Arakawa: “Hold my beer.”
Because I’m having fun with this, some Studio Ghibli quick takes:
‘Only Yesterday’ / ‘Memories like Falling Teardrops’: being a career woman is a lie, so is environmentalism, move to the countryside, subdue the land and have babies.
‘Spirited Away’ / ‘The Mysterious Disappearance of Sen and Chihiro’: the alien world of the kami with its nonsensical magic and taboos that can instantly destroy you is just a dressed up version of the alien world of adults with its nonsensical bureaucracy and taboos that can instantly destroy you.
‘Princess Mononoke’ Level I: dude goes to foreign country to fix everything and fixes nothing. Everyone kills everyone, God is dead, we have no guarantees this won’t happen again but the mayor promises we’ll do better next time anyways. Also, modern politics in a nutshell.
‘Princess Mononoke’ Level II: after 14 years of obsessively drawing the Nausicaa Manga Miyazaki tries to summarize the result of his musings in one movie. Because it’s a movie, there’s little room for nuance and he ends on them returning the deer god’s head to make the forest start growing back. aka another pseudo-Christian-resurrection scene to wrap up the unresolvable questions at the climax. The medium is the message and Marshall McLuhan cackles in his grave.
‘Ponyo’: the sweetest, nicest movie you could make about a shotgun marriage between five-year-olds.
‘The Wind Rising’: Miyazaki makes a movie about the real world for a change. Film should be mandatory viewing for the young fools who think working at Google is great because “you get to change the world”. The Japanese right wing hates the movie for being too left wing, the Japanese left wing hates the movie for being too right wing, and the anti-smoking lobby hates the movie for depicting smoking in period-accurate fashion. (“We must eradicate smoking in the past as well as the present!”) Miyazaki vows to have his revenge by making another movie about the real world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Do_You_Live%3F_(film)).
‘Totoro’: Miyazaki is denied the right to make a ‘Pippi Longstocking’ movie, vows to have his revenge by making a far more iconic and lucrative character. Many years and several iterations of the concept later, revenge is achieved through making a killing on catbus plushies. (For strong circumstantial evidence that this was part of the thought process, see Panda Kopanda.) The rights to make a ‘Pippi Longstocking’ adaptation are subsequently granted to talentless Canadian animators.
‘Grave of the Fireflies’: ‘Totoro’ is traditionally shown as a brain bleach immediately after cinema showings of ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ in order to restore viewers’ faith in humanity.
‘Tales of Earthsea’: has the unenviable distinction that the ‘Behind the Scenes’ story is a exponentially more dramatic than the actual movie. But, tries one new thing for Ghibli in trying to depict the teenager’s sense of being slowly consumed by a darkness he can’t control. But then again, Evangelion also did that.
‘Howl’s Moving Castle’: Eurostalgia is to the Japanese as Orientalism is to the Europeans. Japanese love to contemplate the end result of lovely, high-trust European towns and breathtaking technological advancement, minus the hard-edged, messy and abstract religious conflicts that were a prerequisite to making all this stuff. (They also try to LARP this result. See also: Huis ten Bosch amusement park near Nagasaki.) Since Diana Wynne Jones is also in the Terry Pratchett category of depicting Europe-without-transcendence, this is the perfect source material.
(Side note, Diana Wynne Jones has a great talent of depicting the sense of going into someone’s house. You go to someone’s house and it’s very British and a total mess but you somehow instantly want to live there. Since Ghibli has the obsessively detailed rendered environments, this is the perfect adaptation vehicle.)
‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’: more Eurostalgia. Speaking of Tumblr, I think Buttercup Dew (the homosexual national-socialist My Little Pony fan) wrote a much better and very long essay about how much Miyazaki Sweden differs from Actual Sweden.
Speaking of, Doompony has a book out. I haven’t read it yet but I intend to–he was absolutely right about the message of the show and he was the only person on earth to call it.
‘Castle in the Sky’: more Eurostalgia for Wales and Jules Verne this time. Thematically somewhat derivative of Nausicaa — Miyazaki was required to make this movie right after doing Nausicaa because Takahata was supposed to make an anime but instead wound up spending the budget to make a 3 hour documentary about the water supply system in the city of Yanagawa. It’s a great documentary if you want to sit for three hours and learn how the Japanese are very similar to the Dutch in some ways (lots of farmland below sea level and rube goldberg contraptions to keep the tide out) and that’s probably why they got along. But it didn’t pay the bills.
‘Pom Poko’: so, there was that Canadian animation, “The Raccoons”, about forest varmints waging a war of Leftist activism against rapacious capitalist developers? Isao Takahata decided to make something like that, but whenever you try to take it outside Japan it gets Lost In Translation. (Two words: raccoon pouch.)
‘My Neighbours the Yamadas’: Isao Takahata messes around with a hideously expensive computer animation method that tries to replicate the style of old calligraphy scrolls.
‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’: Isao Takahata uses aforementioned hideously expensive computer animation method to make a movie. The film is Ghibli’s most theologically explicit and delivers Isao Takahata’s Take That to transcendent egotism whether of Christian or Buddhist varieties — depicting as viscerally horrible as possible the idea that if Kaguya goes to heaven/nirvanah she will not like or care about us anymore.
(Isao Takahata also redeems this long string of weird or depressing [Grave of the Fireflies] movie projects by making ‘Only Yesterday’ — see above. Also, his ‘Anne of Green Gables’ adaptation is excellent and drove some Japanese tourism to Maritime Canada, a part of the world that would otherwise be completely ignored by everyone. The Canadian government, in its inscrutable wisdom, has reacted by surrounding Green Gables with a protective golf course.)