It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me to confess that I adore animation. From the 80s cartoons that I watched growing up - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Thundercats, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Count Duckula - and many beloved Disney feature films - The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, The Great Mouse Detective - to the modern 3D offerings from Pixar and Dreamworks - Toy Story, Shrek, Wall-E, The Incredibles, How To Train Your Dragon - and on and on.
While I feel like i’ve only scratched the surface, I also have a huge love of Japanese anime and a growing collection nestled snuggly beside our T.V. Given half a chance I will have already told you repeatedly that Cowboy Bebop is only the greatest anime series ever and you simply must watch it. I’ll then quickly follow that with a recommendation to watch Samurai Champloo, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I could go on and on.
But in terms of feature films there is only one contender and you may have heard of them: Studio Ghibli. Originally founded in 1985 by the talented trio of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and Toshio Suzuki, their output has been prolific and world-dominating, winning numerous prestigious awards for beautiful stories that we can all relate to.
Ghibli films explore themes surrounding our relationship with nature, the impact of technology, anthropomorphised animals, childhood and family, community life, magic and mythology, fantastic machines, climate, Western and Eastern culture, and the effects of war and poverty. Their films are for all ages - certainly not just for children like many of their Western counterparts - and successfully combine deep meaningful messages with thrilling escapism.
One of my favourite bloggers, Jaysen of Jaysen Headley Writes, took us on a fantastic journey re-watching and researching the production of every Disney film in order in his Vault Disney project, and is currently working through every Pixar film in his Vault Pixar project.
For me, it’s been an enthralling journey through much of my childhood and I would implore you to check them out. He’s also doing an entertaining series on the Disney Magic Kingdoms game that, to be honest, I find more interesting than the game itself(!)
Jaysen inspired me to give my own such treatment to the works of Studio Ghibli and, with his gracious blessing, that’s exactly what we’ll do in this project (FYI he has his own take on Studio Ghibli planned to show us how it really should be done - I can’t wait!) So, starting this week, every Sunday i’ll cover one of Studio Ghibli’s films in the order of original Japanese release.
Well, actually, we’ll start before the formation of Studio Ghibli, by looking at the debut feature films of Directors Miyazaki and Takahata, and the films since to gain an understanding of where the ‘Ghibli style’ came from.
FYI I prefer to watch most anime - with the exception of Cowboy Bebop - in Japanese audio with English subtitles so there may be the odd quote that isn’t how you remember it. There’s also one film on the list that I may be unable to source but we’ll get to that later.
Wary of biting off more than I can chew, we’ll attempt the one film a week format, but i’ll also try to find time to include a look at the creators themselves, their backgrounds and creative processes, and any other titbits I come across. I’ve got a tonne of research ahead of me and I couldn’t be more excited :-)
If you can, i’d encourage you to re-watch the films with me and give your thoughts in the comments. For those of you who haven’t watched a Studio Ghibli film before, trust me, you’re in for a real treat. See you on Sunday where we’ll say hello to the brave young Prince, Hols, and join him on his quest to reforge the Sword of the Sun.
What’s your favourite Studio Ghibli film and why? What are you hoping we’ll cover with this project?