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2017-10-18

The New Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD Movies Are Here!

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies

This week, the first wave of Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD movie titles have been released in North America, courtesy of animation distributor GKIDS. The entire studio feature film library will come under one roof in a series of release dates from now until early next year.

The six movies released this Tuesday include My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo. All feature new cover designs that follow the GKIDS style, and fits perfectly on your bookshelf next to the other Ghibli Blu-ray titles.

Diehard Ghibli Freaks will be watching closely to see if Ponyo has lossless Japanese audio, and if Mononoke has proper subtitles. Early reports are very hopeful, but we will report on any surprises that arise.

Overall, GKIDS is doing a fantastic job with the Ghibli movie catalog. The packaging is excellent, the audio/visual quality is superb, and best of all, these titles are widely available at retailers. No more having to hunt endlessly to find that one remaining copy at Target for us.

Artist Spotlight: Kiki and Jiji by Ian Lee

Artist Spotlight - Kiki and Jiji

Here is a charming illustration of Kiki and her pet cat, Jiji. I like this cartoon style a lot, and like many Ghibli art pieces, I'd like to see more. You can find Ian's Instagram page here. Send him your thanks.

2017-10-14

Here Are My New Book Covers: Zen Arcade, Pop Life, Greatest Hits

Ghibli Blog: Daniel Thomas MacInnes

Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the book covers to my upcoming books. The brilliant designers from 99 Designs created these great works, and I am forever in their debt. These just look amazing. I now turn to the skilled formatting designers to put everything together. Meanwhile, I will be working on setting up the new DT Media website, setting up the Amazon sales and author pages, and sending out review copies to pretty much everywhere.

When will these books finally be released? I'm still hoping for late October; Halloween would be nice. These titles will be available exclusively at Amazon, but later will be expanded to Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo at a later date. For now, I just want to concentrate attention on one single storefront before expanding.

I have not yet firmly decided on prices; I am currently thinking of $14.99 for the paperback and $4.99 for the ebook, but nothing is yet set in stone. There may also be some surprises for everyone on the mailing list, so if you're thinking of joining up, now's the time.

Finally, if you are a review critic for any media outlet, please contact me and I will send you copies of all three books as soon as they're available.


DT Media: Zen Arcade Book Cover

Zen Arcade: Classic Video Game Reviews

"Do you love retro video games? Are you a veteran collector, or a young player wondering where to begin? Zen Arcade collects 140 reviews of video games across six classic platforms: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super NES, Nintendo 64, NEC Turbografx-16, Sega Genesis and SNK Neo-Geo. Author Daniel Thomas MacInnes, a video game writer for over 20 years, guides you through this living history with intelligence, humor and wit. Zen Arcade is a celebration of the vitality and power of classic video games to inspire and entertain."


DT Media: Pop Life Book Cover

Pop Life

"Pop Life is a collection of essays across four broad themes: film & television, music & hi-fi audio, video games, and the political & personal. Author Daniel Thomas MacInnes tackles every aspect of 'the pop life' with biting wit, humor and keen insight, bringing readers on an illuminating journey across the cultural landscape. This book follows in the tradition of Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael, Chuck Klosterman and Hunter S. Thompson, and will prove insightful, illuminating and entertaining for all readers."


DT Media: Greatest Hits Book Cover

Greatest Hits: An Anthology in Four Volumes

"Greatest Hits: An Anthology in Four Volumes is a compilation volume of selections from two current books (Zen Arcade, Pop Life), and two upcoming books (Videogame Classics, Conversations on Ghibli). Author Daniel Thomas MacInnes examines and dissects the pop culture universe: film and television, animation and live-action, music and audio, video and computer games, politics and current events with sharp wit, humor and insight."


2017-10-13

My Neighbors the Yamada on US Blu-Ray Release Date: January 16, 2018

My Neighbors the Yamada on US Blu-Ray

At long last, it's nearly here! GKIDS has finally announced the long-awaited release date of Studio Ghibli's 1999 classic My Neighbors the Yamadas on Blu-Ray for January 16, 2018. No further word has been made regarding bonus features, but we expect to find some new goodies for the fans.

My Neighbors the Yamada is Isao Takahata's newspaper comic strip adaptation, an anthology of wildly amusing misadventures featuring an average Japanese family and their daily foibles. The visual style is practically groundbreaking, a zen-watercolor style with vast splashes of color, and equally vast splashes of empty space. There are a number of inventive CGI sequences that explode off the screen, a wonderfully surreal introduction to the family history from marriage to (folk tale) childbirth. And there is a jubilant, almost bittersweet musical number at the end that features fireworks, umbrellas, and seemingly half the population of Japan.

This is the movie that you wish Hollywood executives would watch when the time comes to attempt adaptations of popular comic books. It's like Bill Melendez' Peanuts cartoons, but with a vastly larger budget, wider color palette and stronger pop-jazz bent. Don't you dare try to make a Calvin and Hobbes movie without memorizing every frame of this near-masterpiece.

Listen to Paku-san, aspiring moviemakers. Always listen to Paku-san. He's the Yasujiro Oju of our generation and we must treasure him while he still walks among us.

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art by Richard J. Evans

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art


Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art

Artist Spotlight: Studio Ghibli Pixel Art

Three years ago, artist Richard J. Evans embarked on an interesting project: a series of digital artworks based on the movies of Studio Ghibli, rendered entirely in "pixel art." This is an art style that is deliberately low-fi, low-resolution and quite blocky, inspired, one supposes, by the look of computer graphics from the 1980s. This sub-genre of art has become very popular in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Evans successfully captures the hand-drawn animation style of the Ghibli films quite masterfully, with a very wide color palette at his disposal (much more than what was available on computers and videogamess of the 1980s), and everything is sharply detailed, which maintaining those large blocky pixels. The ones you see here are my personal favorites, but the artist has also paid tribute to nearly every Ghibli movie ever made, and they're all terrific.

Overall, great job. Creating art within very hard limitations can be quite challenging, but the results are equally rewarding.

You can see more of Evans' work on his website. Be sure to send him a thanks for his efforts.

Ghibli Fest Continues: Spirited Away in Theaters 10/29, 10/30, 11/1

Spirited Away in Theaters October 30 - November 1

Ghibli Fest, sponsored by film distributor GKIDS, continues with Hayao Miyazaki's Academy Award-winning masterpiece Spirited Away in theaters October 29, 30 and November 1. The events are presented in conjunction with Fathom Events, and will feature screenings in both English (dub) and Japanese (sub) language soundtracks.

Spirited Away will be given a fairly wide release, which is a big plus for Ghibli Freaks everywhere. Here in Chicago, there are 24 theaters participating, not including the outer suburbs (which, frankly, are like visiting another state). No doubt, conditions will be the same in your area.

Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting the GKIDS website.

2017-10-11

GKIDS Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD Movies Coming October 17

Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray Movies

This coming Tuesday, October 17 sees the first wave of Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray/DVD movies from GKIDS. The titles included will be My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo.

GKIDS has promised that all versions will include multiple language soundtracks, English subtitles, and new bonus features. We are hopeful that previous issues surrounding Mononoke (subtitles) and Ponyo (audio quality) will be resolved. Unfortunately, it has been confirmed that Kiki's Delivery Service will retain the "dubtitles" that have been present in all home video releases.

The cover designs are all terrific, although only Mononoke features new cover art. The slipcovers are welcome, as always, and fits into the GKIDS design very nicely. Picture quality should be identical to the previous Disney Blu-Ray releases, although we will be perfectly happy to be proven wrong.

For the most part, these releases exist to consolidate the Studio Ghibli catalog under one roof. If you own these movies under the Disney label, there are few reasons to make the jump. Princess Mononoke and Ponyo will be my first picks, for the aforementioned reasons. Fans will be happy to collect everything. And if you're just beginning to build your library, now is the perfect place to start.

I'm looking forward to watching these movies again, and can't wait for the following waves. What a great time to be a Ghibli Freak!

Update: Blogger is being a pain in the neck again. Stop chewing up my articles!

Photos: Mei and the Kittenbus (2003)

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Studio Ghibli: Mei and the Kittenbus

Here are some photos from the 2003 Ghibli Museum short film Mei and the Kittenbus. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this is a sequel of sorts to the beloved children's classic My Neighbor Totoro.

Mei and the Kittenbus is fairly short, roughly ten minutes. In the first sequence, young Mei playing around her family house until she discovers a new friend, the "kittenbus," who is a pint-sized version of Catbus. The two play and frolic around and have a good time.

In the second sequence, Mei is awakened at night by Kittenbus, who takes her on a journey, where they discover dozens of "cat buses" of all shapes and sizes, and populated by hundreds of large Totoros. Everyone is joining together to meet the elder Catbus, the oldest and largest of them all (and voiced by Miyazaki himself). Here, Mei is reunited with Totoro, who is still carrying his umbrella.

Everyone is happy and cheerful. Mei is returned to her home, and the story ends.

While this film, like all the Ghibli Museum short films, remain exclusively in Japan, Westerners can purchase the official art books, which include large screenshots detailing the stories. These are nice collectibles and very valuable for scholars who wish to discover this little-known aspect of Studio Ghibli.

Will Mei and the Kittenbus ever be shown outside of Japan? Not likely, at least not while Miyazaki is still alive. The museum was created with a decidedly non-commercial approach, deliberately avoiding the mass consumerism of a Disneyland. Because of this, the museum's short films are intended to be seen only there, with no possibility of a home video release.

Even after Miyazaki passes (hopefully not for many more years), Toshio Suzuki will likely still honor his friend's wishes. Whoever ends up controlling Studio Ghibli after the original founders are gone will likely decide the fate of these movies. But that's not a conversation we're ready to have, for obvious reasons. I'll gladly prefer to keep these movies in the vault in exchange for keeping Miyazaki around a little longer.

Support This Website With Amazon Associates

Ghibli Blog: Support this website with Amazon Associates

Hi, everyone. I wanted to share a quick message about Ghibli Blog and our ongoing plans to build and grow. As you can see, there are a number of small Google ads which bring in a couple pennies every day, depending on site traffic. I've experimented with these in the past, and while it never earns much money, every little bit helps. I promise to keep these ads discreet and not let them overwhelm the website.

You may also notice the Amazon ads on the right sidebar. This is our newest addition: Amazon Associates. When you purchase items shown in these ads, we will receive a percentage of the sale. Better yet, even if you don't buy that item, anything you purchase on that visit will still count. Best of all: this will not cost you one single penny.

Do you want to support Ghibli Blog? Here's how: when you want to buy something on Amazon, first click on one of the Amazon ads on this site. You don't have to buy the item from the ad, so if you're not interested, just continue shopping. For everything that you buy, we will receive a 20 percent royalty check from Jeff Bezos. Yay!

We at DT Media and Ghibli Blog are working hard to build something special, including this website and our upcoming book releases. This is a full-time job, and if you enjoy the content you read daily -- news, reviews, essays and more -- then please support us and enable us to continue our work.

Thank you very much.

2017-10-10

Photos: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

Studio Ghibli: Howl's Moving Castle

I'm a great fan of Hayao Miyazaki's Howl's Moving Castle, enough to see the movie four times when it played at the local theater in 2005. It felt like a distillation of his entire body of work, from Toei Doga to Studio Ghibli, from animation to comics. Was the movie a big, sprawling mess? Absolutely, which is precisely the thing I enjoyed most about it.

Fans of Diana Wynne Jones' fantasy novels were, understandably, less charitable with Miyazaki's very loose "adaptation," which only seemed to skim the names of the main characters and basic setting before chucking the rest and running wild. If you were expecting something akin to the books, or a faithful translation ala Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, you were bound to be disappointed.

I never read the novels, and have never been a fan of the fantasy genre. Science-fiction was always my style. Because of this, I never saw Howl as anything more than a Miyazaki story, one that seemed to plumb the depths of his personal quirks and obsessions. He seemed less interested in telling Jones' tale, and more interested in sharing his insights on the war, work ethic and marriage. The romantic leads are clearly meant to be the Miyazaki Clan, as we have seen in Animal Treasure Island, Future Boy Conan, Sherlock Hound, Ponyo and The Wind Rises.

I enjoy the joyous surrealism of this movie, the Fellini-esque carnival atmosphere and obsessions with his personal emotions. I enjoy Sophie's transformations, from young to old, back to young again,  and then a happy medium of youth and acquired wisdom. I enjoy the mashup of sidekicks and oddball characters who feel like refugees from Oz (one almost expects to find a yellow brick road somewhere. I especially enjoy the hulking castle, pieces together from impossible pieces that shouldn't fit together, yet somehow still works. It has real personality.

And, yes, I even enjoy the ending that attempts to shoehorn one too many plot points into a too-neat-by-half ending. One character is even reduced to tossing out wisecracks to the audience like Tom Servo and Crow, and we find ourselves agreeing with her. Great movies are rarely perfect movies, as Pauline Kael loved to say. You have to appreciate the cheesy moments now and then, or you're never going to enjoy going to the movies.

UPDATE: Blogger seems to have eaten this post, for some unknown reason. I'll just leave everything here and we'll discuss Howl's Moving Castle in depth at a later time. Yay, screenshots!

DT Media: Book Cover Design Contests Underway

DT Media: Book Cover Design Contest

DT Media: Book Cover Design Contest

Gustavo Cerati Bocanada

News on the upcoming books: I have begun cover design contests for my three titles at 99 Designs. I have supplied detailed notes on the books and what I'm looking for, which range from "exactly like this" to "I have no idea what I'm doing." Artists and illustrators will compete and the winners will create covers for the paperback and ebook editions.

Zen Arcade: Classic Video Game Reviews is a collection of 140 videogame reviews for NES, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Turbografx-16, Genesis and Neo-Geo. All the titles have been released on Nintendo's Virtual Console and similar digital platforms. Two more books in the series are planned if this one is successful.

The cover design recreates the style of Nintendo Wii game packaging, complete with the swirl on top with the DTM logo on top-right. There are a tangle of game controllers, some rainbow colors, and a bunch of empty space. I hope the designers really make this one shine.

Greatest Hits: An Anthology in Four Volumes is an anthology of essays from four books, including two that I'm still working on, "Videogame Classics" and "Conversations on Ghibli." Yes, this will be my first published writings on the never-ending Studio Ghibli book project.

The cover design is aiming for a tabloid style. I wanted to use Totoro instead of an LP/CD, but I can't get the copyrights from Ghibli. This may become a problem with my efforts to publish the Ghibli book down the line. Maybe the designers will surprise me with something amazing.

Pop Life is a collection of pop culture essays on film & television, music & audio, video games, and politics & current events. This is the most "Chuck Klosterman" of my three books, and also the largest of the three. I really love this one.

The cover design will be a recreation of Gustavo Cerati's 1999 Bocanada album, but with me on the cover. I'm strongly tempted to leave no text on the cover, which would look cool, but might prove confusing to the public. We'll see how it goes.

The 99 Designs contest runs for a full week, but the first round runs four days. As soon as the covers are finished, I'll hand things over to the formatting team, then we'll be ready for launch. Is there still time to launch before Halloween? Cross yer fingers, kids.

2017-10-09

Future Boy Conan: The Playstation 2 Video Game

Video Games: Future Boy Conan on Playstation 2

Video Games: Future Boy Conan on Playstation 2

Future Boy Conan is the 1978 NHK anime series directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and is a thrilling combination of adventure, romance and comedy, with strong doses of political and environmental themes that would become icons of the Studio Ghibli era. It's a fantastic show and might possibly be the director's greatest work in animation.

And here is the one thing Ghibli Freaks everywhere have begged and pleaded for years: a Miyazaki video game! D3, a software publisher dedicated largely to cartoon-videogame tie-ins, brought Future Boy Conan to the Playstation 2 in Japan.

If you're familiar with the TV series, then you'll love this game, which recreates the entire series from start to finish. Playing as Conan, you explore fully three-dimensional environments, fulfilling mission requirements, searching for objects, meeting characters, and beating up bad guys. In other words, you get to do pretty much everything you saw on the show.

D3 recreates the world of Future Boy Conan with an almost obsessive attention to detail. You can tell the programmers and designers were true fans and not just cashing in a paycheck. Animations are supremely fluid and aim to capture the stylings of the show. I especially enjoyed watching Conan running recklessly, just like he does in a dozen TV episodes.

The graphics are rendered in a style called "cel shading," in which 3D polygon models are layered with a thick black outline that mimics that look of 2D cartoon drawings. It became famous in Sega's Jet Set Radio (or Jet Grind Radio in the US), but the technique was pioneered previously in Wacky Races and Fear Effect on Dreamcast and Playstation 1, respectively. You may also recognize this style with Ni No Kuni, which was jointly produced with Studio Ghibli (the sequel uses many of the same animators, even though the studio was on hiatus at the time).

Despite my best investigations, I could not find an English-language patch for PS2 Conan. It was released exclusively in Japan and features a fair amount of text. You may need to consult a FAQ guide for assistance. Physical copies can be found on Ebay for $34.00 - $75.00, but this appears to be a slightly obscure release.

Here are a couple gameplay videos to show off Future Boy Conan. Now give us more Miyazaki videogames! And somebody release this series in the States!







Arrietty Blu-Ray: No UK Dub on GKIDS Reissue

Studio Ghibli: The Secret World of Arrietty on Blu-Ray

Sad news for American Ghibli Freaks: film distributor GKIDS today announced that their upcoming Blu-Ray release of The Secret World of Arrietty will not include the beloved UK dub as previously hoped. It will only include the Japanese and American (Disney) soundtracks.

The news was reported in an October 1 post on GKIDS Twitter: "Looked like UK had a glimmer of hope but it unfortunately is more thorny than we thought." This presumably refers to the complicated legal rights issues between Japan, US and UK releases of Arrietty. No further details have been given at this time.

It's very unfortunate that North American fans will miss out on the excellent UK soundtrack, which fits the source material perfectly and is superior to the Disney dub (which is very fine in its own regard). Your best option remains to import the UK Blu-Ray, provided you have a way to override your player's region code.

The Secret World of Arrietty will be released on Blu-Ray/DVD on November 21, as part of the GKIDS reissue campaign for the Studio Ghibli film catalog.

Castle in the Sky: You Know Who Else Was a Sky Pirate?

Studio Ghibli: Castle in the Sky

This past Friday, Japanese television network Nippon TV aired Studio Ghibli's 1986 classic Laputa: Castle in the Sky. During the broadcast, the network's shared trivia and memorable quotes on Twitter. One fascinating revelation: the character of Dora, the leader of the pirate clan, was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's mom. He wanted to portray his mother as a brave and rogue-ish-yet-heroic figure. He even remarked that she was a dominating figure, where even a family of four sons would never dare to challenge her. And, of course, he was motivated by the trauma of his mother's long battle with tuberculosis, which lasted nine years during the young Miyazaki's childhood.

Whenever I think of Miyazaki's references to his mother, I am reminded of the mothers in My Neighbor Totoro and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, who were bedridden with illness. The Nausicaa books contain an especially haunting moment where Nausicaa discloses feelings of isolation and alienation as a result of her mother's ordeal, resulting in one of the most chilling lines of the entire novel: "My mother taught me that some wounds can never be healed. But she didn't love me."

How much of that was based on Miyazaki's own childhood? How much is invented solely for the story? Like all artists, he probably took a little from column "A" and a little from column "B". By all accounts, he remained deeply devoted to his mother throughout her life, and she lived to a very old age. His thoughts on the matter have remained private, however, leaving us to speculate and theorize by examining his art.

I like the idea of Dora as a heroic mother, and she's a great, curmudgeonly character who supplies great heart to Castle in the Sky. I can't imagine the picture without her or her bumbling sons. They're not so much pirates as a family on endless adventures.

You can find the Nippon TV Twitter messages here and here, in Japanese, of course. Thanks also to Geek for sharing the news on their site.

2017-10-06

Puss in Boots 1969 Trailer



Puss in Boots, the 1969 Toei Doga feature, is one of the all-time classic anime films. If you're a fan of old Tom and Jerry cartoons, then you'll have a blast. It's very funny and goofy, with a number of terrific action sequences, a few song-and-dance numbers, and some really inspired art design. This movie remains almost entirely unknown in the West, which is a damn shame. It deserves to find an audience, and it's a personal favorite.

The castle chase sequence in the final act is probably the most famous, and was animated jointly by Yasuo Otsuka and Hayao Miyazaki. This sequence would later be parodied in 1971's Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, which Miyazaki also animated, and was his final film at Toei before jumping ship with Isao Takahata and Yoichi Kotabe to join their elder brother Otsuka at A Productions. Nearly the entire crew who created Horus, Prince of the Sun worked on this picture, and you can feel the sense of excitement and liberation as they created this classic. What a great movie!

Here is the first of two trailers created for this movie. The subtitles indicate that this was borrowed (ahem) from the Discotek DVD, which is now out-of-print. Obviously, I would love to see this movie reissued again, or even released on Blu-Ray.

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