Tag Archives: hayao miyazaki

Review: Princess Mononoke (1997) Anime | My Reviews 07 FEB 2014

princess mononoke anime 1In a remote mountain village far away in Northern Japan, Ashitaka, the last young warrior of the dying Emishi clan, is forced to kill a monster to protect his village. Too late, he discovers that the boar-like creature he killed is a protector-god of the forest. The god had been driven insane by a small iron pellet, found deep inside of its body. Although the villagers immediately lay the body to rest, they cannot escape the dying creature’s words. The day of the human is coming to a close.

In killing the demon boar, Ashitaka has brought upon himself a curse, its sign a twisted scar on his right forearm that is slowly spreading. The village elders can do nothing for him, and the only chance Ashitaka has means he has to be banished from his village, never to set foot there again.

Ashitaka journeys to the land of the iron forging Tatara clan where he hopes to uncover the mystery of the curse before it takes his young life. Along the way, he becomes involved in the bitter fight between two warring factions of humans and a race of forest-gods trapped in the middle.

During one battle, Ashitaka sees San, the Princess Mononoke, a young woman raised by wolves, who is prepared to die to defeat the humans. She and her wolves will stop at nothing to kill the Tatara village leader, the regal Lady Eboshi. Against his will, Ashitaka is drawn into the struggle between man and nature, trying to persuade the two sides to find another way, one that will halt the endless circle of killing. He seeks a middle ground where forest creatures and humans can live in the world in peace together.

But man’s greed truly knows no bounds.

Princess Mononoke is perhaps one of Hayao Miyazaki’s strongest pieces of work. An epic tale, Princess Mononoke details the ongoing struggle between nature and mankind. The central character Ashitaka serves to try and show us that perhaps there is a way in which nature and humans can co-exist without destroying each other. Moral lesson aside, the storytelling in Princess Mononoke is nothing short of superb. It is a simple story, but crafted so elegantly and potently, that one cannot help but receive the message put forward by Miyazaki.

The animation is lush and vibrant, with the characters and locations all colourfully rendered. The movements are very fluid, and the attention to detail is astonishing. The designs of the forest spirits are very well conceived, something we have come to expect from Miyazaki.

The soundtrack is filled with hauntingly beautiful classical music scores, which adds beautifully to the unfolding story. The voices are spot on, and the sound-effects for the various creatures is nothing short of superb.

Seeing Princess Mononoke’s success in Japan, the second movie to ever break $150 million at the Japanese box office (the other being ‘Titanic’), Miramax Films decided to release a dubbed version to Western audiences. The film was very well received and paved the way for such future cinema releases of Japanese animated feature films.

Overall, Princess Mononoke stands out as my personal favourite piece of anime of all time. I cannot find any fault with it at all. The story, art and soundtrack are sublime. This is anime at its zenith. If you have not yet seen Princess Mononoke, then I suggest you make a plan to see it as soon as possible.

princess mononoke anime 2

(Historical Note: This was written back in June 2003. Thankfully my writing has improved greatly since then.)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Mononoke

Review: Spirited Away (2001) Anime | My Reviews 16 NOV 2013

spirited away anime posterLife’s difficult when you move house. Ten-year old Chihiro and her family are moving to a small remote town in the heart of Japan. Chihiro is sulky, not happy at the prospect of leaving their old home and starting a new life somewhere else.

On the way to their new home, Chihiro’s dad gets a little lost. Following a shortcut through a forest, they come across a crumbling tunnel. Intrigued, Chihiro’s parents decide to explore the tunnel before moving on to their new home. On the other end of the dimly lit tunnel lies an abandoned theme park.

Wandering through the quiet streets, Chihiro’s mom and dad stumble across a stall stocked with food. Chihiro, not wanting to eat of the food, wanders off on her own. Across a small river lies a strange looking bath house. It’s here that things become a little strange. A boy named Haku appears out from nowhere and forces Chihiro to run away from the bath house. But when Chihiro finally reaches the stall where she left her parents, all she finds are two pigs amongst all the food.

Night has fallen and the theme park has crossed over into the spirit realm. The bath house, run by the evil witch Yu-baba, caters for all the spirits of this world, providing a place for them to come and renew themselves. Chihiro’s parents have been transformed into pigs as punishment for eating the food of the spirits. They are to be slaughtered and provided as meat for the bath house guests in due time. Chihiro, trapped in this world, must surrender her name and work in this world in order to try and save her parents from this horrible fate.

Now known as Sen, Chihiro, with the help of the mysterious Haku and the maid Lin, must work hard to earn the trust of Yu-baba and finally receive the chance of claiming her name back and freeing her parents from this terrible spell. Encountering many dangerous and wonderous enemies and allies alike, Sen embarks on a voyage of self-discovery, finding the true depths of her inner strength and spirit.

Spirited Away is a wonderous tale directed by Hayao Miyazaki and brought to life by Studio Ghibli. Over the years, the collaboration between these two has always produced memorable movies, and this one is no exception.

Spirited Away is a marvellously told story about a girl forced into a situation beyond her control, and how she finds the strength to deal with it. Sen’s (Chihiro) wonderful naivety and compassion shine through as she grows as a person throughout this movie.

The story is simple and elegantly told. The first three quarters of the movie introduce the colourful and diverse land of the spirits as well as the plight and work of Sen. Miyazaki goes to great lengths to introduce a host of strange and wonderous creatures, all interacting together under the roof of the bright and colourful bath house. The story highlights how greed tends to corrupt people and how sincerity and pureness of spirit should always win through.

The animation is classic Miyazaki, his distinct style clearly visible on all the characters introduced throughout the film. His locations and designs are pure fantasy. The animation sticks closely to the traditional flat 2D animation, staying far away from any CGI. If any special effects were used, they were carefully blended in the background so as not to draw attention away from the story busy unfolding.

The musical score for the movie is entirely orchestral-based, providing a hauntingly beautiful and melodic backdrop against which the story can be told.

After Spirited Away’s success in Japan, Disney decided to licence it and bring a translated version to the Western audiences. The translated version is very well done, and Spirited Away walked away with a few Oscar Awards.

My only complaint about this film lies in the time taken to tell the story. As mentioned before, the first three quarters of the movie act as the introduction to Chihiro and outlines the work she has to undertake in the bath house. However, because so much time is used up during this part of the movie, not much time is left for the conclusion of the film, giving it a slightly rushed feeling at the end.

Despite this minor observation, Spirited Away is a beautiful film, and well recommended to anyone looking for a nice family film. I don’t think that children will appreciate the beauty of the story told, but there is enough humour in the movie to keep them satisfied. If you are looking for a Miyazaki treat, then Spirited Away should be right at the top of your list.

spirited away anime

(Historical Note: This review was written back in June 2003. Pleasingly, my writing has gotten a lot better since then.)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirited_Away

Screenshot Saturday: Porco Rosso Anime 03 APR 2010

Studio Ghibli and the master Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso takes center stage for today’s Screenshot Saturday. Exciting, I know! ;)

Slugfest. There is simply nothing else to call this, now is there?

Porco Rosso was the legendary Hayao Miyazaki’s sixth time in the director’s chair and turned out to be an absolutely enjoyable romp set in Italy in the time just before World War II was to kick in. The film tells the story of Porco Rosso, an unfortunate former World War I Italian Air Force ace pilot that ends up getting cursed and being forced to walk around bearing the face of a pig. Now a bounty hunter that makes a living going after airborne sea pirates that prey upon the Adriatic shipping route, Porco finds himself eventually entangled in a duel to the death with American Ace Pilot, Curtis, set to the background of an unstable political environment and the looming threat of an Austrian-led war.

But first things first, if Porco loses then his trusted young mechanic Fio will be forced to marry Curtis, but if he wins, then Curtis will cover all the necessary repairs that his beloved fighter plan so desperately needs! And surely that’s worth fighting all out for?

Today’s two screenshots are grabbed towards the end of the movie where after an unsuccessful aerial dogfight in which neither pilot was able to shoot the other down, Curtis and Porco now find themselves knee deep in the sea busy clobbering the slobber out of one another. The rule is simple. Last man able to stand on his own two feet  will win…

Thanks to Gina's voice and Fio at his side, Porco manages to get up one last time!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porco_Rosso

Screenshot Saturday: Lupin III: Castle of Cagliostro Anime 20 MAR 2010

Master Thief Lupin III sneaks in with today’s Screenshot Saturday post:

Oh noes! And I just had her fixed up and sprayed too...

Hayao Miyazaki’s 1979 The Castle of Cagliostro is the second movie in the Lupin III franchise and marks the only time the master director worked his magic for Lupin on the big screen (he did of course however direct the entire first television season in case you had forgotten).

Needless to say, the movie is an absolute pleasure to watch thanks to its beautiful and fluid animation (remembering the time period of course), the fantastic mystery surrounding the story, its interesting characters and guest appearances, the charming exploits of Lupin himself, and of course the generous dribblings of some fantastic action sequences scattered throughout!

Today’s screenshot is taken from the opening sequences of the movie which has Lupin and Daisuke jump into their trusty yellow Volkswagen Beetle and give chase to a band of villians currently pursuing what looks to be a woman racing away while wearing a wedding gown. The high speed chase soon gets crazy with plenty of gunfire and explosions to go around, but when the smoke settles and the villains are dispatched, Lupin spots an even bigger problem: the girl has been knocked out behind the wheel!

Shoes with grip. Now there's an essential when it comes to any stuntwork you know!

It’s a classic and shame on you if you’ve never actually seen it. And here you call yourself an Anime fan…

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupin_III:_The_Castle_of_Cagliostro

Today’s screenshot is taken from the opening sequences of the movie which has Lupin and Daisuke jump into their trusty yellow Volkswagen Beetle and give chase to a band of villians currently pursuing what looks to be a woman racing away while wearing a wedding gown.

The Castle of Cagliostro Anime | My Reviews 05 NOV 2008

The Castle of CagliostroIt sure took me long enough to get around to it, but now I can finally say that I’ve seen one of the most favourably mentioned anime classics of all time, The Castle of Cagliostro.

For those of you who have never heard of it, The Castle of Cagliostro is the second animated movie based on creator Monkey Punch’s popular Lupin III franchise, but what makes this one particularly special is of course the fact that it is directed by the one and only Hayao Miyazaki (before he went on to establish his particularly famous Studio Ghibli). As such, the movie carries all of the Miyazaki staples that always seem to make everything he touches turn to gold, meaning that The Castle of Cagliostro is indeed one of those must see masterpieces.

Released in 1979, The Castle of Cagliostro tells the story of the gentleman thief Lupin III, grandson to Maurice Leblanc’s French literary master thief Arsène Lupin, and his partner Daisuke Jigen who travel to the Duchy of Caligostro in search of the source of the so-called ‘Goat Bills’, counterfeit currency of an almost legendary quality.

However, their entry into the tiny Duchy soon becomes a whole lot interesting as they get involved with a runaway bride trying to escape a vicious gang and are soon drawn into a sinister plot that has some major international ramifications. A crooked baron, a detective hot in pursuit, a mysterious group of assassins out for blood and an ancient riddle promising immense riches are more than enough reason for our playboy master thief to get in on the act!

On the story front, Miyazaki manages to craft an involving, action AND drama-packed script that comes across light-hearted for the most part but always manages to keep you guessing and by no means bored. His characters are all charming in their own right and there are very few people who you don’t feel any sort of connection with.

The visuals for The Castle of Cagliostro carries that immediately likeable Miyazaki feel to them and the attention to detail and small movements are as astounding as always. Having been produced in 1979, the screens do come across a little dated, but they are so well done that one easily looks past this.

Unfortunately I only got to view the English language dub of this classic, so I can’t give any comment on the original voice actors, but in terms of the English voice actors, everybody involved puts in a great performance. Similarly, the musical score is just as top notch and as whole, the package just comes across as beautifully polished.

The movie is fun, excellently paced and meaty enough for you to sink your teeth into, and when combined with Miyazaki’s critically acclaimed directorship at its helm, The Castle of Cagliostro instantly becomes a movie that all those who call themselves an otaku must see.

Two thumbs up without a doubt! :)

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Castle_of_Cagliostro