BloodBoal

The Hayao Miyazaki Retrospective Thread

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Damn, I haven't been around for while, sorry for not responding to @BloodBoal's comments from a couple of weeks ago.  Thanks for your feedback on Castle.  Looking forward to what you have to say about the other ones.  I seriously have to get to Princess Mononoke.  Jeez!

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Princess Mononoke (1997)

 

https://latimesherocomplex.files.wordpress.com/2030/04/mononoke-4.jpg

 

Miyakazi's love of nature, and his use of it as a theme, reaches its apotheosis with Princess Mononoke.  It feels like a life's work finally advancing to its inevitable peak.  If he were a lesser writer and director, he may have been perfectly satisfied shoving this message in our collective faces without a hint of creativity.  But in the hands of a master storyteller who puts considerable emphasis on characters and motivations, it comes truly alive.  This is a masterpiece.

 

It begins with a mountain range, at dawn, covered in soft mist; a basic narrative statement appears.  With the tense music filling out the rest of the sensory experience, the tone has been set.  There is an underlying sense of foreboding that is inescapable, and it will attach itself to the rest of the film.  The importance of Nature is felt immediately.  Soon thereafter we meet the character that will carry us through the story; Ashitaka, a young prince and the future of his village, and in the first major scene he is presented as capable, considerate, and reflective as he does battle with a boar that has been transformed into a demon, itself a creation of the perversion of nature.  These are many of the same traits afforded Miyazaki's other characters.  He is attracted to the idea of youth saving us from conditions brought on by generational neglect, mistreatment and abuse.  So far, these protagonists have possessed the same basic qualities while remaining pure of heart.  Their clear vision and selflessness will see us through our darkest hour and simultaneously, and more importantly, positively affect those who come in contact with them.

 

We are treated again to the majesty of landscapes as Ashitaka makes his way west after being tainted with a curse.  During this trek to discover certain truths and change his fate, Ashitaka sees a war-torn countryside, establishing the idea of civil unrest, and also showing us a higher level of violence than we were previously exposed to in these films.  Limbs and heads are brutally but neatly severed, soldiers mercilessly attack villagers; it's all quite startling, but necessary, as there is an increased level of rage and anger saturating moment to moment.

 

San makes a striking entrance as she is shown incessantly charging a caravan of Ironworks villagers hauling rice along a treacherous pass.  Here we also meet another other key figure in Lady Eboshi, as well as Moro the Wolf God and her cubs.  San's introduction to Ashitaka is even more imposing when he stumbles out of the forest to see her sucking the poisonous iron from Moro's wound, her face suffused with warrior paint and smeared with blood, a look of warning beaming back at him once he catches her attention.

 

When Eboshi and her crew make it back to Ironworks it is established that the people of the village are not antagonists.  They are loyal, humorous, and hardworking individuals who happen to perform a job in direct opposition with their surroundings.  In the middle of Ironworks is a factory with a menacing tower of stoked fire.  They mutilate the forest in order to obtain iron for trade and to make weapons.  It's populated with people whose lives have been shown little respect, and their main goal is to obtain security through fortifying themselves within the village, arming themselves with the weaponry needed to survive, and gaining financial independence.  They are focused on their livelihood, not nature.  Lady Eboshi, who governs Ironworks, will do what she feels is necessary to obtain these things for herself, and specifically the woman of her village, who she feels particularly responsible for.  Eboshi is fighting two life-long battles where she is pitted against Nature and Men.  Her arrogance is her weakness, and her narrow-minded quest for power will be her downfall.  Her misguided notion of superior-worth puts her at odds with Nature, and this eventually forces her to lose sight of her own people.  Later on, when she is away from the village on the hunt for the Deer God, she is informed that the hired samurai force has turned on the village in an attempt to usurp power, but her conceit has overshadowed the importance of her village and she dismisses it as an empty threat not worth her time.

 

The level of war and hell most of these characters have been exposed to has informed their opinions about how to conduct their business.  They feel justified in their actions as a result; that any means will do.  However, Eboshi is not innocent, and in many instances she is painted as deceptively kind.  In order to steal authority for herself she has collected a motley crew of people who are almost guaranteed not to rebel if shown a modicum of kindness:  Women purchased from slavery, but then put to labor.  Lepers taken in, but then put to labor.  These groups feel such a debt that Eboshi can easily exploit this.  They all express such unmitigated gratitude for this false freedom as to hope to be the eventual benefactors of their own labor.  It isn't until the end that Eboshi seems to reconcile her ideals with her actions.  There is irony in her line, "I fear men more than monsters."  Like many of these types of Miyazaki characters, she is not absolutely villainous.  She lacks judgement and she lustful and untempered in her search for autonomous control, but we can at the very least understand her motivations.  Her plan is simple: purge the forest of gods and the fighting will cease.

 

There is a prevailing sadness and pensiveness that permeates the entire movie, especially in the forest scenes.  The characters generally say what they're feeling, speak directly and clearly, and are not reticent or bashful.  Considering the level of allegory going on, it was refreshing to hear them speak candidly and with firm intention.  The film is cleverly built in that it is not an action film, but there is a lot of movement within the story, with a heightened atmosphere of disquiet and alarm as all of the forces speed along toward each other until they ultimately collide.  One of its great many strengths is the lack of unnecessary fighting.  When those scenes do happen, quite a bit is shown in long shot, or in quick transitions that do not linger, which makes Ashitaka's spurts of intense violence all the more astonishing.  Nothing is gratuitous.

 

Ashitaka and San's relationship is something that feels genuine.  They are not there to simply fall in love with each other.  Forming a bond between the two is hard work.  Ashitaka needs to solicit help from her in order to find the Deer God and lift the curse that will spell his doom, and she is fixed in her hatred of all humans, her entire history plagued with their ceaseless encroachment and destruction upon her home.   His ability to convince her otherwise is a difficult task, and he doesn't make it easy.  Ashitaka's almost infantile need for everyone to be in harmony is admirable, but extremely hard to accept for San, whose exposure to humans has been one of sustained punishment.  To her, an antagonist is made to be defeated, not understood, and certainly not helped or cared for.  Over the course of things, their relationship develops into something a bit more on an emotional level, but the writing respects them enough to allow them to continue on their separate journeys at the end.  Maybe one day, far up on the path, they will meet again, having a life's work behind them.  One of the most important ideas of the movie is being alive.  When the Ironworks and forest are destroyed, Ashitaka reminds everyone of this basic fact, and he sums it up nicely at the end, in one of the last things he says to San, "Together, we'll live."

 

Princess Mononoke also excels from the point of view of costume design.  I liked the details of how the outfits were put together, such as when Ashitaka removes his shirt to find that his sleeves are basically their own component.  San's costume was also insightful.  You got the feeling that she stole those clothes when she was a little girl, having been raised by wolves, and had them ever since.  The skirt frayed at the hem, with a simple shirt, but adorned in an intimidating coat of fur connected to a tooth necklace accentuating parts of her true personality.

 

I will say that the one element of the movie that should have been expounded on was the crystal dagger that Kaya gave Ashitaka in the beginning.  It didn't seem to serve much of a purpose in the long run, and it really would not change anything if it was removed from the story.  This is a trinket that his sister gave to him, which he then gives to San, but there is no history explained for it, and the item itself doesn't really come into play in a major way later on.  It's a device passed on from one person to the next to act as a visual representation of love, but it felt somewhat expendable.  It may have been different if it was established that he had fashioned it himself from materials surrounding Ironworks, then it would have had more significance, it would have been more personal, like he's giving part of himself to San and calling a truce.

 

Joe Hisaishi is someone who I haven't spoken much of in my reviews, but here his music has developed a symbiotic relationship with the material.  I feel like he rose to the challenge and provided a beautiful score from start to finish, highlighting the mood perfectly without detracting from it.   San has a beautiful theme, later set to song, and the theme for both Ashitaka and San that ends the movie is presented in glorious serenity during those closing passages.  Everything else in between is just as lovely.

 

Japanese/English Dubs:

 

The differences in the dubs are relatively minor, things like calling the Oracle "wise woman" in the English, but the most conspicuous one is felt right off the bat, when the opening is actually narrated by Okkoto and stretches on much longer.  This is not entirely effective as it trades away the music and canvas being created on screen for more information.  We get everything we need as the characters speak throughout the movie.

 

The main song, beginning when Ashitaka and San are resting in the cave, sounds like it's sung by a man in falsetto in the original but is sung by a soprano in the English version.  The latter is much more preferable, and a better performance.

 

Cultural nods lifted such as "Shogun" and a reference to Chinese rifle making being deleted in the English version.  I feel like I'm being babied when that stuff happens.  I understand that a lot of the Western audience probably doesn't know what a Shogun is, but its appropriate to include it given the context of speaking about the Emperor.  The political and militaristic temperature of the area is important to understand the character's motivations.

 

I don't recall the Japanese version referring to the woman explicitly as prostitutes, and it doesn't call the lepers that by name either.  You understand more or less without having to be told.  The English dub goes out of its way to mention "brothels" several times throughout just in case we're didn't quite comprehend what the situation was.

 

One of the funnier changes is in the scene when Ashitaka is leaving his village.  The Oracle says, in both versions, that their laws forbid the townspeople from watching him leave.  And then, in the Japanese version, finishes with a simple "Farewell."  In the English, she says, "You're dead to us forever".  It was so awkwardly vulgar given the relative politeness of the discussion up to that point that I actually burst out laughing.

 

Billy Bob Thornton's vocal performance was strangely distracting.  His voice didn't really fit the character and his acting in general wasn't the best.  He was very flat.  Speaking of Jiko, in his introductory scene, when Ashitaka leaves come daylight, he says "I'd knew he's go."  In the English he says "See you there my friend", hinting at a meeting at Ironworks, and foreshadowing his reappearance.  This alters the surprise of seeing him crop up later on since he initially seems like a trivial character.

 

Interestingly, there was some confusion on my part as to who Kaya was at first.  Watching the Japanese version, I was primarily going off the subtitles.  In them, she never calls him brother, so their final exchange as he departs the village made it appear as though she was in love with him.  In the English language version she actually calls him brother, which also made sense, but I thought it was a strange alteration, so I went back and listened to the Japanese version again, this time paying more attention to the language, and lo and behold Kaya calls him "oniisama", which means older brother.  My limited understanding of Japanese saved me on this one, so it was curious that the literal translation failed to put this in.

 

The "Together, we'll live" statement I mentioned earlier is removed in the English dub for some reason, even though it completes the ideas set up earlier which are also included in the English dub.  Another fairly important change that comes at the end is when San says "I love you" to Ashitaka, which occurs in the Japanese.  In the English she says "You mean so much to me".  I actually prefer the English on this point since her declaration of love seemed out of character.

 

Princess Mononoke charges confidently to the top of the list.  It is a nearly flawless experience that takes place at the dawn of a new era of industry and shows how people attempt to tame the natural setting around them instead of working cooperatively to share and grow within certain bounds.  Miyazaki personifies the forest, giving it legs, teeth, and a voice so it can defend and answer for itself.  This is essential, since people have a tendency to think of nature as a lifeless thing that is meant to be controlled, and our efforts to maintain domination instead of balance is at the heart of it.  This world is not ours alone, we are part of this world, and not acting in accordance with this proposal will result in total annihilation.  In the end, it is Nature that takes away life, and gives it back.

 

1) Princess Mononoke

2) Laputa: Castle in the Sky

3) My Neighbor Totoro

4) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

5) Kiki's Delivery Service

6) Lupin III:  The Castle of Cagliostro

7) Porco Roso

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:up: :up: :up:

 

An enjoyable read, sir!

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Don't feel too bad, I still haven't written about The Wind Rises, and I watched that a year ago!

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Continuing reading @nightscape94 reviews with My Neighbor Totoro!

 

On 24/04/2016 at 7:39 AM, nightscape94 said:

The story centers around two young children, Satsuki and Mei, who, along with their father, are shown moving out to the country because their mother is suffering from an unnamed illness.  My initial feeling was that she was suffering a recent nervous breakdown or from mental illness, and the relocation was to be closer to the hospital, and also give her, and them, a much needed change of scenery.  I may be misinterpreting this, but either way, the finer details of her sickness are of secondary concern.

 

[...]

 

The mother is a constant presence throughout the movie, whether it is through hospital visits, by reference, or by showing her reading Satsuki's letters.  She serves as a beacon in some ways, propelling and guiding the story onward.  She always appears peaceful, smiling, and hopeful.   When her family visits she does not grow weary of their company, does not act aggressive, and is not distant.  She is actively engaged and doesn't skip a motherly beat.  There is never any blame placed on her, no self-loathing is expressed by anyone, and they speak of her lovingly.  Even though they are separated, and there is internal tension revolving around her situation, they all are still a caring family unit that just happens to be going through a period of uncertain unrest.  Miyazaki wisely does not take dubious advantage of this story device by twisting it into an open war between the parents and their daughters.

 

I find it funny how you you payed so much attention to the mother, because I personally think she's not meant to be an important character to the story (nor is her illness meant to be an important aspect of it): it is actually her absence that is important and is at the heart of the story. The whole film is about the girls trying to deal with the fact that she is not there (and maybe won't return), and Satsuki does most of the things she does in the film because she has to take matters into her own hands, because her mother isn't here.

 

On 24/04/2016 at 7:39 AM, nightscape94 said:

The father is another important character in his limited scenes.  He is cooperative, playful, reassuring, and feeds his children's imaginations.  He is not shown as aloof or over-bearing.  When Mei insists that she has seen a giant creature in their backyard forest, he does not get angry, does not try to quiet her, and is not dismissive.  There is a calm conversation that results in his bringing the two kids to the sprawling camphor tree to pay their respects to the spirits.  In this way he encourages fantasy while also giving a cultural history lesson.

 

Interesting. Didn't consider that. What's also interesting is that while he never refutes what his daughters tell him, he never see the creatures at any point in the story. Generally, in (western) movies, adults can't see the fantastical creatures even when they're right in front of them, because they don't believe in them, they think their kids are crazy lunatics or some other similar reason. Here, the adults are fine with what their kids tell them, but they still never get to see the creatures. I wonder why that is. Is it because they can't see them but it is simply never stated? Or because Miyazaki wanted the viewers to decide whether the kids imagined those creatures or if they're real? Or some other reason? Hmmm...

 

On 24/04/2016 at 7:39 AM, nightscape94 said:

There is no real antagonist or extraneous conflict.  The straightforward story flows from the two girls, and it's everything the movie requires.  Everyone we meet is welcoming and warm-natured.  Nanny, the amiable caretaker, brings an inconsolable Mei to Satsuki's school during class.  This could have devolved into an argument dealing with Satsuki's overwhelming embarrassment, but the teacher, and her classmates in general, are friendly and nothing is made of it.  This scene exists to show Mei's inability to cope with being separated from Satsuki for too long while their mother's status is unknown and their father is now back to work.  I can't stress my appreciation for this enough.  Miyazaki has no time for useless story ornaments that cause deviations from the main narrative.  While I can imagine some viewers may have a problem with this type of cleanliness, as it may not exactly represent most people most of the time, the opening sequence tells you straight away that its target audience is children.  My Neighbor Totoro gives us enough to focus on when setting up the family dynamic; the rest is just focused on enchantment.

 

That's an aspect of the film I quite liked too: the absence of any antagonist/conflict. That's was fine with me. However, as some sort of a result of that, there is not much sense of an actual end goal to the story, there's not much of a sense of going forward, and that's was more of a problem for me. And don't misinterpret that as me not liking the slow pace of the film: I like films with a slow pace... as long as I can feel we're still going somewhere. My problem with that film is that there are moments where it feels it is going nowhere. Take the girls visiting the house: sure, it's nice for the film to take its time to introduce us to this location which will be the main one in the film so that we get accustomed to it, we get to appreciate the surroundings, etc. but there comes a moment where you'd like something to actually happen to give a semblance of story. It happens eventually, but then you're (almost) already one third into the film.

 

On 24/04/2016 at 7:39 AM, nightscape94 said:

When we finally meet the great forest spirit king, Totoro, his design is wonderful.  He is otherworldly enough to be immediately interesting, expressive enough to be inviting, and is not shown to be scary but rather just as whimsical as the children.  There is a scene where the sprightly Totoro and the children take a nighttime trip, gliding through the rice fields on a spinning top, and it's one of the most magical moments in the film.  I also like the ambiguity of Totoro and his circle of spirit friends, which includes the marvelous cat bus, grinning wide as it scales hills, trees, and even telephone wire, in order to kindly deliver passengers to their destinations.  As Mei first tells of her discovery, Satsuki mentions that he sounds like the troll from a bedtime story their mother reads to them, referencing Three Billy Goats Gruff.  At the very end of the credits there is an animation card showing them huddled under blankets with their mother as she holds the book, and we can make out a small Totoro spirit on the cover.  We're never quite sure what parts, if any, are real.  We're given evidence embracing both possibilities.

 

I personally think Miyazaki never considered that the creatures might not be real, but he probably wanted to leave it open to interpretation (with scenes like the "tree growing" one, with the tree disappearing the next morning). I also think it makes for a less interesting film if it's all in the girls' minds. :P

 

On 24/04/2016 at 7:39 AM, nightscape94 said:

Regarding the dubs, I am happy to report that this a 180 degree turn on my other experiences.  And for the sake of full disclosure, I enjoyed the English dub more.  I attribute this mostly to the lean story and simple motivations of the characters, but I give credit where credit is due.  Sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning play Satsuki and Mei which, not unexpectedly, turns out to be incredibly authentic.  Tim Daly also bests his Japanese counterpart.

 

In terms of content, aside from some minor changes that don't reshape the narrative in any profound way, there were two things in the English dub that I actually liked better than the Japanese version.  When Mei goes missing, Satsuki seeks out Totoro as a last-ditch effort to find her.  In the Japanese dub, before entering the forest, she pleads her case and then runs in.  In the English dub, she pleads her case, asks permission from the forest to see Totoro, and then runs in.  This is the kind of thing I would have expected to have happened in reverse, as it's much more effective in the second example.

 

Nice touch, and yes, I agree, it's something you'd expect Miyazaki to have written, and to be omitted from the English dub. Maybe it is actually in the original Japanese dialogue, but omitted from the English subs? ;)

 

On 24/04/2016 at 7:39 AM, nightscape94 said:

The entire film made my heart leap with gladness.  There is a running sense of discovery from start to finish.  Miyazaki spent a lot of storytelling energy giving us both Nausicaä and Castle in the Sky only to give us this streamlined and clear adventure of two little girls finding comfort in a towering fluffy spirit taking them momentarily out of their lives, giving them a means to deal with something they can't quite understand or cope with.  At least for the time being they can find escape in, well, their neighbor Totoro.

 

1) Laputa: Castle in the Sky

2) My Neighbor Totoro

3) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

4) Lupin III:  The Castle of Cagliostro

 

It's definitely an interesting film in Miyazaki's career, following three big action/adventure-oriented movies, and proving the versatility of the man. It has a charm of its own and makes for a nice relaxing viewing experience. That being said, your ranking is obviously all wrong.

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On 2/16/2017 at 10:31 AM, BloodBoal said:

Maybe it is actually in the original Japanese dialogue, but omitted from the English subs? ;)

 

This is very true, and a concern that's always in my mind.  I put a lot of faith in the subs when I'm comparing them to the dub.  There was an example recently in my Mononoke review where I picked something up simply because I know about 0.0005% Japanese, but I still heard something that did not translate in the subtitles, but it completely changed the nature of a particular character relationship.

 

On 2/16/2017 at 10:31 AM, BloodBoal said:

I find it funny how you you payed so much attention to the mother, because I personally think she's not meant to be an important character to the story (nor is her illness meant to be an important aspect of it): it is actually her absence that is important and is at the heart of the story. The whole film is about the girls trying to deal with the fact that she is not there (and maybe won't return), and Satsuki does most of the things she does in the film because she has to take matters into her own hands, because her mother isn't here.

 

That's more or less what I'm getting at.  She has a presence despite being absent.  It's clever how Miyazaki handled that throughout.  I felt that the mother, or at least the idea of her, was important, as she's truly the catalyst for these events in her children's lives.

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16 hours ago, nightscape94 said:

That's more or less what I'm getting at.

 

Well, you said it poorly. ;)

 

Just thought about something: I wonder if the film could have been more effective if the mother hadn't been shown at all (except maybe at the end). Would have possibly helped the audience feel her absence even more (it could have even made the audience wonder if she wasn't in fact dead, and her daughters had trouble accepting that. And maybe at the end, when they go see her at the hospital, the audience would have wondered if the daughters actually had died, the only way for them to be reunited with her... OK, I'm going off track...)

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Gotta keep on commenting @nightscape94's reviews! (Everytime I remember I should do that, I don't do it right away and then keep forgetting about it!)

 

On 27/04/2016 at 7:58 AM, nightscape94 said:

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

 

[...]

 

As Kiki sets off clumsily into the night on her mother's broomstick she turns on her father's radio to the tune of the catchy and old-fashioned "Rouge no Dengon", which sets the opening credits perfectly, and encapsulates her infectious personality.  At this point she encounters another witch, who is at the end of her year expedition, and is asked what her main skill concentration is.  Kiki hasn't thought of it.  Her mother specializes in potions, this new acquaintance says her's is fortune-telling.  But Kiki, she isn't sure who she is, and this plays out in the narrative later on.  Like My Neighbor Totoro, there is no villain, not even in the loosest terms.

 

It's funny, because when I watched the film, I didn't pay attention to the fact the witch she meets had ended her expedition, and I thought she was going to turn into some sort of rival for Kiki (not like a true evil villain, but you know, kind of an annoying, condescending peer) and that was to be her introduction scene, because this is generally what we would get in most coming-of-age movies: some character appears who is condescending to the hero, and then as the story unfolds this become the main antagonist, the hero's rival. But this scene isn't actually about that witch: it's all about Kiki, who, as you said, isn't sure who she is. It's interesting to see how a simple scene might lead you to expect the kind of story structure you're used to, but Miyazaki instead goes in a completely different direction (which is part of what makes his movies special).

 

On 27/04/2016 at 7:58 AM, nightscape94 said:

By my account, most of the people Kiki meets are openly sociable and welcoming.  Ursula, the young painter we meet in the forest, the aforementioned Osono, her first customer after forming her delivery service, the two older women who befriend her, and even Tombo after a few false starts.  This is not dissimilar to My Neighbor Totoro.  It's not as successful here as almost everyone is perhaps too helpful.  Kiki makes friends on the strength of her own personality without really trying.  Miyazaki is perched dangerously close to representing a too perfect world.

 

You managed to put the finger on one of the things that bothered me with that film: that everything is so perfect, that Kiki doesn't face any major problem, that everything is pretty smooth (at least up until a certain point in the film), which can be nice to watch for a while, but then I need the film to give me more than just that to hold my interest (ultimately, we do get that, but it's a bit late in the game).

 

On 27/04/2016 at 7:58 AM, nightscape94 said:

This threat of alienation builds up and is the primary source of conflict that makes her inexplicably lose her witch powers late in the film.  Of this, Kiki states, "If I lost my magic, that means I've lost absolutely everything."  She connects Self to this one attribute as though she is nothing else.  This symptomatic withdrawal intensifies and leads to one of the most nakedly vulnerable lines delivered by Kiki; in the Japanese version, "I think something's wrong with me.  I make friends, then suddenly I can't bear to be with any of them.  That other me, the cheerful and honest one...went away somewhere."  In the English, it's striped down to the point of ineffectiveness:  "I think something's wrong with me.  I meet a lot of people, and at first everything seems to be going okay, but then I start feeling like such an outsider.  You should have seen how Tombo's friends looked at me."

 

Now that's rather interesting, because if I remember correctly, the subtitles I had said something rather similar to the English dub. The original line sure is much more interesting! It's annoying when the "translation" completely changes not only the meaning of a sentence, but also the meaning of a big part of the film.

 

On 27/04/2016 at 7:58 AM, nightscape94 said:

The path to getting herself to a healthy state of mind is accomplished with the help of Ursula, a painter who has a summer cottage nearby, and who has mentally toiled her way through life only to arrive on the other side fairly content.  She picks up where Kiki's mother left off and acts as a strong relatable role model.  She teaches a valuable lesson, which is - Life is a struggle.

 

After this short pilgrimage, we are launched into the final act.  I would have preferred a quieter and more personally reflective sequence, rather than a big action spectacle, but it still feels pretty justified and acceptable as is.

 

To me, it actually felt a bit out of place. A climax for the sake of having a climax, and not a climax as a natural progression of the story. Didn't ruin the film for me, but definitely felt tacked on at the end in a bit of a clumsy way (you could say it was a bit foreshadowed, with the zeppelin being introduced a bit earlier in the film, but still... Felt a bit at odds with everything we saw prior to that nonetheless).

 

On 27/04/2016 at 7:58 AM, nightscape94 said:

It's very telling, and very appropriate, that Kiki doesn't hear Jiji speak to her at the very end.  Although she retains her skills as a flyer, which she's earned back through turmoil, she has made her first real step into adulthood.  The cat is just a cat.  Now with true friends in tow, she is better positioned to see what life as to offer.  And as a minor character named Dora says very early on, setting up the theme of the picture, "Everything changes, bit by bit."

 

No reaction to the fact Jiji actually speaks at the end in the English dub? ;)

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Well, continuing on commenting @nightscape94's reviews, even if he refuses to comment my comments!

 

On 29/06/2016 at 6:14 AM, nightscape94 said:

Porco Roso (1992)

 

Well, this is weird.  For the first time in my Miyazaki outing I have to report on a movie that didn't grab me.  To put it even more bluntly, I didn't much care for it.  I originally watched this for the first time about a month ago, but I couldn't muster the motivation to watch it a second time to keep in line with my usual English/Japanese double billing.  I finally got around to seeing it again yesterday so I could jot down my brief thoughts.

 

What we have here is a film that is structurally clumsy with characters that aren't terribly interesting, occupying a story that is not terribly compelling, which tries painfully hard to keep me distracted from its shortcomings by splashing beautiful sky canvases up on the screen and jabbing me with some zany comedy from time to time.

 

While I enjoyed the film more than you did, I can see where you're coming from. The film definitely lacks a well-defined structure, and jumps from one idea to the next without developing any that much. That being said, I think there's more beneath the surface than what is revealed through the story and dialogue. The way the characters act and look at each other (Marco and Gina, especially) convey a lot about their past history.

 

On 29/06/2016 at 6:14 AM, nightscape94 said:

Our titular character is a anthropomorphic pig who was once a man named Marco.  Although the movie explains this ham-handedly (pun intended) as a curse, it's really a not-so-subtle depiction of how Marco sees himself; figuratively, and quite literally, as a pig, now assuming the identity of Porco.  He blames himself for being the sole survivor of a World War I battle that would see all belligerents involved, including his entire battalion, and more importantly his dear friend, dead.  The set up is there, but there is no payoff as the rest of the movie is a combination of ineffective villains, underdeveloped relationships, and scene hopping.  None of this functions nearly as well as Miyazaki probably assumed it did on paper.  At the end I felt as though this was a short film blown up to feature length by padding it out, eventually making the movie feel disjointed, and leaving me rather impassive about what I just watched.

 

It was in fact originally meant as a short film (funnily enough, I made the same comment in my review regarding the length)! See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porco_Rosso#Production

 

Quote

Production

 

The film was originally planned as a short in-flight film for Japan Airlines based on Hayao Miyazaki's manga The Age of the Flying Boat, but grew into a feature-length film. The outbreak of war in Yugoslavia cast a shadow over production and prompted a more serious tone for the film, which had been set in Croatia. The airline remained a major investor in the film, and showed it as an in-flight film well before its theatrical release. Due to this, the opening text introducing the film appears simultaneously in Japanese, Italian, Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, French and German.

 

 

On 29/06/2016 at 6:14 AM, nightscape94 said:

The pirates, as well as the American Donald Curtis, are comical and not depicted as especially dangerous, the Secret Fascist Police is underused and barely mentioned, the Italian military is never really seen in a threatening way either.  No one villain is given enough time, build up, serious weight, or power to make us feel a sense of urgency.  I never felt any real danger for our hero, and his arc is sloppy.

 

To be fair, it goes with Miyazaki's usual way of handling things: none of his films have true villains (the exception remains Muska in Castle In The Sky). There are more antagonists than pure evil characters. That being said, they are generally better handled, I'll give you that. But i think the real problem the movie had is not so much that there was no real sense of danger/urgency because none of the villains were threatening, rather that there was no feeling that there was an end goal to the story, that the characters were moving towards an objective (to be honest, that's a problem I had with a few other Miyazaki films such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, but given the story being told in those, that was more understandable). As a result, you're not quite sure what the movie is all about.

 

On 29/06/2016 at 6:14 AM, nightscape94 said:

Inexplicably, the movie ends with voice-over narration from someone that we meet halfway through, Fio.  She hails from a long line of young and strong female characters that Miyazaki is known for at this point, and is probably the most attractive thing about the movie, but she is in no way earns the right to end this story from her point of view.  Unfortunately when all is said and done, Fio would have made a far more fascinating central subject, with Porco portrayed as a mysterious or unknowable entity seen through her eyes, perhaps serving as the impetus to her own adventure.  As it stands, however, her epilogue was a senseless scripting decision that came off as clunky, bearing no fruit for the story that Miyazaki was telling.  At the very least he should have made Porco and Gina's relationship way more front and center; the beating heart of the film.

 

There's definitely a problem with the ending of that one, which feels like it comes a bit out of nowhere. I think I remember reading somewhere an interview of Miyazaki where he said he never planned in advance the ending of his movies, and that he often ended them whenever he felt he had no more stuff left to tell in the story, which is why it often feels (well, at least to me) like the endings show up a bit abruptly and don't necessarily feel like a natural conclusion of what came before.

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Thanks for the bump BB; I'll try to write about The Wind Rises and share my final ranking, today!

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For a while there I thought I might beat you to the finish line!  Spirited Away could be this weekend.

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Finishing reading @nightscape94's reviews with... Princess Mononoke!

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

Princess Mononoke (1997)

 

Miyakazi's love of nature, and his use of it as a theme, reaches its apotheosis with Princess Mononoke.  It feels like a life's work finally advancing to its inevitable peak.  If he were a lesser writer and director, he may have been perfectly satisfied shoving this message in our collective faces without a hint of creativity.  But in the hands of a master storyteller who puts considerable emphasis on characters and motivations, it comes truly alive.  This is a masterpiece.

 

:thumbup:

 

One of my favourite movies of all time!

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

We are treated again to the majesty of landscapes as Ashitaka makes his way west after being tainted with a curse.  During this trek to discover certain truths and change his fate, Ashitaka sees a war-torn countryside, establishing the idea of civil unrest, and also showing us a higher level of violence than we were previously exposed to in these films.  Limbs and heads are brutally but neatly severed, soldiers mercilessly attack villagers; it's all quite startling, but necessary, as there is an increased level of rage and anger saturating moment to moment.

 

Were you surprised seeing that much violence in a Miyazaki movie after having watched them all in chronological order? Had forgotten how violent it was, and when I rewatched it after having seen My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso, it made for a really startling experience, basically going from kid-friendly stuff to seeing a guy having both his arms cut off by an arrow!

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

However, Eboshi is not innocent, and in many instances she is painted as deceptively kind.  In order to steal authority for herself she has collected a motley crew of people who are almost guaranteed not to rebel if shown a modicum of kindness: Women purchased from slavery, but then put to labor. Lepers taken in, but then put to labor.  These groups feel such a debt that Eboshi can easily exploit this. They all express such unmitigated gratitude for this false freedom as to hope to be the eventual benefactors of their own labor.

 

Interesting. Never considered that. Don't remember, though: do the women say it was Eboshi who put them to work, or did they decided by themselves to help her?

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

Joe Hisaishi is someone who I haven't spoken much of in my reviews, but here his music has developed a symbiotic relationship with the material.  I feel like he rose to the challenge and provided a beautiful score from start to finish, highlighting the mood perfectly without detracting from it.   San has a beautiful theme, later set to song, and the theme for both Ashitaka and San that ends the movie is presented in glorious serenity during those closing passages.  Everything else in between is just as lovely.

 

Yeah. As I said in my review of the film, this is the first Hisaishi score that feels like a "proper" film score, so to speak (that is to say, the kind of score we're used to, with lots of themes, each developed, setpieces, etc.). While his previous ones were nice, they didn't make a huge impression and went mostly unnoticed. Here, the music truly stands out and really enhances the experience.

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

Japanese/English Dubs:

 

The differences in the dubs are relatively minor, things like calling the Oracle "wise woman" in the English, but the most conspicuous one is felt right off the bat, when the opening is actually narrated by Okkoto and stretches on much longer.  This is not entirely effective as it trades away the music and canvas being created on screen for more information.  We get everything we need as the characters speak throughout the movie.

 

Wow, seriously? Narration? That sucks. Must really kill the atmosphere of the film (especially during the opening).

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

One of the funnier changes is in the scene when Ashitaka is leaving his village.  The Oracle says, in both versions, that their laws forbid the townspeople from watching him leave.  And then, in the Japanese version, finishes with a simple "Farewell."  In the English, she says, "You're dead to us forever".  It was so awkwardly vulgar given the relative politeness of the discussion up to that point that I actually burst out laughing.

 

lol! This is ridiculously hilarious.

 

They might as well have had her say: "OK, now fuck off!"

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

Princess Mononoke charges confidently to the top of the list.  It is a nearly flawless experience that takes place at the dawn of a new era of industry and shows how people attempt to tame the natural setting around them instead of working cooperatively to share and grow within certain bounds.  Miyazaki personifies the forest, giving it legs, teeth, and a voice so it can defend and answer for itself.  This is essential, since people have a tendency to think of nature as a lifeless thing that is meant to be controlled, and our efforts to maintain domination instead of balance is at the heart of it.  This world is not ours alone, we are part of this world, and not acting in accordance with this proposal will result in total annihilation.  In the end, it is Nature that takes away life, and gives it back.

 

:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

 

Well said!

 

An absolutely stunning cinematic experience with a powerful message perfectly delivered by Miyazaki-san!

 

So, did you notice how similar to Nausicaä that one was?

 

On 23/01/2017 at 10:04 PM, nightscape94 said:

1) Princess Mononoke

2) Laputa: Castle in the Sky

3) My Neighbor Totoro

4) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

5) Kiki's Delivery Service

6) Lupin III:  The Castle of Cagliostro

7) Porco Roso

 

Not a bad list, though I'm sad to see The Castle Of Cagliostro so near the bottom of the list!

 

 

OK, I'm up-to-date now. Time to post your Spirited Away review!

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On 3/27/2017 at 4:40 AM, BloodBoal said:

It's funny, because when I watched the film, I didn't pay attention to the fact the witch she meets had ended her expedition, and I thought she was going to turn into some sort of rival for Kiki (not like a true evil villain, but you know, kind of an annoying, condescending peer) and that was to be her introduction scene, because this is generally what we would get in most coming-of-age movies: some character appears who is condescending to the hero, and then as the story unfolds this become the main antagonist, the hero's rival. But this scene isn't actually about that witch: it's all about Kiki, who, as you said, isn't sure who she is. It's interesting to see how a simple scene might lead you to expect the kind of story structure you're used to, but Miyazaki instead goes in a completely different direction (which is part of what makes his movies special).

 

Miyazaki films have conditioned me not to expect the expected.  Not all background characters are supporting characters, but sometimes they can support a moment.

 

On 3/27/2017 at 4:40 AM, BloodBoal said:

No reaction to the fact Jiji actually speaks at the end in the English dub? ;)

 

Oddly, I don't recall that happening.  I'll have to go back and watch!

 

On 4/20/2017 at 9:33 AM, BloodBoal said:

Well, continuing on commenting @nightscape94's reviews, even if he refuses to comment my comments!

 

I comment as fast as I write reviews ;)

 

On 4/20/2017 at 9:33 AM, BloodBoal said:

I think there's more beneath the surface than what is revealed through the story and dialogue. The way the characters act and look at each other (Marco and Gina, especially) convey a lot about their past history.

 

Most definitely, and their first interaction and dialogue at the bar provided some nice early moments that the rest of the movie didn't live up to, in my opinion.  For the most part I enjoyed their scenes together.

 

2 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

Were you surprised seeing that much violence in a Miyazaki movie after having watched them all in chronological order? Had forgotten how violent it was, and when I rewatched it after having seen My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso, it made for a really startling experience, basically going from kid-friendly stuff to seeing a guy having both his arms cut off by an arrow!

 

Yes, despite having seen the film before, but now viewing them like this, with the man's career progressing and unfolding, it is a bit jarring.  But not jarring in context.  However, there is a sense that he's consciously turning much more serious with this story.  Not that his family-friendly stories are seriously told, but I mean serious as in tone.  He is not masking the violence, whether it's human on human, human on animal, or animal on human.  Or even in the appearance of wounds.  Everything is graphically illustrated.

 

2 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

Interesting. Never considered that. Don't remember, though: do the women say it was Eboshi who put them to work, or did they decided by themselves to help her?

 

I don't quite recall the exact detail, but I seem to remember that the woman claimed to have been "saved" or "freed" or something akin to that.  I think part of the the brilliance of how Miyazaki writes is that you don't really know a ton about her.  Information is there to guide us along in terms of where Eboshi is in life, the type of people she envelopes around her, and how her character is defined through specific actions.  It's the impression I had that she always takes advantage of a situation, even though on some level she deeply cares for those help she exploits, to gain power to clinch her ultimate freedom from the world of men.  She takes time to grieve the loss of a soldier, or how she speaks of creating advantage for the women she's taken in, or how she speaks so gently to the lepers who need to feel included after being ostracized by society. 

 

Then again, you never know where the manipulation starts and where it ends.  She talks to each group in different ways to maximize her effectiveness.

 

2 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

So, did you notice how similar to Nausicaä that one was?

 

Somewhat.  There is the inescapable Nature theme, but beyond some surface-level Miyazaki-isms I didn't feel they were too similar.

 

2 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

Not a bad list, though I'm sad to see The Castle Of Cagliostro so near the bottom of the list!

 

Every now and then I still think of flipping Cagliostro and Kiki.

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