Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru) is scheduled to be released on Blu-Ray this April 18. The 1993 made-for-television movie, directed by Tomomi Mochizuki, is the final Studio Ghibli feature film to see a home video release in North America. This is also the first time this movie has been released on our shores in any format.
Interestingly enough, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has picked up the distribution, under license from GKIDS, and the film has been given a PG-13 rating. This is a bit excessive and overly cautious, in my opinion, but the important thing is that this movie will be available in its complete and uncut form at last.
In addition to the main film, a 40-minute documentary featuring the production staff reunion has been included. This bonus feature was originally included on the Japanese DVD and Blu-Ray discs, and it's terrific that we finally get the chance to have it here (with English subtitles, of course).
Best of all, Ghiblies Episode 2, the outstanding 2002 anthology short film directed by Yoshiyuki Momose (one of Studio Ghibli's great talents) will make its appearance as an added bonus. In Japan, this 30-minute short appeared as the opening slot of a double bill with The Cat Returns the Favor. I think it made more sense to put those two movies together on home video, but it's great to finally have Ghiblies in our collections.
Ocean Waves is presented in its original Japanese language with English subtitles. As expected, there is not enough audience in the US to support an English-language dub or wider theatrical release. I think the distributors are selling audiences short. Animation doesn't have to merely be "The Electric Babysitter," existing solely to pacify toddlers and sell cheap merchandise. More and better options are available. Oh, well, at least we have the home video release, which is no small shakes.
This is definitely a great movie that all Ghibli Freaks and animation fans should enjoy. This release is highly recommended.
This is just super cool. The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro has been recreated as an NES-style 8-bit videogame. The video progresses through the major scenes of the movie, as Chihiro/Sen and her family arrive at an abandoned Japanese theme park, which leads to a haunted bath house for the spirit world, and many exciting adventures for the young girl who must rescue her lost parents (who have been turned into pigs).
I really enjoyed this video. Apart from some 3D effects, it could easily be created for the NES. I could see this working as a side-scrolling adventure game, like Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link, or perhaps a graphical adventure like Maniac Mansion. Somebody should make this happen. It clearly would never receive the official blessing of Studio Ghibli, but at least Miyazaki might respect the effort. He probably wouldn't tear your head off the way he famously did to those CG programmers who created the mutant zombie demo. Ouch. That was just brutal.
Kudos to the programmers who created this demo. This is a great work of classic digital art.
Studio Ponoc, founded and staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni, has just released the second trailer for their upcoming feature film, Mary and the Witch's Flower. Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who previously directed Arrietty the Borrower and When Marnie Was There, is promising his greatest work yet. He clearly sees himself as the heir to Hayao Miyazaki.
Mary will be released in Japan this June. Will the public embrace Studio Ponoc? I certainly hope so. This trailer looks absolutely spectacular, with lush colors and extremely fluid animation. Yes, it is very clearly a "Miyazaki" film, but this may be just what the public wants. And we will discover if Yonebayashi has any new ideas, or if he is content to recreate Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service.
Either way, this movie is going to be something special, and a worldwide release is all but guaranteed. I just hope we won't have to wait a full year or more to get this movie. Bring it over this year! We have money!
After the news broke yesterday that Hayao Miyazaki is returning to feature film production, a few facts have been brought to my attention, so I wanted to correct the official record.
Back in November, NHK TV aired a special about Hayao Miyazaki, Owaranai Hito Miyazaki Hayao ("The Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki"), showing him working on a new short film for the Ghibli Museum called Boro the Caterpiller. During this program, it was also revealed that the director was also reconsidering his "retirement" from feature films, even going so far as to show him working on storyboards.
There seems to be some confusion on the specifics, as these NHK specials are famously vague. Studio Ghibli loves to reveal only snippets here and there, only revealing everything once productions are nearly complete. Because of this, the idea emerged that Boro the Caterpiller, in addition to being a short film, was also the subject for Miyazaki's new feature.
The story first broke on Anime News Network, which detailed the events of the NHK special. The Boro and feature projects are mentioned separately. This was followed by Indie Wire, which conflated the two into a single project. From here, the meme was carried away by the internet echo chamber, which leads us to today.
Let's be clear on this matter. Boro the Caterpiller is a short film created for the Ghibli Museum. Miyazaki's feature film is a separate project, not related in any way. At one point during the NHK program, the director even asks the cameraman, "I think, if I make a feature film, what should I make?" In addition, while he is seen on camera working on storyboards, its contents are never revealed. This, again, is in keeping with Ghibli's tradition of teasing out only tiny pieces for the fans.
I've been writing about Studio Ghibli since 2003, and I can assure you that such misunderstandings are very common. Westerners pick up on bits and pieces, often just casual conversation by Miyazaki himself, that balloons into unofficial news. Movie sequels to Porco Rosso and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind are two good examples. Other examples: the idea that Hayao Miyazaki's career began with Studio Ghibli; that Castle of Cagliostro or Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind was his "first movie"; that any number of pre-Ghibli works are "Ghibli Films," even citing Toei Doga movies; and citing just about any anime film as "Miyazaki." For many Westerners, "Miyazaki" is merely shorthand for "Japanese cartoons that remind me of Disney."
We're getting better with accurate news, but the internet is a vast echo chamber for gossip, which spreads like wildfire and quickly becomes "conventional wisdom."
Much thanks to Japanese reader Tsk06, a follower on Ghibli Blog Twitter, for helping me out on this subject. As always, we greatly appreciate our fans and supporters.
Update 2:20 pm, February 25: We have updated this article in light of new information.
Now it's official: HE'S BAAAACK!!!!
During pre-Oscars interviews for The Red Turtle (which is produced by Studio Ghibli), Toshio Suzuki finally made it official: Hayao Miyazaki is working on another feature-length animated movie. The title and subject of the proposed movie has not yet been revealed, but storyboard creation is currently away, with the full animation production set to commence in June of this year. The film is planned for a June 2019 release date.
Back in November, Japanese TV network NHK aired a special on Hayao Miyazaki, detailing his daily activities at Studio Ghibli, as well as his production of Boro the Caterpiller, an animated short film made exclusively for the Ghibli Museum. During this program, the director floats the idea of returning to feature films for the first time since his well-publicized 2013 "retirement."
Hayao Miyazaki is notorious for his "retirements" which never seem to last. I wonder if Miyazaki felt the itch again in the wake of Makoto Shinkai's Your Name, which became a blockbuster hit in Japan, second only to Spirited Away (the movie's worldwide box office numbers have actually surpassed Spirited Away). And let us not forget the imminent arrival of Mary and the Witch's Flower, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (Arrietty, When Marnie Was There) and produced by Studio Ponoc, which is founded and staffed by Studio Ghibli alumni.
It would make sense if Miyazaki felt his time had passed in 2013. Four years ago, 2D animation was "obsolete" and doomed to extinction, like silent movies after the arrival of sound. In 2017, the landscape is very different. While CG animation continues to dominate around the globe, hand-drawn animation features continue to achieve critical and popular success. A much-deserved Oscar nomination for The Red Turtle, a haunting and lyrical movie by Michaël Dudok de Wit, will no doubt help to keep the tradition alive.
Most likely, Miyazaki-san just can't sit still. His idea of "retirement" only ever applied to feature films, as he continued to tinker around with short films, manga comics and overseeing Studio Ghibli. Like Patty and Selma, he's working a job that he'll be doing ten years after he dies. He's not going anywhere, and Thank God for that.
On January 12, Discotek Media finally made it official: the landmark anime masterpiece Horus, Prince of the Sun is coming to Blu-Ray in March. I am really excited to finally share this with you, and all Ghibli Freaks should start saving their pennies.
Back in September, I was contacted by Discotek about their plans for the Horus Blu-Ray. It was something that I had anticipated as soon as I finished production on the DVD, and already had begun preliminary work on the future project. Once the official word was given, I immediately got to work.
The biggest addition to the Horus BD is an all-new audio commentary track, written and recorded by me. This replaces the audio track I recorded for the DVD, and it is vastly superior in every way. On this new audio commentary, I discuss the production of the film, the film's technical innovations, the early career of director Isao Takahata, and the influence of this film on the career of Hayao Miyazaki. We discuss who created the cast of characters (something I discovered when digging around asian fansites), the debate over "Horus" versus "Hols," the story behind the title "Little Norse Prince," and themes involving the Vietnam War and the role of the individual in society.
When recording the DVD commentary, I wanted to just riff in a conversational tone, using note cards as a reference point. That strategy proved to be an embarrassing failure as I suffered a terrible bout of stage fright. I felt like the frog from "One Froggy Evening," and I had to drag every thought and sentence out of my mouth over the course of a week. Finally, I started writing better notes, and took refuge in reading essays from other writers and scholars in the Ghibli fan community. I was found myself reading a Google translation of Buta Connection's Horus essays from French into a slightly mangled Engrish. And all of this happened very late at night. I recorded a series of short audio tracks and finally reached the end as dawn broke on deadline day. I sent over my work right at the moment of the final deadline, and I am eternally grateful to the Discotek crew for their support and patience.
I fought, struggled, quit, felt dejected, returned to the mike, fought another three rounds, and finally completed my first DVD audio commentary. It was hell, but I made it to the finish, completely exhausted. And let us not forget that I also wrote/edited the English subtitles (four revisions, no less), wrote/edited nearly all the bonus material (the only features not mine were Mike Toole's excellent audio commentary and the video interviews), wrote an "official" press release, and wrote the sales page for Amazon and other online retailers. And, of course, I fought like hell for the proper movie title, "Horus, Prince of the Sun" (Toei wanted Discotek to only use "Little Norse Prince").
For the Blu-Ray, I was much more prepared. The written essays were given a much-needed revision and copy edit, I updated the "riffs" feature to include more films, and I wrote a new description for the back cover, which is a great improvement (the DVD lifted the cover text from the Optimum UK DVD). The new audio commentary was the main focus. I wrote an extensive script for the entire length of the film, roughly 10,000 words, covering every Horus-related topic I could find.
Using a $40 USB microphone and a MacBook Pro in my apartment living room, I recorded nine audio tracks (breaking things up into smaller thematic segments) over the course of a long Saturday evening. I did several takes of each audio track, and felt far more loose and comfortable. I even recorded a final "thank you" track at the very end, just to be sure the commentary would run the full length of the movie. When finished, I felt very tired but very satisfied. I left nothing on the table, and said everything that needed to be said.
I have been a huge fan of Horus, Prince of the Sun ever since the earliest days of Ghibli Blog. Working on these projects have been an absolute thrill for me, and a true labor of love. I wanted to give this great movie the "Criterion" treatment that it deserves, and raise the bar for anime on home video. I just wanted to inspire everyone. I hope you will be inspired by this amazing movie.
As always, much thanks for your support. I consider this new BD to be the definitive take on Horus, and I can't wait for you to hold your own copy in your hands. I'll eagerly await your reviews and comments, and look forward to the next movie project. Be sure to pre-order your copy at Amazon today!
Masaaki Yuasa is, in my humble opinion, the most exciting talent in Japanese animation today. He first grabbed my attention with his wildly inventive (and decidedly Fellini-esque) 2004 anime film Mind Game. In the years since, he has worked relentlessly on television, including Kemonozume in 2006, Kaiba in 2008, The Tatami Galaxy in 2010, Kick-Heart in 2013, and Ping Pong in 2014. Now he has returned at last to feature animated movies, and I couldn't be happier.
Night is Short, Walk on Girl is a fantasy romance adapted from a 2006 novel by Tomihiko Morimi, who also wrote The Tatami Galaxy (a number of key staff from that series has also returned for this film). The teaser trailer demonstrates Yuasa's obsessions with pushing the limits of animation, with cartoon surrealism, and with romantic obsessions. I was definitely reminded of the setup behind Mind Game, where a frustrated young comics artist tried to woo a beautiful woman he's known for years.
As always, I expect the unexpected. I love the elasticity and freewheeling spirit Yuasa brings to his work. He continues to push anime into uncharted territory, exploding and exploiting pop culture cliches, unleashing the limitless possibilities of the cartoon form. He doesn't seem like the type who would be offended by the word "cartoon," as though it were a lesser expression to remind us of Tex Avery and Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones and the Fleischers. I love the cinematic seriousness of anime as much as anyone, but I wouldn't become Puritanical about it. Just look at The Castle of Cagliostro for a perfect illustration of pulp realism mashed perfectly into Road Runner routines.
Night is Short, Walk On Girl will be released in Japan on April 7, 2017. Let's hope a US distributor picks up this movie (I'm still waiting for Mind Game, which popped up on Netflix some months ago). GKIDS, I'm looking in your direction! Don't let us down!
And tell somebody to wake up Ben Ettinger. He's a huge Masaaki Yuasa fan, and he's been in hiding since last summer.
Fun Fact: According to Wikipedia, Yuasa worked as a key animator on Isao Takahata's 1999 Studio Ghibli classic My Neighbors the Yamadas. That's very impressive if true, but it also adds to the great talent to slip through Ghibli's fingers. If only Miyazaki could have held onto Yuasa and Mamoru Hosoda. Heck, open the door to the occasional collaboration with Hideaki Anno and Mamoru Oshii. Then add in the studio's home-grown talent like Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Goro Miyazaki, Yoshiyuki Momose and Osamu Tanabe. Imagine that possible future!
Much thanks to Cartoon Brew for breaking the story. Great job as always, everyone!
Here are the first movie posters to Hiromasa Yonebayashi's upcoming feature film, Mary and the Witch's Flower. Its design is pure Ghibli, which is no doubt the filmmakers' intention. They seek to continue the legacy of the world's greatest animation studio, to continue the rich legacy of Miyazaki and Takahata into the new century. And I'm sure there will be many surprises along the way. I can't wait!
Much thanks to Buta Connection for the poster photos.
Today marks a major announcement from Japan. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the Studio Ghibli director behind Arrietty the Borrower and When Marnie Was There, has announced his third feature film. It is titled "Mary and the Witch's Flower," and is an adaptation of Mary Stewart's book The Little Broomstick. Two trailers have been posted online, one for Japan, which promises a Summer 2017 release date; the second for the West, which promises an unspecified 2017 release.
And now for the bombshell news: Mary and the Witch's Flower will not be created by Studio Ghibli. Instead, Studio Ponoc will have the honor. This is a new animation studio founded in 2015 by former Ghibli producer (and Toshio Suzuki successor) Yoshiaki Nishimura. Several Ghibli alumni, including Yoshiyuki Momose, who directed several Ghibli short films, including Ghiblies Episode 2 and the Capsule music video trilogy (seen on the 2005 DVD Ghibli Ga Ippai Special: Short Short). Yonebashi has now joined their ranks.
Nishimura previously served as the producer on Isao Takahata's The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature (and clearly deserved to win, ahem). That trial by fire will no doubt serve him well with his new studio. Having a number of key Ghibli animators at the helm will also prove extremely helpful, not only for the shared filmmaking experience, but also in appealing to the movie-going public. Studio Ponoc will position themselves as the "Son of Ghibli," in hopes of winning over all those Hayao Miyazaki fans.
This teaser trailer looks absolutely spectacular, as vivid and lush and imaginative as any of the Studio Ghibli classics. This movie appears to be like a mash-up of Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away, which could be an excellent combination. The animation and art design look sumptuous, wildly colorful. Yonebayashi has grown by leaps and bounds as a filmmaker. He promises that this feature will be very different from Marnie, which is the smart move. It's best not to become pigeonholed into one style.
I must admit, I was quietly hoping that Yonebayashi would return to Studio Ghibli for his next feature film, and the studio would hire its production staff on a contract basis, just as they had done in their early years. This will not be happening, unfortunately, but the artists and their craft will continue. Thank God this movie is being created in hand-drawn animation, and not CG! Given the enormous costs now involved in traditional animation, as well as its limited global appeal compared to 3D computers, this is a very bold move, and a welcome one. Let us hope for its success.
A few questions now emerge. One, what involvement does Studio Ghibli have in this production? Are they providing any financial assistance, or taking on a producer's role ala The Red Turtle? Will Suzuki or Miyazaki provide personal support to Nishimura and Yonebayashi?
And the final, most haunting question to ask: what will become of Studio Ghibli? It now appears unlikely that unless Miyazaki or Takahata return with a new feature film, the studio's days of feature animated movies have ended. There may be new short films created for the Ghibli Museum, and there may be more productions like The Red Turtle, but we should not expect anything else. The studio is now evolving into that of a holding company, a protector of legacies past. The final wild card, as always, is Goro Miyazaki. Nobody knows what he is planning, or if he even wants to continue making anime films. He could continue his father's legacy, move to another studio, or even return to landscape architecture. Anything could happen.
It's hard to face hard truths, but The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya were farewell albums, just like Abbey Road. It now appears that The Beatles have truly disbanded. A reunion is not likely to happen. But we can look forward to the coming solo albums, which will plant the seeds for future greatness, a new Miyazaki, a new Takahata.
Thanks to Genercion Ghibli and Anime News Network for breaking the news.
Here is the newly-released movie poster for GKIDS' theatrical release of Studio Ghibli's 1993 film, Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru). Looks great, very restrained and tasteful and clean. I do hope we will be able to purchase one of these. When is Ghibli going to start selling their movie posters? I always ask this question. One of these days, it's going to happen, trust me.
A big thanks to GKIDS for their support of Studio Ghibli, as always. Next item on the menu: the Studio Ghibli short films, including Hayao Miyazaki's On Your Mark and Yoshiyuki Momose's Ghiblies Episode 2. Stay tuned.
It has taken many years of begging and pleading, and now it has finally paid off: Studio Ghibli's 1993 TV movie Umi Ga Kikoeru (I Can Hear the Sea) is coming to North American theaters! With this release, all of the Studio Ghibli feature films will have been released on our shores.
GKIDS, who hold the theatrical distribution rights to the Ghibli film catalog (in addition to several home video releases), will release the film under its "Western" title, Ocean Waves, on December 28 at the IFC Center in New York City. An expanded theatrical release will then commence in January and continue through March. Cities and dates will continue to be added in the coming weeks, so stay tuned to find out if Ocean Waves is coming to a city near you.
Umi ga Kikoeru/Ocean Waves was a project for Ghibli's younger animators, and the first time Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata was not directly involved in a studio production. It is a romance melodrama involving several young adults who join together for their high school reunion, which sparks memories of old friendships, rivalries and romances. It fits squarely within Ghibli's "neo-realist" style, akin to Grave of the Fireflies and Omohide Poro Poro. This is a style of animation that Japan excels at, and is virtually nonexistent in the West. I would hope this movie helps to inspire artists and filmmakers to create new films in this style.
I'm a great fan of Umi/Ocean. It's a quiet story, understated and subtle and emotionally honest. The art design is restrained and natural, yet full of small details of modern Japanese life. And the final scene makes a dramatic homage to Yasujiro Ozu that never fails to amaze and inspire. I bought the Japanese DVD a decade ago, which also features a 40-minute documentary with the filmmakers, which I do hope will appear on the inevitable GKIDS release, which should arrive sometime next year.
Looking at the official website, I do not see any mention of an English-language dub, nor have I heard anything about any American voice actors cast for the film. We must assume that this movie will be presented only in its original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. This is probably for the best; this is a Japanese movie that doesn't try to sell itself to Americans. Hearing a cast of California actors would just be too jarring (this was an issue I had with GKIDS' dub soundtrack for Omohide Poro Poro). The Ghibli Freaks will buy movie tickets and will probably prefer the original film untouched. The mainstream public will not be interested in an animated youth drama. They'll be much happier watching Finding Dory again.
That's fine. Not everything has to become wildly popular or hugely successful. The most interesting things in life always lie off the beaten path. You have to search out and discover the true hidden gems. Umi ga Kikoeru is a true hidden gem. You should seek it out and treasure it always.