With the release of Ponyo immanent in the U.S (and my viewing of the movie a few weeks back, thanks to an English friendly Japanese release) I decided to get back on the Studio Ghibli bandwagon. It helped that my girlfriend had not seen many of the films as it is always nice to introduce people to movies you like and see their reactions.
So, the list of viewing thus far....
We started with Spirited Away. The film most audiences have likely seen and winner of the best animated feature Oscar in 2003. It follows Chihiro as she and her family get lost in the spirit world after taking a wrong turn. It is a fantastically animated spectacle with a moving story and brilliant characterization.
Then we watched Howl's Moving Castle. This was only my second viewing of Howl's Moving Castle and the first with the original Japanese dialog. I must admit I enjoyed it a lot more this second time, not sure what it was that made it any better, but I think I understood a bit more of what was happening.
It was decided that we would then start going into the back catalog, so we started with Laputa: Castle in the Sky. I really enjoyed the film for this my third viewing, I still feel that it is a great story with some fantastic animation and a nice message that isn't too political or in your face. I am not sure that "Disney of the East" really reflects Mayazaki's films, but I guess it makes sense as far as the man himself goes, his attention to detail is clearly evident in films like this and Nausicaa.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, the first so-called-Studio Ghibli film (although the studio was actually formed after its creation) and another great tale with awesome animation. This film has quite the underlying moral story too which is not preachy, but certainly gets its message across. Again we are presented with a style of animation that was unseen until this film. It is also an introduction to the Ghibli heroines. Miyazaki is a feminist and it clearly shows in all of his films with his use of strong female lead characters and even strong female incidentals...which brings us to...
Porco Rosso is one of those films that has issues never resolved or explained, but that are imperative to the story. The main character is a pig (or at least his outward appearance.) We learn that this is because of a curse...though we never learn the specific how or why. Although the films main character is in fact male, there is a very strong female presence and the issue of "dont judge a book by its cover" is also used to great effect.
Pom Poko is quite possibly the weirdest Ghibli film (at least of the ones I have seen thus far), It is part comedy part drama and again has an environmental message to tell (a recurring theme in more than half of the Ghibli films) I wasn't blown away by the animation as much as I have been by the others, but this was my first viewing so maybe I was more focused on the story than the art.
Whisper of the Heart is a personal favourite of mine. Proof that animation can be heartfelt, moving and above all human. My only concern is what seems like a rushed ending, but otherwise the film is flawless. It has a melancholic pace that draws you slowly into the world of its characters who are full and rich. The dialog is also believable and realistic.
So Ghibli week turned into Ghibli fortnight and is now in its 3rd week.....next up I have The Cat Returns to watch and then onto some of the more serious Ghibli films as well as a couple of rareties including their "made for TV movie" Ocean Waves".