheer humanity of the stories. If you want to hook somebody into the films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, this might be the perfect choice.
For Miyazaki, it's one of his more personal works, as he reworks one of his minor comics into a midlife crisis. The longing nostalgia speaks not just for the world before WWII, or the early years of aviation, but his own youth. The slapstick comedy harkens back to his early adventurous work, like Animal Treasure Island or Lupin III, and there's a sense of boyish fun throughout the picture.
And, of course, this wouldn't be Miyazaki without the strong female characters, who are the moral center of this film. There's a quiet romance between Marco and Gina that reveals itself, slowly, like a blossoming flower. They share a long history together, and the subtleties of their relationship, as well as Marco's reluctance to finally pursue Gina, are carefully revealed through glances, asides, grunts, and unspoken gestures.
The boys in this movie, of course, are all baffoons. Miyazaki gets his kicks from turning gender stereotypes on its ear, just as he enjoys portraying violence as so much boyish huffing and puffing. You could probably write a whole essay on that climactic air battle between Marco and Curtis. The whole movie builds up to the big fight, and when it comes, Miyazaki slashes the air out of the tires, and everything ends in a punchout worthy of The Three Stooges.
Again, great movie poster. There have been a couple other Porco Rosso posters, but this one is the best.
This is a rather interesting pre-release poster for Miyazaki's 1984 Nausicaa film. I'm a bit curious about this one, actually. If you're a careful observer, you'll note that this poster is not based on the movie, but the ongoing graphic novel that was appearing in the monthly pages of Animage.
The text near the top clearly shows that this is a promotional poster for the movie, not the manga. And yet we can note all the differences made to some of the characters in the final film. I'm sure much of this revolves around Miyazaki's desire for Nausicaa to be a self-contained movie, and not the beginning of a movie franchise. He was notoriously reluctant to bring his manga to film in the first place; it was only after much needling from Toshio Suzuki and Tokuma Shoten that the film director finally relented.
The other key insight is that, due to the way Miyazaki creates his work, Nausicaa the manga was nowhere near being completed. By the time he took his first sabbatical to work on the film, his story had just begun to branch out, becoming steadily more complex and complicated. He had a vague sense of where he wanted to go and some key elements near the end - the revival of an ancient "God Warrior" was already conceived, and would go through numerous revisions before the character Ohma is finally introduced a decade later.
All of this speaks to the challenges of bringing Nausicaa to the big screen. What are the overarching themes? What will be the peaks and valleys of a three-act script? What should the climax be? And how should it end? By this point in his life, Hayao Miyazaki had adopted a far more complex and nuanced worldview. His youthful idealism was fading in the face of midlife realism and a growing sense of pessimism for humanity.
The brilliance of the Nausicaa film is how it captures this uncertainty. It is a movie that raises many questions, but offers no real answers. Smart minds will come away debating the issues and choices by the characters. This is no simple melodrama with a preachy kumbaya message. It is a story awash in shades of grey. This uncertainty gives the movie an open-ended quality, and this is where its greatness lies. Nausicaa is the true heir to Horus, Prince of the Sun, and it may very well be Miyazaki's finest directoral work.
The seeds of Miyazaki's world-weary and darker worldview were sown in Future Boy Conan and Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro. In Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, they would fully bloom, and the great animation director would enter a new phase of his career. And his pessimism would only grow over time. By the time the Nausicaa manga was finally completed in 1994, he set to work on Mononoke, where the idealism of his past was left broken, beaten, and scarred.
Anyway, this is a terrific poster. The composition is tight, and the colors perfectly match the rough pen strokes. It's a wonderfully dark, saturated look, just like the mood of the film itself.
This weekend, Pepperdine University bestowed an honorary Doctorate upon Pixar's John Lasseter. This news comes courtesy of his lifelong friend, who posted this photograph on Flikr under the name "davedoo." Cartoon Brew then picked up on the news, and now you're reading it here. Congratulations on the Doctorate, and here's hoping for many more!
Isn't the internet great? Basically, if you're a person of any importance, every significant event in your life will become public knowledge around the world more or less instantly.
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
Okay, it's the morning, but I was sleeping through a stomach illness yesterday, and was knocked out cold all night long. I thought about skipping the Bugs Bunny cartoon for the day, but, ehh, that would be mean. You can't go more than a day without Looney Tunes.
This is the Bugs Bunny baseball cartoon. It's terrific, hah hah hah hah hah hah. Enjoy, kids!
One of you asked me if I had read this 2000 essay by Christine Hoff Kraemer, and I have to admit I hadn't. This is the first time I've discovered her essay, and it's such an excellent read that I had to share with everyone.
Christine Hoff Kraemer examines issues of feminism as addressed in Western and Eastern animation. Specifically, Miyazaki's films (Nausicaa, Mononoke) against Disney's films (Pocahontas, Mulan). Her insights are illuminating as she pits the four female lead characters against one another, judging their relative strengths and merits.
It should come as no surprise that Kraemer prefers Miyazaki, of course. Her closing paragraph:
Though Disney is still unmatched in the sophistication of its animation, the content of its films is still far from cutting-edge. Miyazaki's films are much richer in content and complex in plot – they are films for children to grow up with and grow into, much like the best of classic children's literature; Mononoke, while still a family film, was marketed for older children and young adults. Disney, on the other hand, seems to be increasingly ignoring the older contingent of its audience to produce films with overly simplistic storylines and gaping plot holes (as anyone who groaned when a group of six Huns nearly took over Mulan's China knows). Further, the portrayals of Mulan and Pocahantas bespeak a schizophrenic political agenda – the two heroines behave in extremely conservative, regressive ways at some points in the films (Pocahantas's passive role in her sexual relationship, Mulan's return to family life) and in extremely progressive ways in others (Pocahantas's powerful defense of living in harmony with nature, Mulan's successfully fulfilling the traditionally male role of a soldier). Perhaps the reality simply is that in terms of unity of message, Miyazaki's total creative control over his films produces pieces that are far more artistically and thematically coherent than Disney's films, which see the creative influences of many different minds and hands. In terms of providing strong female role models for our children, however, the choice between Disney and Miyazaki is clear: the future of feminism in animated films is undoubtedly Japanese.
Nina Paley explains the reality of free content in the digital age, and how it is superior to traditional copyright law. She understands the Long Tail of art and animation perfectly, as the amazing success of Sita Sings the Blues demonstrates.
This is how the game is played in the internet age, kids. Learn the rules, adapt, evolve.
Just so you know, I've added Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves to the "Download These Fansubs" section. This is actually an old VHS copy of the US dubbed version, "Ali Baba's Revenge." The running time is about an hour, and you'll have a great time. Try it out on your kids and see what they think. If they love Looney Tunes, you'll have yourself a winner. Enjoy.
Finally got it! Now we can start tearing apart Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. What did I think of it? I thought it was great. It's one of those movies that gets better as it goes along, and features some very stylish scenes. Essentially, the whole movie is a slapstick cartoon, certainly leaner than Puss in Boots and Animal Treasure Island, but no less fun. It's just so laughably zany.
Anyway, I spotted a few riffs. Here is a cut from Ali Baba, near the end. This shot of one character leaving the other dangling on the edge is quoting the same shot from (surprise!) Horus, Prince of the Sun. I have to admit, this one was a real surprise, so it was nice to spot.
The first photo is from Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, and the second is from Horus. But you could figure that out pretty easily, right?
I think you can guess by now that I'm working to document all the movie posters of the Takahata/Miyazaki canon, stretching from Ghibli all the way back to Toei. It's all part of my master plan to have everything under one roof. It's about more than this movie or that movie; it's about 50 years of anime history.
That said, I can think of no better poster to share with you than Japan's very first animated feature - the 1958 Toei Doga movie Hakujaden ("Legend of the White Serpent"). The studio was founded to create feature animation that would rival the world's best. On that front, they succeeded masterfully, and the spirit of Toei Doga lives on today in Studio Ghibli.
Hakujaden was released in the US in a dubbed version under the title, "Panda and the Magic Serpent." It's currently available on YouTube, and one of these days, I'll post it here so you can watch and enjoy. The dub isn't the best, but it is somewhat bearable.
I'm sorry for this image being in black-and-white, but it's the only one I could find on the internet that was large enough. This is a scan from the laserdisc release of Horus, which Nausicaa.net so graciously posted. I am thankful that they continue to be so useful.
In any case, this is the poster for Horus, Prince of the Sun. Toei really knew how to make movie posters, even though they had no idea what to think of this one. Sometimes, I think Toei still doesn't get Horus.
If you really want to understand the context of that era, just go to YouTube and watch clips of the Toei Doga feature films and tv shows. It's so easy for us to understand Horus today, after it blazed the trail for 40 years of progressive, adult anime. But in the 1960s? Good Lord, this movie was the Slayer of its day. Still is.
(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube. Sorry.)
It's time, kiddies, for our evening Looney Tunes fix. We've got ourselves into some heavy topics today, so this makes for a good release. Yay for Bugs Bunny cartoons!
Since I brought up the subject of gender and women's roles in animation and cartoons, I thought it only fair to link to this 2007 article from Salon. Catherine Price followed up on another short essay, written by Liz Kelly at the Washington Post. They both stress that they are great Pixar fans, and are thrilled by their many terrific movies. But why are the leads always boys? Why can't a girl be the main character?
I think this clip from Liz Kelly's article sums it all up:
I remain thankful that we have such a successful animation studio in Pixar, that we can sit and debate the finer points of gender equality and who gets a seat at the table. 15 years ago, I would have been happy for anything that just didn't suck. Thank goodness song-and-dance numbers have been done away with. No one over the age of six ever liked those stupid singalong songs. I know I was sick of 'em by the time I was seven.
I give Pixar much credit for breathing life into some gutsy, admirable females. Helen Parr of "The Incredibles" not only keeps her household in order, she can stretch her limbs to limits even the uber-flexible Madonna couldn't reach. Sally Carrera in "Cars" is the spunky owner of her own business. And in "Ratatouille," Colette (voiced by Janeane Garofalo) makes an impassioned speech about how, as the only woman working in the kitchen at the chi-chi Gusteau's, she is tired of getting pushed around by all the men. She is femme, hear her roar.
But still, in the end, all of these women wind up playing love interest -- and second fiddle -- to the heroes. The fact that most of the Pixar filmmakers behind these flicks are male could be part of the problem. Interestingly, none of this seems to bother girls, who seem to flock to and adore these movies just as much as boys do. Perhaps to them, watching an animated toy or fish or rat transcends gender. Maybe they see these characters as just beings, neither male nor female. Perhaps there's a lesson there.
And I remain an optimist on this issue. It's downright bizarre that half the population is being ignored by most Hollywood movies. Then when you add in recent animation films like Sita Sings the Blues, Paprika, Persepolis, and Studio Ghibli, this simply becomes a no-brainer.
If I were in charge of hiring new talent at any of the major studios, here's what I would do: hire talented female artists, graphic designers, graphic novelists, and animators. Hire women and women only, and bring the gender ratio to an even balance. How important is that? Consider this fact: one half of the staff of Studio Ghibli is female. And you wonder why their films are so overwhelmingly feminine?
Just sit back and watch Momose's Piece again, and think to yourself, "Why isn't this happening over here? We should be the ones creating movies like this."
Here's a question for everyone to ponder: what is the liklihood of seeing a movie poster like this in the United States? The answer is obvious: not bloody likely. It's damned near impossible to find movies where females take center stage, apart from the terribly formulaic rom-coms. And in animation, it is literally impossible.
It's absurd to see this retrograde mentality, while the rest of the world has moved on. The most successful movie outside of the US - Miyazaki's 2001 The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro - demolishes any claims or excuses one can conjure. Here is a movie that was a runaway phenonemon the world over, an Oscar-winner, a high-water mark for traditional, hand-drawn animation. It centers entirely on a 10-year-old girl. And it's aimed at 10-year-old girls, or anyone who once was a 10-year-old girl (to paraphrase Miyazaki).
There is simply no excuse that every American animated movie is centered around boys. There is no excuse why women and girls only play token sidekicks in the Pixar movies. There is no excuse why the only acceptable role for a female lead is the Disney-fied fairy tale princess. There is no damned excuse. End of story.
I've been reading a number of blog posts this weekend on the issue of women and gender roles in animated movies from Pixar and elsewhere, and it's always so deeply frustrating. I can relate to the frustration women feel at dealing with the boys' club, because it's all so damned abusrd and useless. But there is always this attitude of helplessness, as though we are confronted by some immovable force of history. It's as though nobody wants to lift their eyes beyond this nation's borders, to see what the "rest of the world" has been up to.
Why are we still dealing with fairy tale princesses? Is this 1950? Why is there one token female who exists solely for the boy who's the lead? Why are all these movies aimed at 13-year-old boys, anyway? What's the point? The most frustrating thing is that every American animator boasts endlessly of their love for Hayao Miyazaki. Well....what's the deal?
There's no damned excuse. This is a question of access, pure and simple. Give women artists the chance, and they will prove themselves. They can make history. It's happening everywhere else. Why not here?
Oh, and by the way....this is a really great movie poster, don't ya think? Ghibli used it as the cover for their Spirited Away DVD. Enjoy.
Someone on Twitter reminded me of this, so naturally, I had to post it on the blog. Back during the laserdisc game fad of the early 1980s, there was one title named, "Cliff Hanger." It was fairly obscure, and rarely used at my local arcade. It wasn't until many years later when we realized the game's was really Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro.
I distinctly remember the beginning of the game, which plays through the casino getaway at the beginning of the movie. You had to press the button or move the joystick (or whatever) as Lupin and Jigen hopped the fences in that comical manner. I don't remember seeing any more footage than that, because that was as far as I ever got. And hardly anybody bothered with laserdisc games, anyway. Once we figured out the whole thing was a scam (watch cartoon footage, move a joystick, snore), that was it. We were back with the real videogames.
In any case, here's the flyer for Cliff Hanger. All of the names have been changed, in the tradition of hacking and slashing anime in the '80s. Anime never got any respect back then. Even now, I sometimes wonder just how far we've progressed. It's still stuck in a ghetto by the powers that be; only the names have changed.
Here is a terrific movie poster for My Neighbors the Yamadas. It's design is bold and colorful, but also a bit abstract. This suggests a certain difficulty in selling the movie to the general public. It's remarkable to think that Isao Takahata continued to push the boundaries of anime well into his 60's. It's all the more remarkable that he chose to follow Miyazaki's epic blockbuster, Princess Mononoke, with the comic strip humor and zen graphic design of Yamadas.
Don't you get the feeling that Takahata was trying to rebel against Ghibli's new status in the movie world? The studio had been known for quiet, almost low-key personal films. Then Mononoke exploded in Japan, and it's success suggested a new tension for where they should go. Should Ghibli stay true to its roots, centered around personal storytelling, wrapped in Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave? Or Should Ghibli create expensive, lavish epics, indulging Miyazaki's creative excesses every step of the way?
I've given this much thought, and I think there may be some truth to this theory. It's remarkable to me how completely different My Neighbors the Yamadas is from Mononoke, seemingly deliberately so. The movie's visual style, with spare splashes of watercolor accenting the frame's negative space, is nothing short of miraculous. But if you wanted to see another enormous spectacle after Mononoke...well, you would have been disappointed.
The movie went over budget and over schedule. The official reason is the studio's shift from paints and traditional cels to computers. But no doubt creative tensions were present, as you would expect when two legendary filmmakers share the same roof. Whatever happened during the this time remains a mystery. Yamadas was finally completed and released in the summer of 1999, where it faced two blockbuster movie events - Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, and the first Pokemon movie. Takahata didn't stand a chance. Yamadas tanked at the Japanese box office and was the studio's greatest financial failure.
When the dust had finally settled, Isao Takahata had stepped down from directing. He created one short segment, only one minute long, for the 2003 anthology film Winter Days, but that remains his only work in a decade. What happened? Did Takahata go into semi-retirement, as he himself has said, or was there more? Was he pushed? What tensions exist between him and his lifelong friend, Hayao Miyazaki?
Perhaps I'm thinking too hard about this topic. It may be just as Takahata has said, that he wanted to step down and focus on other things. He has been instrumental in bringing foreign animation to Japan under Ghibli's banner, helping to expand the company brand as well as expose Japan to great films from around the world. He has written and lectured on Japan's rich history of scroll painting, something he points to as a direct ancestor to anime and manga. And he has made public appearances and given lectures throughout the world. And Takahata has been in the planning stages for his next feature film at Ghibli, an event that has been eagerly anticipated for many years.
It's so easy for us to take advantage of these great artists. But they're not young anymore. Most of the old Toei gang from the 1960's has either retired or died. Of that group, only Hayao Miyazaki, 68, is still making films. Isao Takahata is now 72 years old, and if he manages to complete his next film, he will be around 75. Sooner or later, the rest of us are going to have to make our peace with mortality, and be thankful for the many great works these artists have given us.
And if My Neighbors the Yamadas is indeed Takahata's final feature film, I wouldn't mind. It's a spectacular film, visionary and ahead of his time - the perfect companion piece to Horus, Prince of the Sun. And the movie's ending, the lavish and comically tweaking song-and-dance number, has a bittersweet Abbey Road quality to it. It's as close to a final curtain call as you're likely to see in the movies.