g h i b l i 2 5 t h a n n i v e r s a r y r e l e a s e s
The unrivalled Studio Ghibli has released two of its greatest creations back into cinemas this month as 25th anniversary editions and boy are they different. They both have one thing in common though, they are magnificent. But in very different ways. Did we mention they were different? Good, now read this and get yourself to the cinema. Leave the kids at home for the second one though.
24th May 2013
29th May 2013
First released in 1988, My Neighbour Totoro tells the tale of two young girls who move house to be nearer to the hospital where their mother is suffering from an undisclosed illness. On their arrival, they discover a forest full of wonder and outright delight.
Outright delight is a constant theme from Miyazaki’s fourth feature length film. It can be found in every frame of this wonderful animation. The bonkers playfulness found in The Castle of Cagliostro is toned down for this adventure but it is still lingering in the background.
As the girls seek to escape what is presumably a troubling situation with their mother, they either create or actually inhabit (whichever way you want to take it) a fantastic dream / dream-like world where giant monsters are just furry innocents and the best mode of transport is a catbus that glides effortlessly over the hills and allows them to spy on their mother from a nearby tree.
Easily accessible to kids and grown-ups alike, Miyazaki creates a tone that is never childish but always playful. If you’re a big horrible adult (such as myself), you’ll appreciate the wonderful innocence of the world he creates and if you’re a kid, well, I guess you’re going to really enjoy the Totoro and his little friends. Did we mention that the bus is a cat?
It goes without saying that the animation is gorgeous but it’s worth mentioning because it’s probably the best early example of Miyazaki really hitting his stride and refining his style. The chance to see this on the big screen is not one you should not be passing up. Go and see this movie now. Take your kids if you have any and introduce them to a genuine visionary’s early work. Then go buy The Castle of Cagliostro on Blu-Ray.
24th May 2013
Seita and Setsuko
29th May 2013
Also released in 1988 and directed by Miyazaki’s Ghibli friend and colleague Takahata, Grave of the Fireflies tells the tale of siblings struggling to survive during World War II in Japan. After their mother is killed in an air raid, the siblings move in with relatives but when that doesn’t work out, they are forced to fend for themselves.
It’s difficult to describe just how good this film is, had it been live action, I suspect it would have received much wider attention than the animation and it really deserves it. It never once flinches from showing the horror of the impact of war on the two protagonists but at the same time, it does manage to keep an air of hope in front of the viewer, mostly in the form of the titular Fireflies. There are many playful scenes between the siblings that lighten the mood but the effect of showing their strengthening bond only serves to compound the tragedy later.
The animation is up to the usual Ghibli standards but the palette and the sharpness of the lines is adjusted to bring the real world depiction into sharper focus than the Miyazaki films.
It is no exaggeration that this film left me about as devastated as any I’ve watched but even given the emotional wreck I was at the conclusion, I have to recommend this film as essential viewing. You’ll wonder how you ever missed it in your consideration of war films. It deserves to be seen up there with all the more feted live action films. At the time of writing it sits at number 100 in the IMDB top 250. It deserves to be higher and it deserves to be seen on the big screen. You might want to arrange a couple of drinks afterwards though. You’ll need them to take the edge off.