August 21, 2004

Top 5 Ghibli Films

If the God of Manga (Japanese comics)is Osamu Tezuka (maker of Astroboy), then it is rightly so that the God of Anime is Hayao Miyazaki. His animated masterpieces have won accolades around the world and have touched the hearts of every viewer. Film festivals like Berlin, Toronto and Montreal have honored films like Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa and award-giving bodies like the Oscars have given top plum in animation for Spirited Away.

Even Disney animators have acknowledged the divinity of Miyazaki because his fresh approach to animation is not self-serving and childish but rather humanistic wherein not everything is divided into pure good and pure evil, and empathic wherein his characters mature and mellow as the film progresses. His techniques are unbelievably lush, full of life, and painterly- and most Disney films pales in comparison with the details and colors of these japanese cartoons. Oh, and these films are not just for kids. Their themes are deep yet simple and sometimes some details are too raw and unforgiving for the viewing pleasure of kids below 10 (like heads and arms being decapitated in Mononoke). They should see Ghibli's Totoro where the racoons there use their expandable testicles as weapons of mass destruction! But on the whole, Ghibli's Anime respect their viewers unlike those cartoons from the USA (101 Dalmatians) where they infanticize their audience's intelligence.

*All of the non-italicized blurbs below and pictures in this entry can be found in this very comprehensive Ghibli fanpage:
The Hayao Miyazaki Web
The rest are personal inputs and reflections on these Japanese masterpieces.

How dare you make a pass at me! Posted by Hello
1. Princess Mononoke
Set during the Muromachi Period (1333-1568) of Japan, Mononoke Hime is a story about a mystic fight between the Animal Gods of the forest and humans.

On the side of the Animal Gods is San (Mononoke Hime), a human girl raised by the wolf god Moro. On the side of the humans is Lady Eboshi, building a kingdom for oppressed people by cutting down the forest for her iron-making operation.

In the middle of this fierce fighting for survival, Ashitaka, an Emishi boy, struggles to find a way for both sides to co-exist. But the fighting just becomes more and more bloody and all hope seems to be lost...

This film has one of the deepest themes in anime history (along with Ghost in the Shell) where one sitting is not enough. Miyazaki I think wanted to critique the delicate balance between man's prolific progress and nature's struggle for survival, where in the end will result in the ultimate destruction of both parties. In it, you can't blame one more than the other. All have their share in the conflict.

Here's your doggy bag, miss. Posted by Hello
2. Spirited Away
This is a fantasy adventure with a ten year-old girl, which starts in everyday Japan but goes somewhere very different. For young Chihiro and her family, a mysterious tunnel and haunted town lead to the Land of Spirits, inhabited by gods and monsters and ruled by the greedy witch Yu-baba. Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs; to rescue them, she must surrender her name and serve in this world. Luckily she finds friends and allies, including the handsome but mysterious boy Haku. Initially sulky and listless, Chihiro (or Sen, as she's now called) finds inner strengths and establishes an identity in this strange world. But can she win back her name and return home?

Spirited Away is a delightful children's adventure story reminiscing of Alice in Wonderland whose characters mature like wine. The setting and colors are masterly done and the plot, though linear, is like a box of chocolates- always full of surprises.

Seita inadvertently reached Metro Manila. Posted by Hello
3. Grave of the Fireflies
This is a very somber film about the struggle of two children to survive during World War II. Seita and his younger sister Setsuko are left to fend for themselves when their mother passes away from severe burns inflicted by the American fire-bombing of their town. Their father is serving in the Japanese navy, but the children have not heard from him in a long time, so Seita and Setsuko try staying with a distant relative. However, Seita doesn't get along well with this relative and decides to leave, taking Setsuko with him, to live on their own.

This has to be the most depressing anime film ever made. That's because the theme of death, survival and desperation of two little kids in a fire-bombed war torn Tokyo is truly heart-wrenching and cathartic. What i like about this is that it's not melodramatic, sappy, Hollywood-like, or cheezy, but shows the will to survive despite the futility of it. One has to watch this with a full stomach and a pocketful of Kleenex.

Pazu, we're not flying anymore, are we? Posted by Hello
4. Laputa, Castle in the Sky
Pazu rescues an unconscious girl descending from the night sky with a glowing pendant around her neck. He helps the girl, Sheeta, to escape from the air pirates and the military who are obsessed with Laputa, a legendary kingdom on a floating island in the sky with which Sheeta is suspected of being connected.

Unless you are a Spanish pervert, Laputa is not an obscene title but rather, one of the places in Jonathan Swift's novel, Gulliver's Travels. Laputa is the flying island of Gulliver's third journey. It officially translates to Lap, meaning high, and untah, meaning governor. After discovering the earflaps and communication problems of the Laputans, Gulliver desires to leave the flying island to discover the lands below. Laputa is held together by a strong lodestone located in the center of the island, and is the ruling island of all the lands below.

Let me show you how to do the Asereje, Uncle Mito. Posted by Hello
5. Nausicaa
NausicaƤ, the princess of a small nation, lives in a world devastated by a holocaust called the "Seven Days of Fire". She tries to stop other warring nations from destroying themselves and from destroying the only means by which their world can be saved from the spread of polluted wastelands.

In Homer's Odyssey, Nausicaa is the heroine daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians. While Odysseus sleeps (since the sea brought him to the island), the goddess Athena who favors & protects him, visits the young princess, Nausicaa. Athena, in the disguise of a young girl, tells Nausicaa to assist her maids in the washing of clothing the next morning. Nausicaa complies. While she and her companions are at the river, they engage in a game of ball, the noise of which rouses Odysseus from his slumber. All of the other girls are terrified by the sight of the hero - all except Nausicaa. Nausicaa demonstrates her bravery and offers Odysseus food and clothing. Ultimately, the beauty and charm of the princess represent another of the many temptations that Odysseus encounters on his long journey home.

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