The Pretty Much Geeks team is beyond excited for Madman’s Celebrate Studio Ghibli!
It’s a month-long celebration of the complete theatrical works, and more, from the acclaimed animation house – in cinemas in Australia and New Zealand, from August 24th to September 20th, 2017.
From the wildly imaginative fantasy of Howl’s Moving Castle and the Oscar®-winning Spirited Away, to the high adventure of Porco Rosso and the raw emotion of When Marnie Was There, the films of Studio Ghibli are renowned for their beautifully realised worlds and uniquely imaginative storytelling.
In addition to the complete 22 films, Celebrate Studio Ghibli will also offer insightful documentaries, as well as the seldom seen Ghiblies Episode 2 short film, and On You Mark , the animated music video for Japanese rock duo Chage & Aska – directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Finally, Studio Ghibli connoisseurs won’t want to miss the Celebrate Studio Ghibli opening night events, where they will not only be treated to a screening of both Ghiblies Episode 2 and On You Mark prior to My Neighbour Totoro, but each ticket holder will take home an exclusive, commemorative Celebrate Studio Ghibli B1 print designed by multi-award-winning Australian artist, writer and filmmaker, Shaun Tan. If you need no further convincing, then head here to grab your tickets now!
In case you were having trouble deciding which films to see, a few of the team wanted to tell you about their favourite Ghibli films!
1. Princess Mononoke – Erika’s Fav!
I remember first watching Princess Mononoke in my Year 10 Japanese class. We had finished our curriculum for the year, so our teacher asked us if we wanted to watch a movie (Japanese audio, and English subtitles, of course). The entire class, to no surprise, agreed, and we settled for the “Ghibli film”. None of us had ever seen it, and we were expecting something light-hearted – something that would let us doze off gently on that hot summer afternoon. Boy, were we wrong. Ten minutes in, and someone’s arms had already been ripped off at their elbows via an arrow. I heard one of my classmates behind me say, “I thought this was a kid’s film?” in a slightly disgusted yet amused tone. But all of us were intrigued, and definitely awake. We hadn’t finished the movie by the time the bell had rung, so about half of us opted to stay during lunch just to watch more of it. Straight after I got home that day, I asked my mom if we could go to our local video rental store (R.I.P.), and I finished watching the movie that night. I watched it again the following day, from start to finish. And the day after that. I remember watching it every day until I had to return it, which was a week later.
I could tell you all sorts of reasons as to why I loved Princess Mononoke so much. But I was only given 1-2 paragraphs to explain why, so here goes. One of them is the recurring theme of human greed, and how humans abuse the very planet they live on, just for the sake of more profit. Its central theme was environmental. The message was clear, but subtle – enough to make you think, but not too much that it feels almost like propaganda. I also loved how it showed human tenacity in all sorts of forms – from Ashitaka’s innate tendency to do what’s morally right to him, to Lady Eboshi’s fierce protection of what’s hers. Also, can we talk about how Studio Ghibli consistently produces strong female leads? San’s red mask and fur shroud will forever be icons of girl power. Throw these together in a movie mostly animated with beautifully and intricately hand-drawn sketches, and a score and soundtrack that will make you feel things (really feel things), and you’ve got yourself a timeless, multi-award-winning masterpiece.
2. Up From On Poppy Hill – Tim’s Fav!
From Up On Poppy Hill, directed by Goro Miyazaki, is a film as sweet and as pretty as its title. Set in Yokohama, Japan in 1963, the story centres around a group of students at the local high-school restoring the school’s clubhouse to save it from being torn down. Umi, the main character helps head the restoration along with her sister and a boy called Shun, a member of the school’s newspaper. As they work together, a romance begins to blossom. I’ll be honest, I’m a bearded, tattooed, 25-year-old guy and I was watching this movie, hugging my pillow, going “awwwwww!” in my head. It’s a lovely story with a great feeling of camaraderie and family as Umi, Shun and the members of the club-house set about restoring the building. The sense of family is strengthened by the fact that Umi and her sisters live in a Boarding House with several colourful tenants.
Something in particular that struck me about this film was the level of detail in the backgrounds and the environments. One of the animation directors of the film was Akihiko Yamashita who previously worked on Howl’s Moving Castle and Arrietty. Many scenes in those movies are filled with great amounts of clutter and mess and you can see the evidence of Yamashita and the other art director’s attention to detail in the overwhelming shambles of the club-house.
The music of this film is the more of the same charming piano pieces that light the Ghibli films and once again, the story is set in a sea-side town. While the music and setting are similar to lots of other Ghibli films, to me they don’t get old. In fact, I expect and look forward to it. It just wouldn’t be the same without them.
From Up On Poppy Hill didn’t receive the same level of acclaim as Princess Mononoke, Howls Moving Castle or Spirited Away, but that isn’t to say it’s not a good film. It’s a simple, easy, quiet film about the struggles of young love and fighting for what matters and the things that you love. I think that’s what I love about the film. It’s light and kind and sits as one of my all-time favourite Ghibli films.
3. Grave of the Fireflies – Andrea’s Fav!
Grave of the Fireflies has not left my mind since I watched it. This Studio Ghibli movie demonstrates the devastating effects of war, from young ones’ perspectives. The vivid animation and the powerful plot captured my heart but is not for the faint hearted! Grave of the Fireflies imprinted sobering emotions in me.
4. Spirited Away – Di’s Fav!
Look, I surely can’t be the only one who has a slight crush on Haku. But dragon hotties aside, Spirited Away has so much cinema magic that watching the trailer alone gives me tingles. Chihiro’s unwitting journey into the spirit world is full of a nostalgia that brings me back to childhood. Yup, I believed in weird creatures. I also had an intense fear of losing my parents, which is captured so well in the film. And No-Face…man, I loved/hated that guy. I don’t know that I’ve seen both horror and endearment so aptly rolled into one since Gremlins. It’d be kind of cliché to say that this is an unforgettable tale of friendship, love and determination. But hey, if the shoe fits…57 awards can’t be wrong. Go see this!
5. Howl’s Moving Castle (and also Only Yesterday) – Saskia’s Fav (Favourites)
Howl’s Moving Castle has to be in this list and is a must watch, so I’ll tell you about it! But first I need to give a mention to Only Yesterday, which is probably the first Ghibli movie that pops to my mind when asked what my favourite one is. It stands out from the rest for me because of how mundane and adult the plot is, and yet still entirely absorbing. It’s basically about a young woman, Taeko, about to hit her 30s and looking back on her life, wondering if she’s stayed true to herself over the years. It has one of the most memorable scenes in it that has stuck with me more than anything I’ve ever seen and I can’t even explain why! It basically involves the disappointment of cutting into a pineapple and finding out that it isn’t ripe yet. It made me cry so much. I know!? that doesn’t seem emotional at all right?! Go see it for yourself and tell me if I’m crazy!
However, if you’re trying to decide on only one Ghibli film to see and you’ve never seen any of them before, it has GOT TO BE Howl’s Moving Castle. This movie sparked my love of anime in general. I think after seeing it I blitzed the entire Ghibli collection in less than a week during the school holidays and then went on to seek out all sorts of anime films and series! It’s magical, it’s bizarre, it’s grotesque, it’s beautiful and it has some of the most memorable characters you will ever encounter. I went in not knowing anything about it, and so should you.