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The Hayao Miyazaki Retrospective Thread

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As much as I prefer to watch every film in its original language, when it comes to animation, I don't have THAT much of a problem watching a dubbed version, because in this case, it's not about "changing" the real voice of a real person you see onscreen. Moreover, sometimes, dubbing on animated films/series is generally much better than dubbing on live action films (case in point: the Simpsons, or some Disney films).

That being said, I'm watching all the Miyazaki movies in Japanese. ;)

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That being said, I'm watching all the Miyazaki movies in Japanese. ;)

Thank heavens!

Yes, it's not about the real voice of the person you see on screen, BUT the original director of the film doesn't have any control over the English dub and how the actors will say something.. So..

If someone watches a film with a dub, he actualy watches a re-imagination of the film, and not the actual film!

Sound and dialogue are as important as the picture.

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Yea, exactly. With a live-action film, you're hearing audio actually recorded on the set sometimes, not just in a studio. So the whole audio soundscape changes, you fell less like you are outside with the characters, the whole film sounds like it was recorded in a studio (because it was!) Also, you're watching them give the performance you are hearing. Frankly, its criminal to watch some other actor's voice come out of their voice, the original vocal performance completely gone, just to translate to another language. Subtitles all the way!

But for animation, there's a lot of differences. For one, all the original audio was recorded in a studio anyway, so there's no difference to the new audio there. Then, you're not seeing the people giving the performances anyway, so you don't have that gap of seeing an actor you may know, but now with some other guy dubbing his voice. Right from the start of the film, you associate the dubbed actor with the role.

Plus as I said, I'm curious to hear the big, named actors I like doing these roles Patrick Stewart, Mark Hamill, Cloris Leachman, Uma Thurman, and Chris Sarandon have been great so far!

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Yes, it's not about the real voice of the person you see on screen, BUT the original director of the film doesn't have any control over the English dub and how the actors will say something.. So..

If someone watches a film with a dub, he actualy watches a re-imagination of the film, and not the actual film!

In a way, you are right. You lose something in the process. However, most of the time, the dubbing teams do their best to stay true to the intonation, inflection, etc. of the actor's voice in the original version.

Don't misunderstand me: I always value the original version over the dubbed version. It's just that in the case of animated films, I just don't dismiss the dubbed version as much as I do for live action films.

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For animation I'm in between filmmusic and Jay. I had the option to see The Wind Rises in Japanese with subtitles or the English dub, but I chose the original language to respect that process. Then I later found out who voiced the English dub and kinda wish I saw it that way instead to hear what my favorite actors are doing.

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天空の城ラピュタ a.k.a Laputa: Castle In The Sky - Hayao Miyazaki (1986)

 

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A young boy and a girl with a magic crystal must race against pirates and foreign agents in a search for a legendary floating castle.

 

First time watching this one.

 

Well, I liked it a lot! That was definitely an improvement over Nausicaä. It felt like a more accomplished movie overall.


Right from the start, I knew I was gonna like the film: the opening sequence features great action that is well-directed and that serves as an excellent introduction to the film. In fact, all the action in this film is excellent and one of its strong points. The chase sequence between the train and the car in particular is both hilarious and exhilarating, as well as really inventive. Loved it. One of the highlights for me (if not the highlight of the film). The other action sequences (the attack on the army's fortress, the ships inside the Dragon's Nest, etc.) were also well made.


But that's not to say the action is the only thing I liked about Castle In The Sky. The film features a great ensemble of characters, from the fierce Dola and her gang of goofy pirates, to the group of miners, including Uncle Pom, Shiita of course, Pazu... The only character that didn't quite convince me was Muska, who was a rather dull villain. But that's no biggie. While we're on the topic of characters: it's interesting to note that the design of some characters presented here were later reused by Miyazaki in his following films (Kamaji from Spirited Away is basically the mechanic of the Tiger Moth in this film, Yubaba has the same face as Dola, etc.). It's also in this film that Miyazaki started cross-referencing his other works, with the fox-squirrels from Nausicaä having a short cameo when Pazu and Shiita arrive at Laputa.


The film has a really good pace, too. The characters don't arrive at Laputa until two thirds into the film, yet at no point did I think: "Come on! Can they get there already?", because all that happened before they get there was engaging. The fact that the action was good and the characters interesting helped, obviously. There's also the humor that is quite good: the movie has some funny bits, like the miner and the pirate showing off their muscles and tearing their shirts in the process, Pazu trying to fly with the stone, etc. There are also some nice twists and turns throughout the film, like the pirates, who at first, are presented like being the bad guys of the story, but turn out to be not so bad after all (I like this kind of stuff that make you reconsider the whole story halfway through it).


As for the story itself: I liked most of it, though was slightly disappointed by the last act. The climax (the last 20 minutes or so) was a tad underwhelming I thought (especially considering all the great stuff that happened before that), with a lot of shit happening on screen but that didn't make me feel as invested as I was during the rest of the film (you have this weird technology in that orb below the castle, with all the cubes moving... It almost felt like this was all from another movie). I was also at first disappointed that we didn't learn anything about the history of Laputa. I'm fine with not having everything answered, if at least we're given little hints of what could have happened, but there I thought there was nothing. But then I noticed after the fact that the opening credits sequence actually feature a (visual) short history of the castle, which gives us just what I wanted: hints of what could have happened. So in the end I was OK with that!


In terms of visuals, the film looks just as good as the ones that preceded it. If anything, it looks like the Miyazaki trademarks in character design is better seen here: I think this is the film where he finally found his visual style that he would use for the rest of his career. Sure, Nausicaä already had that, but it still felt a bit rough on the edges in some aspects. Here, characters like Pazu, Dola, Shiita, etc. look very much like characters from later Miyazaki films. There are also some great ship designs here (this movie is a flying machines galore!): I particularly liked the Tiger Moth, as well as the ship of Pazu's father, the Flaptors, and a few other ships seen in the opening sequence. The robot soldiers also looked great.


And now it's time to talk about the score.. Now, as most of you already know, Hisaishi was asked to rescore the film for the US release, because the Disney staff thought the movie was too sparsely spotted for a "children's film", and also to update the synthish part. The DVD release featured the rescore, but that's no longer the case now. Now, to clear things up on this business that was mentioned by LeBlanc and filmmusic: the US version of the Blu-Ray has the English dub with the original score, while the International version of the Blu-Ray has the English dub with the new score. All the other dubs (as well as the Japanese version) feature the original score on all physical formats, as far as I know. There is no Japanese version with the new score (which is a bit of shame, because I'd be interested in watching that).


But anyway, to get back to the actual music... I watched the Japanese version with the original score, and I have to say: I don't understand why they asked for a rescore. I thought the score and the spotting were fine in the film. Now, had they asked for a rescore of Nausicaä, I could have understand, because parts of that one sound dated, and the score is sometimes oddly spotted, but here, I didn't feel the film had such problems. Sure, there are some synthish parts, but they do not feel really dated, and the movie is not as sparsely spotted as some people claim (it seems it is often wrongly reported that the movie features only 35 minutes or so of music, but I think people say that based on the OST, which is 35 minutes long, but the movie definitely has more than 35 minutes of music). Anyway, I liked the music. I didn't find the score to be particularly remarkable, but it had a few solid moments (the sweet The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, the bucolic Morning In Slag Ravine, the blood-pumping A Fun Brawl (~Pursuit) (absolutely love the rendition of Dola's theme there) the gorgeous The Collapse Of Laputa...) and felt more cohesive than the one for Nausicaä. That being said, it still didn't feel like great music, just good music.


Then I listened to the US version of the soundtrack. And wow! I loved it! The use of the orchestra really improved the music, and the rescore gave Hisaishi the opportunity to develop his cues and themes a bit more. The thing I liked about it is that he didn't completely write new music for each sequence: he used the cues he had already written, and "upgraded" them. So the new score stays true to the old one, it just expands upon it instead of completely reinventing it. So many great moments in there: Prologue - Flaptors Attack with some solid action writing, The Girl Who Fell From The Sky which sounds even more majestic in this version, Morning In The Mining Village, The Chase (with the statement of Dola's theme at 02'04 turned into a fuckin' awesome crazy waltz. Easily one of the best moments in the score!), Floating With The Crystal, Stones Glowing In The Darkness which offers some interesting textures, Robot Soldier ~Resurrection & Rescue~ which makes a great use of the Flaptors' motif, Dola And The Pirates with its lovely rendition of Dola's theme (I dig how the theme evolves throughout the score from a menacing march to a gentle (and sometimes even comical) melody when the pirates becomes ally to Pazu and Shiita), Confessions In The Moonlight with its piano-led rendition of the main theme, The Invasion Of Goliath, The Final Showdown with a thrilling ending, The Destruction Of Laputa and its choral majesty... The only cue for which I preferred the original version are Pazu's Fanfare (the US version has too much fluff added to it, while the original version was a simple yet effective trumpet solo). I also liked the orginal version of The Destruction Of Laputa just as much as the rescored one. The original version of the score worked fine in the film it was written for, but was particular great music to listen to on its own, while the US version definitely is. A fantastic score with some stellar writing!

Overall, I was really satisfied by the film. Easily the one I liked the most so far during this retrospective. The one that feels the more complete, and solid on all aspects (story, characters, visuals, music...). There are a few nitpicks I could mention, but these were minor overall, and didn't . A fun ride!

7.5/10

 

 

All the tracks below come from the US version of the soundtrack:

Prologue - Flaptors Attack

 

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

 

Morning In The Mining Village

 

The Chase

 

Stones Glowing In The Darkness

 

Robot Soldier ~Resurrection & Rescue~

 

Dola And The Pirates

 

The Invasion Of Goliath

 

The Final Showdown

 

The Destruction Of Laputa

 

 

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P.S.: If you want to learn more about the writing of the new score: http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/laputa/music.html

 

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The music of Laputa: The Castle in the Sky was composed by Joe Hisaishi back in 1986. Hisaishi is currently (April, 1999) redoing the music for the English version of the film, Castle in the Sky. Disney is considering a theatrical release in the United States, and hence requests him to update and upgrade the music. Disney is considering a theatrical release in the United States, and hence requests him to update and upgrade the music. In an interview in Keyboard Magazine (the Japanese version) Aug. 1999 issue, Hisaishi said the following:
"According to Disney's staff, foreigners (non-Japanese) feel uncomfortable if there is no music for more than 3 minutes (laughs). You see this in the Western movies, which have music throughout. Especially, it is the natural state for a (non-Japanese) animated film to have music all the time. However in the original Laputa, there is only one-hour worth of music in the 2 hour 4 minute movie. There are parts that do not have any music for 7 to 8 minutes. So, we decided to redo the music as (the existing soundtrack) will not be suitable for (the markets) outside of Japan.

"If we just add new music, it won't go well with the music made in 14 years ago. So we completely re-recorded everything. Of course, we can not demolish the melody of Laputa, so I changed the arrangement of it while keeping its integrity.

"The American way of putting music in a movie is basically very simple. They just match the music with the characters. For example, when the army shows up on screen, you hear the army's theme. The music explains the screen images--that is the point of Hollywood music. Until this time, I avoided such an approach, as I felt that it would make music dull, although I understand such an approach. But when I redid (the music of Laputa this way), I learned a lot."

 

There's also a translation of Hisaishi's production diary of the recording of the US version in the link I posted above. An interesting read!

 

On a sidenote: interesting that Hisaishi said he avoided the thematic approach, since the original version of the score definitely had themes already in it (the main theme, Dola's theme, Shiita's theme...). The score was not thematically-driven, though...

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Castle In The Sky

My second time seeing this film. Another winner! One thing I like about all three of Miyazaki's films so far is that they start IMMEDIATELY with a scene in progress, that gets you hooked, and then there's always a nice main title sequence with all the credits. In Cagliostro you had the end of the casino robbery, in Nausicaa you had Lord Yupa investigating another empty village, and here in Castle In The Sky we get this cool airship sequence where we meet Sheeta and she has to escape from her captor when a bunch of pirates show up to steal her amulet, which leads nicely into the opening credits. Good stuff.

Overall, I found a film basically be a great blend of elements from his first 2 movies: You have a villain wanting to use an ancient power for his own gains, personal flying crafts, and a kind of larg-ish scope from Nausicaa, but with a more modern and "realistic" setting, more humor and light-hearted nature, and more streamlined and "straightforward/simple" plot style from Cagliostro. Not to mention that little squirrel thing from Nausicaa returns for some reason?

The story is instantly engaging; After we meet Sheeta in the cold opening, we meet Pazu after the main credits, a kid working for a miner in a town, and he's great - good hearted, full of adventure, wants to build a plane to find Laputa, a hidden castle in the sky his father once saw and hasn't been seen since. Early on there's a great sequence where Pazu and Sheeta have to outrun both the pirates and then men (led by Muska, who had her captured in the beginning) on a series of railroad tracks - it was great! The lead pirate, Captain Dola was awesome, a great character - the kind of old lady type that Miyazaki woudl use in a lot of his movies.

The film moves along at a perfect pace - we don't even get to the titular Castle In The Sky until late in the film, but it all seems right, the story always unfolding naturally. The animation is superb, both the characters and the great backgrounds. And since the story takes us to a bunch of different places, we get to see lots of new backgrounds and characters throughout. I really liked the style of the Laputa robots!

The Disney/English voice cast was once again very good! A pitch-shifted James Van Der Beek sounds a little goofy at times as Pazu, but Anna Paquin made a great Sheeta, and man, Cloris Leachman was great as Dola! Mark Hammil was a fantastic villain as Muska, and Jim Cummings, Andy Dick, Mandy Patinkin, and Tress MacNeille have small parts as well.

I enjoyed the score in the film, synth based as it was. I learned after that originally Disney hired Hisaishi to re-do the score with an orchestra for the first Disney DVD release; I wish I had known that, because I sold off my DVD when I got the Blu Ray (which reverts to the original score). Oh well.

So far, all 3 Miyazaki films have been terrific, A+ movies. If I had to rank them, I'd go

1. Nausciaa

2. Castle In The Sky

3. Castle of Cagliostro

But all are really great.

Next up: My Neighbor Totoro, which I've never seen!

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Turns out we agree on pretty much everything here, though my ranking of the films so far would be different than yours:

01. Laputa: Castle In The Sky

02. Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro

03. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind

And it's a shame Disney didn't include both versions of the score on the Blu-Ray (they should have included that as an option for people to choose between the two).

Next up: My Neighbor Totoro, which I've already seen once!

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They're all great movies. I really enjoyed Castle In The Sky. It was a great middle ground between the "serious" Nausicaa" and the "comedic" Cagliostro. And MIyazaki's obsession with flying continues to grow :)


Just read your review, now. I'm surprised you say you thought Muska was a dull villain; As Mark Hamill played him, he was terrific! It was a bit... "sudden" that he was also a descendant of Laputa like Sheeta was, but that wasn't that big of a deal.

I wish I could comment on the music more, but really when I'm watching a film for the first time (or in this case the first time in a very long while), I am just focused on taking in the story and don't really notice too much about the music. Maybe I'll start listening to Hisaishi's scores outside the films some time.

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They're all great movies.

I can agree about that with Cagliostro and Laputa, though Nausicaä falls a bit short of being great. ;)

I really enjoyed Castle In The Sky. It was a great middle ground between the "serious" Nausicaa" and the "comedic" Cagliostro.

That's a good way to put it. That's the main reason why I liked it so much.

And Miyazaki's obsession with flying continues to grow :)

Yep. Though funnily enough, My Neighbour Totoro is devoid of that, from what I remember.

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And Miyazaki's obsession with flying continues to grow :)

Yep. Though funnily enough, My Neighbour Totoro is devoid of that, from what I remember.

Not wholly devoid. They don't CLIMB up to those treetops! (And while the Catbus can be more like an elevated train than a plane, it hits some of the same exhilarating notes.)

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I've seen Spirited Away (loved it) Princess Mononoke (first half is slow but loved the second half) and Naussical (did not love). Where should I go next? Preferably in order from best to not-best.

I would suggest to see all Ghibli films (and not just the Miyazaki ones), in chronological order.

If you want just Miyazaki, since you loved Spirited Away, maybe you should go to Howl's Moving Castle (his 2nd Oscar nomination, with the 3rd being The Wind Rises)?

Although it may feel a bit disjointed to many people.

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And Miyazaki's obsession with flying continues to grow :)

Yep. Though funnily enough, My Neighbour Totoro is devoid of that, from what I remember.

Not wholly devoid. They don't CLIMB up to those treetops! (And while the Catbus can be more like an elevated train than a plane, it hits some of the same exhilarating notes.)

Ah, yes, I remember now! The umbrella flight...

I've seen Spirited Away (loved it) Princess Mononoke (first half is slow but loved the second half) and Naussical (did not love). Where should I go next? Preferably in order from best to not-best.

Here's how I'd put it (from best to not-best):

1. Castle In The Sky

2. The Castle Of Cagliostro

3. Howl's Moving Castle

4. My Neighbor Totoro

The rest, I have yet to see.

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となりのトトロ a.k.a My Neighbor Totoro - Hayao Miyazaki (1988)

 

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When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.

 

Second time watching that one.

 

And I actually remember liking this film more than I did when I rewatched it.

Right after his biggest film to date (in terms of length, number of characters, locations, etc.), Miyazaki made his smallest feature yet: only 87 minutes long (and it was originally meant to be only 1 hour long), only about 6 characters, just one main location... This one is quite different from his previous pictures: it's not an epic adventure, rather a slow, low-key story with not a lot happening. The first 20 minutes of the film are basically devoted to the girls just becoming familiar with their new home. And Totoro isn't introduced until 30 minutes into the film (so a third into the film)! And I have to say: that turned out to be a problem for me. Now, I don't have a problem with a film being slow: a lot of films I like are rather slow. But there has to be something that keeps me interested in order not to have a problem with the pace. Here, the first third of the film didn't have much to keep me engaged: you had just the girls running around and yelling (I didn't remember there was so much yelling in this film! There were moments when it was downright annoying). It's not until the fantasy element comes into the story that I felt drawn back into the film. But damn, those first 30 minutes left me a bit bored. The thing is, had the two main characters be likeable, I would have been OK with that, but while Satsuki is fine, Mei is often irritating (yet again, the incessant yelling...). Now, as I said, once we enter into the second third of the film (basically when Totoro is introduced), things get more engaging and from there on, I liked what I saw more.

 

But again, it's not a story-driven film, more of a "slice of life" film, so in the end, it all comes down to the characters and the atmosphere. As I said above, I didn't really like Mei. I take it she's supposed to be a cute, but she turned out to be more of a nuisance than anything else. Satsuki is a better character overall, even if not really developed much. It turns out that my favourite character was probably Kanta. The remaining characters (the father, the mother and Granny) are not particularly remarkable. As for the creatures, of course, Totoro is the highlight of the film (though, surprisingly, he's not in the film for long. He must be in it for less than 20 minutes!). All the best scenes involved him: the hilarious bus stop sequence (gotta love his cheerful face when the raindrops fall on his umbrella), the moonlight flight sequence, the growing tree scene... He's such a loveable creature! And iconic too (he's basically the Japanese Mickey Mouse). The two smaller Totoros are quite funny too. And then there's the catbus: what a great crazy idea that creature is (the mice serving as tail lights was a nice touch). Love it! It's also interesting to note the first appearance of the sootbballs that'll later reappear (and have a larger role) in Spirited Away.

 

The atmosphere of the film is also top-notch: I love its dreamlike quality, that is complemented by great visuals, probably the finest in a Miyazaki film yet, though unfortunately much less varied than in his previous films. We basically only get trees, trees, and more trees! But of course, this goes with the main theme of the film, which is our relation with nature (Totoro being some kind of guardian of the forest). This is probably Miyazaki's most environmentally-oriented film, and it is, along with the dreamy atmosphere, one of the biggest strengths of the film.

 

Hisaishi's score is good but not particularly memorable (much like his previous two, if we put aside the US version of the Laputa score ;)). The song didn't do much for me (the opening one in particular I found to be grating, and the Ending Song was too run-off-the-mill, even if quite catchy), but the score itself has a nice pastoral quality (heard for example in The Village In May), and while it may be a bit too cutesy at times to my liking, it's still a good fit for the movie. There is some nice soothing material in there, such as Evening Wind, and the gorgeous Mei Is Missing (surely the highlight of the score). Hisaishi also gives us some nice variations on the main theme (especially in A Little Monster, which plays a bit like a suite for that theme), with a great rendition in the second half of Moonlight Flight, as well as in I'm So Glad. Also noteworthy is the funky Catbus, which adds to the fun of that sequence in the film. Then there is a more kiddie-oriented (for lack of a better term) side to the score, with tracks like in A Haunted House! or Let's Go To The Hospital, which is less appealing. The music for the Totoro character offers some interesting textures (like in the eponymous track or The Path Of Wind) but doesn't make a lasting impression. Yet another Hisaishi score I wouldn't call great, even if you can feel his writing style kept on getting better and better with each new assignement. And still not a bad score by any means.

 

In the end, this is a kind of film I have to be in the right mood to enjoy. It is well-made, there is no denying, with great visuals, a good enough score on the whole, a neat atmosphere, and fantastic creature design... But the lack of an actual story and characters that are just OK for the most part make it a bit difficult for me to totally enjoy it. I guess that, depending on the day, I would give it a higher rating than I do today. Better luck next time, I suppose!

 

6/10

 

 

The Village In May

 

Evening Wind

 

A Little Monster

 

Moonlight Flight

 

Mei Is Missing

 

Catbus

 

I'm So Glad

 

 

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P.S.: A funny thing I noticed is that the poster for the film depicts the bus stop scene, but without Mei or Satsuki! Rather a girl that looks like a mix of Satsuki and Mei's designs.

 

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And it's explained here why: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096283/trivia

 

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Hayao Miyazaki originally conceived the characters Satsuki and Mei as a single girl. He wanted to add suspense to the latter half of the film, and he felt it wouldn't work with just a single girl, so he split her into two separate girls. The original girl had features of both Satsuki and Mei, and was 7: halfway between the ages of Satsuki (10) and Mei (4).

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Then I listened to the US version of the soundtrack. And wow! I loved it! The use of the orchestra really improved the music, and the rescore gave Hisaishi the opportunity to develop his cues and themes a bit more.

As a huge fan of Castle in the Sky, and especially its rescore and dub, I am very pleased to hear this rave review of this reworking. It's rare to find fans of the rescore. Many, many purists at the time (2003) excoriated the new score, declaring that it was "a crime against all humanity" that "utterly butchered the film", even declaring the Disney dub to be unbearable. Today, some people still do. I myself never agreed with that and always believed the Castle dub to be excellent, and quite frankly, underrated. As much as I loved the performances, it was the rescore that really sold the dub for me. I have nothing against the original Japanese version; it's still beautiful, but this new score just breathes a lot of color and richness into an already beautiful work. I've since stuck with this new score and never looked back. Bravo to see someone acknowledge this unfairly maligned reworking as a work of art in its own right. Kudos!

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My Neighbor Totoro

My first time ever seeing this! I think it took so long because Fox had the rights for so long while Disney had all the others, so I never bought the crappy Fox DVD and jut waited for the Disney release. I'm so glad I finally saw it because its just excellent!

Immediately you know you're in for a movie different than Miyazaki's first three when the film doesn't open with an exciting pre-credits sequence; In fact, there's no pre-credits sequence at all! Overall, the film has a comparatively microscopic scope compared to the other films, featuring just 3 main (human) characters and just focusing on personal struggles (that they get a little outside help for). It was great!

For a film with no real villain and barely a conflict, its amazing that its as effective as it is! In fact, I guess in a way Miyazaki probably set out to prove you don't need a traditional villiain, or even any kinds of guns or violence, to tell a compelling story. And he succeeded.

Miyazki is a master of pacing. He first introduces us to our 3 characters, and our setting - but just the house at first. Other characters meet them there, then the girls begin to explore around the house, and more is revealed, then Mei meets Totoro, and more is revealed, etc. It all unfolds so deliberately, but never in a slow or boring way.

I'm sure some have criticized this film for its length and abrupt ending - more or less, it features 2 acts then then suddenly we're at the end of a short climax, and its over. But I thought it was fine. Just enough time was given to any aspect of the story. If I can any questions about the film, it was the character of the neighbor boy. His motivations were kind of unclear to me, since he didn't speak much. Did he have the hots for Satsuki? Or was he slow or something? He was kinda weird and I felt like they were going to reveal something about him at the end, but then didn't.

The voice acting was once again spectacular. Dakota and Elle Fanning were perfectly cast as Satsuki and Mei, and Tim Daly was great as their father. Frank Welker played an interesting Totoro and Catbus, though I'm kind of surprised they even recast those since they don't REALLY speak, ya know?

I also LOVED the score to the film! Hisaishi's score was great! I think it probably repeated the same two themes throughout, but I noticed the score often, and for the first time it really made me want to check it out outside the film. I might just do so soon!

So after 4 films, I'd rank them:
1. Nausciaa
2. My Neighbor Totoro
3. Castle In The Sky
4. Castle of Cagliostro
It's actually really hard to rank them since they're all so different (and all so good - we're talking four A+ movies here!)

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Once again, we disagree a bit, although, this time, I can totally understand why you liked the film, as it is indeed a fine feature. Not sure I understand your criticism of Kanta's character, though. I thought he was OK. Just someone who had trouble expressing his emotions. That's all.

I find it funny that you said this was the first Miyazaki film where you noticed the score, as I thought the previous two also had noticeable moments (especially Laputa. Again, I cannot stress enough how you guys should listen to the US version of that one!), even if a bit lacking in some aspects.

My ranking of the film is quite different from yours. ;)

1. Laputa: Castle In The Sky

2. Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro

3. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind

4. My Neighbor Totoro

While I'd say My Neighbor Totoro is the superior film compared to Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind in almost every aspect (visually, musically, the atmosphere, etc.), I think that the latter, no matter how flawed it is, is more compelling.

Then I listened to the US version of the soundtrack. And wow! I loved it! The use of the orchestra really improved the music, and the rescore gave Hisaishi the opportunity to develop his cues and themes a bit more.

As a huge fan of Castle in the Sky, and especially its rescore and dub, I am very pleased to hear this rave review of this reworking. It's rare to find fans of the rescore. Many, many purists at the time (2003) excoriated the new score, declaring that it was "a crime against all humanity" that "utterly butchered the film", even declaring the Disney dub to be unbearable. Today, some people still do. I myself never agreed with that and always believed the Castle dub to be excellent, and quite frankly, underrated. As much as I loved the performances, it was the rescore that really sold the dub for me. I have nothing against the original Japanese version; it's still beautiful, but this new score just breathes a lot of color and richness into an already beautiful work. I've since stuck with this new score and never looked back. Bravo to see someone acknowledge this unfairly maligned reworking as a work of art in its own right. Kudos!

:thumbup:

While I can understand why the purists prefer to have the movie retain its original score, I can't understand why anyone would reject the score just because it's replacement music, and not based on the actual quality of the music. Moreover, the new score is very faithful to the original. It's not something completely new: all the music that was in the original score is there, plus some more.

If people prefer to have a version of the film with the original score, fine. But it's just dumb to dismiss the new score entirely, even as a separate entity, because it's damn fine music.

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I guess I mis-typed there - I shouldn't have said it was the first one where I noticed the score, I mean that it was the first one where I was REALLY compelled to go out and listen to it outside the film right away. It was really good!

I'm sure they're all good, but all I can comment on currently is how I noticed them in the film, and since I'm watching all these films for either the first time or the first time in a decade, I'm not paying much attention to the scores.

I read your review now (I don't like to read them until after I've seen the movie in question) and yea, that whole bus stop sequence was so cute! Pure Miyazaki magic.

Interesting that this the first Miyazaki film that actually takes place in Japan! I didn't even think about that until after. It's kind of funny seeing actual Japanese text (like on the catbus, and the letters) since I think they avoided that in the last two films (since they took place in made up lands).

I watched most of the special features on the BD afterwards. Crazy how long it took Miyazaki to realize his vision after he had it, how it wasn't going to be a film for so long, how he originally didn't have separate characters for the sisters! The two sisters were a great part of the film, they were very realistic and relatable characters (if you can remember being that age!)

Such a magical film.

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I guess I mis-typed there - I shouldn't have said it was the first one where I noticed the score, I mean that it was the first one where I was REALLY compelled to go out and listen to it outside the film right away. It was really good!

I'm sure they're all good, but all I can comment on currently is how I noticed them in the film, and since I'm watching all these films for either the first time or the first time in a decade, I'm not paying much attention to the scores.

Well, if you're interested in checking Hisaishi's music, I'd recommend so far:

- For Nausicaä And The Valley Of The Wind: the Symphonic Poem from the album Hisaishi Meets Miyazaki Films (the original soundtrack is a bit meh. The Symphonic Poem includes most of/all the highlights from the score).

- For Laputa: Castle In The Sky: the US version of the score (includes all the music from the original Japanese score, but this time it's fully orchestral).

- For My Neighbor Totoro: the original soundtrack.

Interesting that this the first Miyazaki film that actually takes place in Japan! I didn't even think about that until after. It's kind of funny seeing actual Japanese text (like on the catbus, and the letters) since I think they avoided that in the last two films (since they took place in made up lands).

Yeah, I noticed that too. It also feels like the most personal film he has made (he even drew inspiration from his own childhood).

Also, something I forgot to mention in my review: a really interesting theory regarding who Totoro could actually be.

http://kotaku.com/the-scary-theory-that-totoro-is-the-god-of-death-5926248

More info on that: Scary Truth Behind "My Neighbor Totoro"

I honestly don't think that's what Miyazaki had in mind at all, but it still makes for an interesting interpretation of the film, and makes you look at it in a very different way!

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Yea definitely don't agree with that.

Miyazaki clearly set out to make a smaller, more intimate flick, with no guns or violence, while showcasing both the beauty of Japan and nature in general.

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While I can understand why the purists prefer to have the movie retain its original score, I can't understand why anyone would reject the score just because it's replacement music, and not based on the actual quality of the music. Moreover, the new score is very faithful to the original. It's not something completely new: all the music that was in the original score is there, plus some more.

If people prefer to have a version of the film with the original score, fine. But it's just dumb to dismiss the new score entirely, even as a separate entity, because it's damn fine music.

Regretably, that's just what a lot of purists did. And besides it could have been worse. Remember how Ridley Scott's Legend dropped Jerry Goldsmith's richly orchestral score for Tangarine Dream's ill-fitting pop soundtrack? It would be one thing if the new score was ill-fitting rap/techno, but in this case it was done by the original guy.

I don't know if you saw the movie with the Disney dub and the rescore, but for me, it really made the picture for me. That and the performances of the cast. On another note, it's unfortunate that one of the cast members from the dub of Laputa has recently passed. That man is Richard Dysart, who played one of my other favorite characters from the movie, the kindly Uncle Pom. I really loved his performance and especially his opening line: "I can't see you clearly yet goblin, but you sound like Pazu." That always makes me chuckle.

The voice acting was once again spectacular. Dakota and Elle Fanning were perfectly cast as Satsuki and Mei, and Tim Daly was great as their father. Frank Welker played an interesting Totoro and Catbus, though I'm kind of surprised they even recast those since they don't REALLY speak, ya know?

The new dub of Totoro is a dub that many, many, many Ghibli fans absolutely abhor, calling it a complete travesty that "ruins" the movie. But that's mainly because they grew up with the previous version from FOX which featured a dub from Carl Macek which was actually quite good for its time. I do have a soft spot for it. However, that is not to say that I think the Disney version is inferior by comparison. On the contrary. I think it too is a great dub. The only thing I think the FOX dub handles better is the OP/ED songs, but otherwise both dubs are on par IMO.

Unfortunately, many other fans do not have such thoughts; I've seen many trash the new dub quite undeservedly, especially on Amazon, I've seen people scream "I want the REAL TOTORO. THE NEW DUB IS TERRIBLE" yadda yadda. I understand the frustration of not being able to have that version in HD, but the backlash against the newer dub is very undeserved.

Castle in the Sky received a similar atmosphere not just with fans of the original Japanese version (which is nullified anyway because they can see it in Japanese), but with the few who saw a previously dubbed version that Disney didn't do. Although small in number, these fans insist that the older non-Disney dub is "SOOOOOOO much better than the ******* Disney dub" and that the older dub is "absolutely perfect". Unfortunately, the older dub of Laputa is not anywhere nearly as good as they hyped. In fact, Carl Macek himself was not particularly fond of it, and for good reason. Even with the arguments that Disney's version makes Pazu and Sheeta sound a bit more mature than their Japanese counterparts and takes some liberties with their translation (although they still are faithful to the story overall), the quality of the voices and acting in that older version are just embarrassing compared to the Disney version.

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/Laputa-Castle-in-the-Sky/Sheeta/

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/Laputa-Castle-in-the-Sky/Pazu/

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/Laputa-Castle-in-the-Sky/Louie/

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/Laputa-Castle-in-the-Sky/General-Muoro/

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/Laputa-Castle-in-the-Sky/Muska/

Now to be fair to the older version, it doesn't take as many liberties as Disney's dub does and the leads don't sound like teens, but those two plusses are cancelled out by both the hideously robotic acting and the even worse writing. The writing sounds choppy and stilted, not at all like how a dub is supposed to flow. And yet some people insist it crushes Disney's version. Go figure. I personally can't stand it. The Disney dub, for my vote, is the better of the two by far. Now people are entitled to their preferences, and I respect that. But it's hard for me to take any arguments in favor of this older dub seriously.

Now with Totoro the argument in favor of the older dub is understandable because as I said, it's quite good for a 1989 dub. But as with the older dub of Laputa, much of the backlash against the newer dub comes from nostalgia for the older version.

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/My-Neighbor-Totoro/Satsuki-Kusakabe/

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/My-Neighbor-Totoro/Mei-Kusakabe/

http://www.behindthevoiceactors.com/voice-compare/My-Neighbor-Totoro/Tatsuo-Kusakabe/

Because of all this controversy, it pleases me to see people giving these dubs a fair chance and evaluating them without being overly attached to the original versions they saw first, which granted is a human thing to do, but still.

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Yea definitely don't agree with that.

Miyazaki clearly set out to make a smaller, more intimate flick, with no guns or violence, while showcasing both the beauty of Japan and nature in general.

What you have to remember though is that the Japanese have a different relation to death and spirits than we do in (most) Western cultures (just look at how happy the characters are to be living in a haunted house, then consider what you think of a haunted house...), so if Totoro was indeed the God of death, that wouldn't necessarily make the film a grim story.

The reason I'm saying I don't think that it's the case is because Miyazaki is the one who made the film, and knowing his other films and the themes in them, I don't think that's it's something that was in his mind when making that one.

Had this been another filmmaker, I would have actually thought that maybe that theory was correct, though.

Regretably, that's just what a lot of purists did. And besides it could have been worse. Remember how Ridley Scott's Legend dropped Jerry Goldsmith's richly orchestral score for Tangarine Dream's ill-fitting pop soundtrack? It would be one thing if the new score was ill-fitting rap/techno, but in this case it was done by the original guy.

Exactly! Disney could have asked some random composer to rescore the film, but they asked Hisaishi to do it, and that at the very least should be appreciated.

I don't know if you saw the movie with the Disney dub and the rescore

Nope. Watching the movies in Japanese. ;)

Though I'd love to watch a version of the film with both the Japanese dialogue and the new score!

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魔女の宅急便 a.k.a Kiki's Delivery Service - Hayao Miyazaki (1989)

 

Quote

A young witch, on her mandatory year of independent life, finds fitting into a new community difficult while she supports herself by running an air courier service.

 

First time watching that one.

 

This film is quite similar to My Neighbor Totoro: this is a small, slow, and (mostly) uneventful feature that basically follows the daily routine of our main character, and ends with a climax that feels a bit forced (it's there because, well, "a movie needs a climax", more than because of the story's natural progression). But unlike Totoro, Kiki's Delivery's Service lacks the whimsical atmosphere which made that one quite a unique film. Here, the atmosphere feels a bit more mundane, mainly because of the environment (a nondescript European city). That's not to say the movie doesn't have a certain charm, because it does, but it still feels a bit less special compared to previous Miyazaki films. It's interesting to note that this is the first Miyazaki film that is not an original story (it's an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono).

 

One of the strengths of the film is its protagonists. They're all likeable and have a role to play in the story (none feel useless). Kiki is a lovable main character and is well developed throughout the film (moreso than any main character in previous Miyazaki films). It's quite interesting to follow her on her journey to start her business and learning the ropes. Jiji makes for an amusing sidekick and gives us some good scenes (that sequence with the dog was pretty funny). He's also an important part of the plot, too, and so is Tombo, another cool character. The rest of the characters form a nice ensemble (Osono, her husband, Ursula, etc.). Yep, I had no problem with that aspect of the film.

 

I had more of a problem with the story (or lack thereof). Once again, much like Totoro, the film does not have much of a plot. Kiki leaves her family house to go to town and start her own business. There, that's your story. I'm fine with that, as long as the few events that happen onscreen are engaging one way or another. And for parts of the film, it all looked OK to me: Kiki arriving to town, trying to get used to her new life and environment, etc. But then we got to that overly long herring and pumpkin pot pie sequence, and my patience started to wear thin. That particular moment felt too drawn-out, to me (the pay-off, with the granddaughter acting like a bitch, made up a bit for that). There were a few other moments like that throughout the film, thankfully not as long as this one. I understand that this was what Miyazaki was trying to do: just show us the daily routine of the characters, and while I get it that some people can find enjoyment in watching stuff like that (as I did during parts of the film), sequences like the whole pie business have just zero interest for me (worth mentioning is the fact that originally, the film was going to be only 1-hour long. Well, I can see which parts they extended! ;))

 

The film has a bit of an odd structure, too. Basically, the first two-thirds of the story consist of Kiki arriving to the city, starting her delivery service, and then going on various assignements. Then, suddenly, the films turns into a story about puberty, as Kiki loses her powers and must find a way to get them back. Then, we have the climax coming out of nowhere, Kiki rescuing Tombo and, seconds after that, the end credits. It felt like everything was happening too fast, here. The transition from act 2 to act 3, in particular, was quite abrupt. It did give us a nice scene where Kiki suddenly realizes she doesn't understand Jiji anymore, though. A touching moment for sure. And that's where I want to mention something regarding the dub that I find inexcusable: in the Japanese version, Jiji still doesn't speak at the end of the film (which shows that Kiki is now fully grown up), while in the first dubbed version, they made Jiji speak again at the end, which totally changes the ending of the film. Now, I think this was fixed in Disney's latest release of the film, but still... That's an inexcusable change, if there ever was one!

 

In terms of visuals, the film is, like any other Miyazaki film, extremely well-drawn. It's possibly, along with My Neighbor Totoro, the best-looking Miyazaki film in that regard. That being said, the visuals themselves are a bit mundane (when compared to Miyazaki's previous films). After the post-apocalyptic world of Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, the diverse locations in Castle In The Sky or the lush forests in My Neighbor Totoro, the vistas in Kiki's Delivery Service look too ordinary. I mean, the town in which most of the film takes place is your average European port town. The best visual aspect of the film remains the flying sequences. The way they are "shot", edited and animated is top-notch. Fantastic stuff there. I particularly loved that moment where Kiki is flying near gooses and they are swept away by the wind (superb animation). That was so well done, it made me go "Wow!". You could also add to that (even if it isn't a flying scene) the propeller bicycle scene. Highly energetic, and again, really well animated and edited. It reminded me of the car chase in The Castle Of Cagliostro. Miyazaki really knows how to direct those sequences!

 

Hisaishi's music is, much like the film, pleasant but not particularly exceptional. The score features varied music: you have tracks with some European flavour (A Town With An Ocean View, Rendezvous On The Deck Brush), tango-like music (Helping The Baker), material that sounds like saloon music (the piano-led Substitute Jiji), synthish music (Propeller Bicycle), etc., but still feels cohesive overall. The score also has many cues that work well in the film, but make no lasting impression whatsoever, unfortunately (such as Departure (nice eerie music at 02:08 in that one, though), the kiddie-like Starting The Job, Late For The Party, Propeller Bicycle). The rest of the incidental material is still pretty solid, nonetheless, like the anxious I Can't Fly, the moody Heartbroken Kiki, the relaxing A Mysterious Painting or the urgent The Adventure Of Freedom - Out Of Control. The opening and ending songs aren't bad, either.

 

While the score offers diverse music, it's not thematically rich. There's only like four themes, really, and none of them developed much. Kiki's theme (introduced in On A Clear Day) is a nice melody, though clearly not one of Hisaishi's best. It gets a few variations throughout the score (in Flying Delivery Service, in Jeff (superb second half in that one), To Ursula's Cabin and in Rendezvous On The Deck Brush), but isn't that much present. The flying theme is the highlight of the score, to me, even if unfortunately only heard in two tracks: A Town With An Ocean View, where it gets many variations (I particularly like the bridge section at 01:24 in that track) and in the blood-pumping The Old Man's Deck Brush, which features kick-ass action renditions of that theme (if there's only one track you need to listen to, it's that one! Unfortunately, it went unused in the film...). There's a theme which I think is for the town (heard in the last 30 seconds of A Town With An Ocean View and in Very Busy Kiki), and another theme that is hard to define (maybe a "growing up" theme) heard in Departure and Osono's Request, but both sound a bit ordinary.

 

Apparently, this film, like Castle In The Sky, got the rescore treatment. However, unlike Castle In The Sky, the rescore was not made by Hisaishi, but by an american composer, Paul Chihara, and he actually only wrote and recorded additional cues, he didn't remake the whole score (so it's more of an "additional music score" than a rescore, really). The opening and ending songs were also replaced by two English-spoken songs. Now, as far as I know, this score has not be released on any album, so I can't really speak about it, though based on what I read here and there, it's not really substantial: just a few piano cues here and there, and other small bits just to "fill in the gaps" (that is to say, to put music in scenes where there was no music). It also doesn't make references to Hisaishi's theme, so the added material doesn't blend well with his score (I'd be interested in listening to it, though). As for the two new songs (which can be found on some rare album apparently, and are on Youtube), they're quite good. A nice replacement for their Japanese counterparts.

 

So, what we have here is yet another well-directed film, with no major flaw (maybe a score that is a tad run-off-the-mill). It's just not the kind of film I find captivating. It is pleasant, but I need more than just "pleasant" to be engaged in a film. Better luck next time!

 

5/10

 

 

On A Clear Day

 

A Town With An Ocean View

 

Flying Delivery Service

 

Jeff

 

Very Busy Kiki

 

I Can't Fly

 

Heartbroken Kiki

 

The Adventure Of Freedom - Out Of Control

 

The Old Man's Deck Brush

 

Rendezvous On The Deck Brush

 

 

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P.S.: Did anyone understand why Kiki decided to hide from the baker as she was coming out of of the restroom? What was up with that? What was the point of that scene? A weird moment, for sure.

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Kiki's Delivery Service was the first Ghibil movie I ever saw, and it was Disney's dub that was my first exposure.

But yes, I can also confirm that Jiji's last line from the Disney dub was indeed dialed out of recent re-releases. The rescore by Chihara, which is pleasant but nowhere nearly as richly memorable as Hisaishi's Laputa score, although certainly not offensive, is also gone, as is most of the added in dialogue.

Unfortunately, these two things come with a price: the Disney dub of Kiki, like any of the studio's dubs for Ghibli, is really good, but the sound mix on the 2010 DVD and 2012 BD is awful. The voices sound like they're being passed through a filter, and as such, they come across as grating. This is especially noticeable during Kiki's lines, which sound like they're running through a fan. Faithful or not, I cannot watch this revamped dub of Kiki without wincing at the bad sound quality. Which is why I prefer the original version of the Disney dub. Sure, it's guilty of altering the last part of the movie, but there's still a charm to it. Likewise with Laputa, I can't watch the revised Disney version without the rescored music because it makes the dub feel… empty to me.

Then again that's just my opinion.

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Talking about the score, there's a trend I started noticing in Miyazaki's films: he likes to have the climax (mostly) unscored. All his films so far (minus My Neighbor Totoro) had little to no music during their climax. I first started to notice that with Castle In The Sky, then again with Kiki's Delivery Service (as I thought it was a shame he didn't use Hisaishi's cue The Old Man's Deck Brush) and then I started thinking about the previous films and realized the same thing happened with them.

It's quite different from how the music is used in most films' climax (well, at least in Western films, where the climax is generally scored wall-to-wall). I'm a bit ambivalent about that. While I think this worked/didn't bother me in some films (The Castle Of Cagliostro, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind), for others (well, the two for which I noticed there was no music), I think the lack of music caused a lack of momentum during the climax, and they could have used at least a bit of music (they didn't necessarily have to be scored wall-to-wall, though).

Jon, since you've seen it, do you remember if in the version of the film with Paul Chihara's added score, there was music during the zeppelin sequence?

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Talking about the score, there's a trend I started noticing in Miyazaki's films: he likes to have the climax (mostly) unscored. All his films so far (minus My Neighbor Totoro) had little to no music during their climax. I first started to notice that with Castle In The Sky, then again with Kiki's Delivery Service (as I thought it was a shame he didn't use Hisaishi's cue The Old Man's Deck Brush) and then I started thinking about the previous films and realized the same thing happened with them.

It's quite different from how the music is used in most films' climax (well, at least in Western films, where the climax is generally scored wall-to-wall). I'm a bit ambivalent about that. While I think this worked/didn't bother me in some films (The Castle Of Cagliostro, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind), for others (well, the two for which I noticed there was no music), I think the lack of music caused a lack of momentum during the climax, and they could have used at least a bit of music (they didn't necessarily have to be scored wall-to-wall, though).

Jon, since you've seen it, do you remember if in the version of the film with Paul Chihara's added score, there was music during the zeppelin sequence?

There was indeed additional music added into the dub. Sustained strings during the bit where Tombo dangles on the propeller, synthesized tones when Kiki flies again, then we hear "I Can't Fly!" as the dirigible approaches the clock tower and crashes. After that, it's silent again.

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So they didn't even use The Old Man's Deck Brush? Bah!

It's not used in either version of the movie. For some reason Miyazaki chose to have it dialed out. I think it would be interesting to see how that scene would have worked with that song.

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So they didn't even use The Old Man's Deck Brush? Bah!

 

It's not used in either version of the movie.  For some reason Miyazaki chose to have it dialed out.  I think it would be interesting to see how that scene would have worked with that song.

 

Well, there you go:

 

I did two tests with that cue. As I see it, there are two possibilities for where it was meant to go (to me, the second option works better and is the most likely spot for the cue).

 

In the first video, I made the cue start right when Kiki takes off (at 00:25), which I thought made for a logical sync point with the music. I think it works OK, with the percussion hit at 00:42 accompanying Kiki's fall on the roof, then again the bit at 01:52 accompanying her second fall, and finally the cue ending just as the zepppelin is crashing down at 02:18. That being said, I don't find that all this works perfectly, so that's why I made another video (see below).

 

The Old Man's Deck Brush - Test 1

 

 

 

For the second video, what I decided to do was sync the end of the cue with Tombo's fall at 03:39, and see how the whole cue would sync with the picture. And I have to say, I think it works better that way: you have the cue starting at 01:45, just as we cut to Kiki coming to the rescue, the bit at 02:02 showing up as we cut to the shot of the zeppelin, the flying theme returning at 02:49 as Kiki approaches the zeppelin, the changing rythm at 03:01 as Kiki arrives near Tombo, the tense strings showing up at 03:13 as Kiki tries to grab his hand, the music intensifying at 03:24 as everyone is encouraging Kiki and finally, the music stopping at 03:39 as Tombo lets go of the rope.

 

The Old Man's Deck Brush - Test 2

 

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紅の豚 a.k.a Porco Rosso - Hayao Miyazaki (1992)

 

Quote

The adventures of "Porco Rosso", a veteran WW1 pilot in 1930s Italy, who has been cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig.

 

First time watching this one.

 

I was really intrigued by it, as I knew it was Chaac's favourite Miyazaki film, so I expected greatness, and, while I enjoyed it, I still find it felt short on some aspects. A bit like Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind in that regard.

 

The opening scene of the film was easily one of the highlights. The typewriter stuff, with typos and all, made me chuckle. And then... BAM! You have that great action sequence, with mindblowing animation (this film is full of superbly animated moments), great editing, funny characters and propulsive music. It is not really representative of the overall tone of the film, though, which is for the most part a laid-back story, with a few actiony bits. That being said, the film has a perfect pace, with no moments where you feel bored (interestingly, this is the third Miyazaki film in a row that originally was meant to be a short story (under an hour) but ended up being a full-length feature). Throughout the entire running time, you are invested in the story and characters.

 

Talking about the characters, they're really good. The best in a Miyazaki film since Castle In The Sky. The disgruntled but still likeable Marco is a cool main character, who you immediatly care for. His relationship with Gina is an interesting aspect of the film, as you can see him being torn between his love for her and his friendship with Bellini. Gina is a nice character, though we don't see her as much as I would have liked. She definitely would have deserved more screentime, in order to be developed a bit more. Piccolo and his granddaughter Fio are two fun protagonists, who help make the middle part of the film enjoyable, with funny bits like the bills that keep on pilling up during the "building the plane" montage, and the whole Piccolo family coming to help (it's funny to note that Fio is pretty much a rehash of Ursula's design in Kiki's Delivery Service, with some Nausicaä thrown in there too!). Curtis and the pirates are a hilarious bunch of characters, too (the scene where they're trying to coordinate their efforts to attack the boat was a delight!). All in all, the "cast" of Porco Rosso is one of its best aspects.

 

The film also has a lot of great ideas and memorable moments: the characters watching an animated film (clever mise-en-abyme there), Gina remembering her childhood with Marco (for some reason, I thought this scene was terribly effective), the escape-by-the-canal scene (again, great animation there), the white band scene, Fio seeing Marco in his human form... That's the kind of stuff that was missing in Kiki's Delivery Service! The finale, in comparison to what came before, was maybe a tad underwhelming, but that's no biggie. The abrupt ending, on the other hand, was more of a problem for me. Yet again, for the third consecutive time, the climax of the film feels a bit forced (I don't mean the duel between Curtis and Porco, but the arrival of the army). It feels like Miyazaki wasn't sure how to wrap up his movie, and he came up with this mildly satisfying idea in a hurry. I don't know. To me, it feels like it could have been improved upon...

 

Visually, the film fails to impress. Sure, the drawings are just as good as the previous Miyazaki films, but the vistas are far less varied. Since a lot of the film takes place up in the air, what we get to see is generally just a blue sky with some clouds. And sometimes, we get the sea with a few islands. It makes for a visually less varied and less interesting film (I had a hard time finding 5 really cool shots for the review). On the good side, as I said above, the animation is downright stunning (it makes the flying scenes so fucking cool. The scene where Piccolo is testing the new engine is also a good example of the great animation). Easily the best Miyazaki has done so far. It gives an undeniable energy to the film.

 

Hisaishi's score is probably my least favourite of his so far (for a Miyazaki film). There's nothing inherently wrong with it, apart from the fact that, maybe, it lacks a strong identity. The score opens vigorously with The Wind Of Time (When A Human Can Be A Human), a fun and energetic cue which introduces us to Porco Rosso's theme, a bouncy melody that is quite catchy. Unfortunately, after one or two statements here and there in the first half of the score, it seems Hisaishi decided to abandon it in the second half for some reason. It's a bit of a shame, because the other themes are not as solid. The pirates' theme, first heard in Mamma Aiuto and reprised in tracks like Flying Boatmen, is circus-like music that fits the clownish group of characters well, but is not particularly noteworthy. The love theme for Marco and Gina, first appearing in The Bygone Days, feels a bit run-of-the-mill to me. Sure, it gets a nice enough rendition in A Sepia-Colored Picture, but it's still nothing to write home about. There's nothing distinctive about it. Only the Italian-flavoured Piccolo's/Fio's theme, introduced in Fio ~ Seventeen, gives us some pleasant music, especially with the extended treatment it gets in Women Of Piccolo. The score does have a few nice incidental moments to offer too, such as Serbia March, Doom (Cloud Trap), Madness (Flight) (I like how the piano and strings play off each other in this one), the otherworldly Lost Spirit... But overall, it meanders around quite a bit, especially in its second half, which sounds a bit anonymous. This is not a bad score, but this is certainly not Hisaishi's best.

 

Porco Rosso is a fun romp that is a bit rough around the edges and suffers from a rather anonymous score and mundane visuals, but features engaging characters, a story that, even if a bit basic, has some superb sequences to offer (the Marco/Gina flashback, the white band scene...), and absolutely flawless animation. It may not be up there with Miyazaki's finest films, but it's solid entertainment all around nonetheless.

 

6.5/10

 

 

The Wind Of Time (When A Human Can Be A Human)

 

Addio!

 

A Sepia-Colored Picture

 

Serbia March

 

Flying Boatmen

 

Doom (Cloud Trap)

 

Fio ~ Seventeen

 

Women Of Piccolo

 

Madness (Flight)

 

Lost Spirit

 

 

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P.S.: I read that Miyazaki considered doing a sequel to Porco Rosso a few years ago. Hasn't happened yet, will most likely never happen now, and honestly, I don't have a problem with that. This film doesn't need a sequel. None of Miyazaki's films do, really, apart from Nausicaä maybe (and even then, there's not much left to say).

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porco_Rosso

 

Quote

In 2011 Miyazaki said that he wanted to make a follow-up anime to the 1992 original film if his next few films following Ponyo were successful. The film's working name is currently Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie and will be set during the Spanish Civil War with Porco also returning, albeit this time as an old pilot, reflecting Miyazaki's own aging. Miyazaki is writing the film, but Hiromasa Yonebayashi will direct. Due to both Miyazaki and Yonebayashi's departure from Ghibli and the current hiatus of the studio itself, the current status on the proposed sequel remains uncertain.

 

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Porco Rosso has never really been one of my favorite Miyazaki projects, but I do respect that it has a following. It's still a gorgeous movie, though, and surprisingly funny at times. Michael Keaton was a rather strange choice to play the title character, but he manages it surprisingly well, and Cary Elwes, playing against type, is amusingly pompous as Curtis.

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The English dubs I've seen so far have all been completely fantastic.

Hopefully I can continue watching Miyazaki movies starting this Sunday

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Damn, all your comments about the English dubs make me curious about them! :P

You may like 'em, you may not. Your mileage may vary. But I genuinely do love them in English. I have nothing against the Japanese versions; I'm cool with people who prefer viewing the movies that way. But I personally feel Disney's done a pretty darn good job with them. There's nothing grating about either of these dubs that would take me out of the movie (except for The Wind Rises; I just felt the dub of that was lacking in some ways).

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Kiki's Delivery Service

My second time seeing this one. Another great one from the master!

It reminded me a lot of My Neighbor Totoro; Small stakes, small scale, focused on a young girl main character, no villain/antagonist, two acts of scene-setting and character intro and development until a random conflict creates a third act that is very quickly resolved, and then the film's over! Like My Neighbor Totoro it was completely charming throughout, too! Unlike Totoro though, which focused on a very small amount of characters in a small amount of locations, the scope is a little bigger here, with Kiki starting at home with her parents, and then arriving at the big city via broomstick and train, where she meets a lot of different characters!

I loved the city, it had so much character. A nice blend of San Francisco and other European cities. I also liked the time frame - in one of the special features, Miyazaki said he was going for a 1950s that never had gone through WW2, which makes sense. I also loved how Kiki meets the characters one by one - first Tombo, then Osono, then Ursula, then the old ladies, etc. And that all have a reason for weaving in and out of Kiki's life.

The voice acting was great again, with Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, Janeane Garofalo as Ursula, Matthew Lawrence (woah!) as Tombo, Tress MacNeille as Osono.... but who really shines in Phil Hartman as Jiji, in what must have been one of his last roles. He was great as the black cat, a wonderful performance.

Overall, Jiji was fantastic, a great Miyazaki character. Would have been fine with even more scenes with him! Ursula was pretty cool too. I'm not sure why Osono was pregnant, since it didn't really play into anything, other than maybe to make her more likely to hire help? Her husband was funny, I thought he'd go the whole movie without talking!

We also get another Miyazaki flying machine of course, this time a bicycle propelled one that Tombo is trying to make happen. It was pretty cool!

I was thinking, that I'd actually enjoy a sequel to this movie! Yes on the one hand, it tells a complete stoy (a girl learns to trust her abilities, overcome self-doubt, begins adulthood, etc), but its a cool world and they could do more with different witches in different places and having to team up, show different areas and more magic, more Jiji, etc. Obviously its never going to happen, but it could be interesting (I have no idea what the future novels the original movie was based on are like).

I learned after watching that Miyazaki originally wasn't planning to direct, that they had assigned some younger members of Ghibli to helm it but it didn't work out, so Miyazaki took over. This kind of makes sense because while it does still have all the Miyazaki charm and feel, it doesn't, ultimately, feel like something he would have been involved with from the start. It's the first one without any fantasy creatures at all!

The score by Hisaishi was great, I liked it a lot.

So now Miyazaki's done two heavier fantasy films in a row (Nausicaa and Castle in the Sky) and then two lighter quasi-real-world films in a row (Totoro and Kiki)..... I look forward to seeing what he does next with Porco Rosso!

After 5 films, I'd rank them:
1. Nausciaa
2. My Neighbor Totoro
3. Castle In The Sky
4. Kiki's Delivery Service
5. Castle of Cagliostro
It's actually really hard to rank them since they're all so different (and all so good - we're talking four A+ movies here!)
Bonus Jiji gifs because I can't help myself
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Overall, Jiji was fantastic, a great Miyazaki character. Would have been fine with even more scenes with him!

I liked Jiji too, though I wonder how much Miyazaki brought to the character and how much was already there in the book.

I was thinking, that I'd actually enjoy a sequel to this movie! Yes on the one hand, it tells a complete stoy (a girl learns to trust her abilities, overcome self-doubt, begins adulthood, etc), but its a cool world and they could do more with different witches in different places and having to team up, show different areas and more magic, more Jiji, etc. Obviously its never going to happen, but it could be interesting (I have no idea what the future novels the original movie was based on are like).

Didn't know the book had sequels (no less than 5, I see!). I personally don't think the film needs a sequel. It's a coming of age story, so by the end of it, there's not much left to say: Kiki has learned to live on her own. Sure, they could always come up with some story, but it's still a pretty basic world we are presented with in the film: there's not much to explore or develop.

Liked the "more Jiji" at the end of your enumeration. :P

It's the first one without any fantasy creatures at all!

The second one. The Castle Of Cagliostro didn't have any, either. ;)

Our rankings of the films couldn't be more different! Though I agree they're all quality films.

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紅の豚 a.k.a Porco Rosso - Hayao Miyazaki (1992)

The adventures of "Porco Rosso", a veteran WW1 pilot in 1930s Italy, who has been cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig.

6.5/10

Well, I managed to read through the whole thing and that doesn't happen very often when it comes to reviews. Excellent work! I'm totally with you on all the points though this being one of my childhood favorites I would give it nothing less than 10. Nostalgia always wins!

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I just recently stumbled across an alternate English dub for Porco Rosso. I have to say without hesitate the Disney dub is better in comparison easily. The other English dub is just plain bad, with everyone involved sounding either detached from their roles, exaggeratedly cartoony, and/or emotionless. It was produced on the cheap for Japan Airlines, and honestly, it shows. Disney's version, while perhaps not my favorite of their dubs, is easily superior to it.

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もののけ姫 a.k.a. Princess Mononoke - Hayao Miyazaki (1997)

 

Quote

On a journey to find the cure for a Tatarigami's curse, Ashitaka finds himself in the middle of a war between the forest gods and Tatara, a mining colony. In this quest he also meets San, the Mononoke Hime.

 

Fourth time watching that one.

 

This feature is quite special in Miyazaki's filmography: not only was it the first one to get a proper release in many countries (people didn't have to wait 10 years for it to be released in their country, unlike Miyazaki's previous features) and thus was for many (myself included) their introduction to the filmmaker, but it's also his biggest film in pretty much every way (the running time, the story, the scope) and his most successful, too. It was also his most mature film yet (more on that below) and one with the most classic story: a hero going on a quest to stop a war, falling in love with a girl, being involved in many impressive setpieces, etc. In a way, it is the most accessible Miyazaki film for Western audiences. Hisaishi's score is also the first one that feels like a 'classic score', as we're used to in many films, with lots of themes used many times (his previous scores did have some themes, but there were not really thematically-driven). To put it simply, this is probably Miyazaki's most conventional film (even if it has a lot of unconventional elements and features all of his trademarks, minus the flying machines. It's the first one which doesn't have any!).

 

The story is, as I said above, as classic as it gets: there's a conflict, with two sides, and a hero in-between. But what's interesting is that, just like in Miyazaki's other films, there are no bad guys. There are just people trying their best to survive and doing what they think is the right thing to do. Which is what makes the story a bit complex: you have, on the nature side, San and the wolves trying to defend the forest but think it is no use to kill humans and ultimately only want Eboshi to die, the boars who want to go to war, and on the human side, Eboshi who wants the head of the Deer God to offer it to the Emperor in exchange for protection, Jiko-Bo working for his own personal gain, Lord Asano who wants the Ironworks, Ashitaka who wants to stop the conflict... There are many parties involved, and they all want something different, which makes the conflict not as clear-cut as it first appears. The richness in characters is one of the aspects the film that make it appealing. The film is full of great characters: Ashitaka, San, Moro, Nago, Okkoto, Jiko-Bo, Eboshi, Koroku, Toki, Gonza... They're all developed well enough and get their moment to shine.

 

So the story here is not only a bit more complex than in Miyazaki's previous films, it's also a lot more violent. When I first saw the film, it didn't particularly shock me, because I didn't have any other Miyazaki films to compare it to, but after having seen all of the films he did prior to that one, I was surprised to see lots of heads and arms being chopped off, lots of people dying (you have some people dying in Castle In The Sky, but it wasn't as graphic as it is here), a lot of blood, etc. Especially after three cute films like My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso. It almost feels like a different director. There's an interesting Miyazaki quote about that I found on Wiki, in the section about the themes of the film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Mononoke#Themes

 

Quote

Dan Jolin of Empire said that a potential theme could be that of lost innocence. Miyazaki attributes this to his experience of making his previous film, Porco Rosso, and the wars in the former Yugoslavia, which he cites as an example of mankind never learning, making it difficult for him to go back to making a film such as Kiki's Delivery Service, where he has been quoted as saying "It felt like children were being born to this world without being blessed. How could we pretend to them that we're happy?"

 

Along with that violence come a lot of action sequences (moreso than in any of his previous films), all of them quite stellar: the attack of the demon god at the beginning (Ashitaka looks badass riding Yakkul during this scene), the wolves attacking the convoy in the rain, the flashback showing Nago going berserk, San's raid on the Ironworks and fight with Eboshi (bloody love that sequence! A highlight of the film for me), Okkoto leading the boars to war, Ashitaka fighting Asano's samurai... All are incredibly well 'shot', edited and animated.

 

The film sure has many action scenes, but it also has many scenes in general. At one point, I just checked the clock to see where I was in the film (not because I was bored, just out of curiosity), expecting to be more than two thirds into the story, because a lot of stuff had happened, and I was surprised to see it was only the halfway point. It really is a massive film, with many, many things happening in it (yet another difference with the previous films, where not a lot was happening). Yet the film has a perfect pace, not too slow nor too fast. And it is chock-full of memorable scenes: I've already mentioned the action bits, but there's also the scene where Ashitaka meets San, the introduction of the Kodama, the scene where Ashitaka first sees the Deer God, the first scene with the apes (love those shadowy figures that make them look like Gollum-like creatures), Ashitaka being shot, his conversation with Moro at night, the scene where San feeds him, the scene where Jiko-Bo's men disguise as boars to have Okkoto guide them to the Deer God (there's something about that 'ghost boars' scene that I absolutely adore. That feeling of uneasiness, the way they move silently, etc. I find it extremely effective), the whole Moro/Eboshi antagonism...

 

If I were to nitpick, though I'd say there are a few things that do not entirely work for me. First, there's the whole Asano subplot. Since we never see him and we don't really know why he wants the Ironworks for himself, it is hard to really care for that subplot, especially when, after Ashitaka warns Eboshi about the Ironworks being attacked, she decides not to do anything about it, which makes it feel like it's no big deal (especially since the film never returns to it). This subplot feels a bit clumsily integrated into the film. There's also the many back-and-forths between the same places (Ashitaka going from the Deer God forest to the Ironworks, then back to the forest, then back to the Ironworks, then back to the forest) that feel a bit repetitive. And finally, there's the ending, which is a bit unsatisfying to me. Eboshi suddenly seems to have changed, but there's no real reason for that, Ashitaka says he's gonna work at the Ironworks, even though he spent the whole film trying to protect the forest... I don't know. It doesn't quite work for me. But really, these are minor quibbles, because overall, I dig the story.

 

While the film has a great story, characters and sequences, what I really love about it though is its atmosphere. Right from the start, you have a great mood setter with the shot of the mountains in the mist (along with the glimpse of Nago). For some reason, this shot is the thing that stayed in my mind long after I first watched the film. Everytime I think of Princess Mononoke, the first image that comes to my mind is that one. Just love it. Of course, the film has other great moments with neat atmosphere: Miyazaki often takes the time to give us slow, lengthy panoramic shots revealing the landscapes, such as when Ashitaka first enters inside the forest of the Deer God, or when Ashitaka and San are looking at the green valley at the end of the film. There's also a great sense of vastness in those shots and others. The world depicted in this film feels BIG. There are some lovely travel montages throughout the film, with superb visuals.

 

Those visuals contribute greatly to the atmosphere of the film. It feels like in this film, Miyazaki put extra care on light, depth of field, etc. Many shots feature multiple layers, like that very first shot I mentioned or during the Deer God's first appearance, which give them a greater sense of depth and a great immersive feel. While the film may not offer really diverse visuals, it does have fantastic shots to offer, with great composition. There's also an interesting visual contrast between the green and lush forest of the Deer God and the more brownish/reddish and austere Ironworks. The animation during the action sequences is also masterfully done (maybe even moreso than in Porco Rosso). It's also interesting to note that this is the first Miyazaki film where they used computer animation on some sequences (it is most apparent in scenes that feature smoke, as well as in the ending, during nature's rebirth where you can see the plants growing are clearly computer generated). It bugged me a wee bit, but since most of the time, it is very brief, it's no biggie.

 

The music for the film is some of Hisaishi's finest for a Miyazaki film. I'd say it was the first great score of the collaboration between the composer and director (the USA version of the Castle In The Sky score wouldn't come until two years later). It's a rich score, with stunning themes, great lyrical moments, solid action material and overall, it's a pretty cohesive work. Ashitaka's theme (first heard in The Legend Of Ashitaka) is one of the best (if not the best) themes of the Hisaishi/Miyazaki collaboration. It is a grand and operatic melody which perfectly captures the heart of the story. Oddly enough, it doesn't appear that much throughout the film (it is heard in The Land Of The Impure, the second half of Lady Eboshi (gorgeous rendition here), The Young Man From The East and... that's it, really). Instead, we have the theme introduced at 00:43 in The Journey To The West which is a much more prominent thematic idea. That theme, which I will call the journey theme, is another damn good melody with a great sense of melancholy to it (lovely statement in San And Ashitaka In The Forest Of The Deer God). Nago also gets a theme, introduced in The Demon God, a menacing motif which gets some interesting workout in the aforementioned hectic action track (it is given an nice elusive rendition in The Land Of The Impure, too). The motif for the Deer God, that gets its first proper rendition in the second half of Kodamas is a great eerie thematic idea, which use some interesting sounds and could have benefited from being developed a wee bit more. The Ironworks/Eboshi's theme, appearing in Evening At The Ironworks, is a lovely, peaceful melody (a bit reminiscent of the journey theme) which Hisaishi turns into a song in The Tatara Women Work Song (a nice touch).

 

Along with these five major thematic ideas are a few more minor ones. The demon power Ashitaka inherits from Nago has a short motif associated to it, which appears in two tracks (The Demon Power and The Demon Power II), though it's a bit trivial. More interesting is the quirky, almost comical motif associated to the Kodama in the first half of the track Kodamas. There are also two motifs found in all three Requiem tracks: the first one is heard at the beginning of each track and is a rather dull string figure, the second one is a more interesting rising figure heard in the middle of the first two Requiem tracks and which is reprised more vigorously during the finale (a death motif?). Rounding off the thematic material is the Princess Mononoke Theme Song, acting as a love theme for Ashitaka and San, even if only appearing once in the film. The score also features cool incidental music, such as the exciting The Furies, accompanying the awesome sequence where San makes her raid on the Ironworks, the percussions in The Battle Drums, the tense The Battle In Front Of The Ironworks, the whirling string figure in the second half of The Demon Power II and the brass figure that follows it, the unsettling synth-ish music in The World Of The Dead and finally the downright awe-inspiring Adagio Of Life And Death (absolutely love that one!). A really great score overall!

 

A fantastic film all around, Princess Mononoke is Miyazaki at the top of his game. Not only it is one of my favourite of his films, it's also one of my favourite films, period. Stunning visuals, superb atmosphere, great score, many memorables sequences, well-rounded story and characters... This film has it all!

 

8.5/10

 

 

The Legend Of Ashitaka

 

The Demon God

 

The Journey To The West

 

Kodamas

 

Evening At The Ironworks

 

The Furies

 

Princess Mononoke - Instrumental Version

 

Adagio Of Life And Death

 

The World Of The Dead II

 

Adagio Of Life And Death II

 

 

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P.S.: A few random trivia bits...

 

- This is the first film after which Miyazaki said he was going to retire. He made four more after this one!

 

- This is the last major animated motion picture to be filmed on plastic animation cels. (Source: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119698/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2)

 

- Interesting description of the original idea for the film: http://www.nausicaa.net/wiki/Princess_Mononoke_(FAQ)

 

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Originally, Miyazaki had planned to make "Mononoke Hime" as a story about a princess who was forced to marry a Mononoke by her feudal lord father. You have probably seen a picture of Mononoke who looks like Catbus in Totoro's body and a girl in a Kimono (see the picture below). That is from a picturebook "Mononoke Hime", which compiled image boards Miyazaki wrote back in 1980. Miyazaki tried to make it into anime, but the project never materialized (it was even considered as the second project by Tokuma after Nausicaa, but eventually, Laputa was chosen), and Miyazaki put it in the book.

 

Synopsis of the 1980 book Princess Mononoke

 

Mh_faq_mononoke80.jpg

 

The story of the movie "Mononoke Hime" is completely different from that in the picturebook. Mononoke Hime is a girl who was raised by Mononoke, not who marries one. There is a new character, Ashitaka, as the hero. In fact, Miyazaki even wanted to change the title to "Ashitaka Sekki (The Tale of Ashitaka)".

 

- For those who care about such things: I've compared the Japanese version and the US version of the soundtrack, and while they're basically the same product on the whole, there are two odd differences I noticed. First and foremost, there are three tracks featuring songs on the Japanese OST: The Tatara Women Work Song, and two versions of Princess Mononoke Theme Song - Vocal Version (the version heard in the scene where Ashitaka is talking with Moro at night and the shorter end credits version). The US version of the OST deals with those songs weirdly: basically, The Tatara Women Work Song is left as is, in Japanese, the end credits version of Princess Mononoke Theme Song - Vocal Version is replaced by an English-sung version and the longer version of the track is simply removed from the album. There's no logic to it: why keep The Tatara Women Work Song in Japanese but replace the end credits Princess Mononoke Theme Song - Vocal Version by an English version, and remove the longer version of that same song? Either keep everything in Japanese, or replace everything by English versions. Bah!

 

The second difference is that, while the last two tracks on the Japanese OST (Princess Mononoke Theme Song - Vocal Version and The Legend Of Ashitaka Theme - End Credit) are clearly separated (meaning they have a clean opening and a clean ending), on the US OST, for some reason, there's a crossfade between the two (meaning that the end of Princess Mononoke Theme Song - Vocal Version segues directly into the beginning of The Legend Of Ashitaka Theme - End Credit, without silence between the two). Odd indeed...

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Actually, in the dub of Princes Mononoke (which is really good IMO even with the occasional eccentric casting choices), the "Tatara Women's Song" IS translated. It's just heard so quietly that one wouldn't even notice because it's done very subtly. But Sasha Lazard does indeed sing the extended version of the "Mononoke" theme song.

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Well, that make their choices regarding the US version of the OST even weirder: they had English versions of all three songs, yet they decided only to include one! How odd.

I really don't know WHAT the issue was. But anyway, no, they DID translate those tracks for the English version. I think this was the only Ghibli dub that Disney did so (sans Totoro, where they basically recycled the lyrics from the previous dub from Streamline/FOX and just brought in a new singer). Oh wait, I'm forgetting that the Ponyo ending song (the first half) WAS in fact performed by their US voice actors and released separately from the movie on ITunes. Actually, there's two different cuts of that. First is just the song from the credits as is, but then there's an absolutely HIDEOUS techno rap version that unfortunately is tacked onto the second half of the closing credits in the dub of Ponyo. Even as someone who liked the rescore of Laputa and didn't mind the musical embellishments of Kiki, I felt that was overstepping it.

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