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Friday, July 30, 2010

Me and Studio Ghibli: Part 6

In this, part 6 of my Studio Ghibli Feature we will be crossing into the 21st century and there is no finer way to get there than weith the critically lauded Spirited Away. But first let us take a look at one of the Studio's and Takahata's most overlooked gems, My Neighbours the Yamadas.

1999-My Neighbours the Yamadas
My Neighbours the Yamadas is Isao Takahata's fourth film for the studio and the most instantly stylistically different from the other films in the Ghibli canon.  It has a look of a moving water-colour painting and has the accolade of being the first Ghibli feature ever to be entirely computer animated.

The plot deals with the everyday life of the Yamada family. It is not only distinct from all other Ghibli due to its art style it is also the only released film in the Ghibli canon to not follow a continuous plot. The film is a series of vignettes. Each has its own title and give us little insights into daily life such as a game of catch between father and son or losing a child at the mall.

Thematically this film is simply dealing with a traditional nuclear family. It deals with literally every aspect of traditional family life. And all characters in the film are equally traditional. The Grandmother is somewhat senile and the Dad likes nothing more than plonking down in his favourite chair with the newspaper waiting on his wife to make the dinner.  Writing about it now it seems cliche although this never hit me during about the film.

The film was critically acclaimed and won the 1999 Excellence Award for Animation  at the Japan Media Arts Festival. However, it was not such a success at the box office. The Japanese public were missing out on a movie that fully captures the culturally universal family experience in a gentle comedy perfect for a lazy Summer afternoon.

2001-Spirited Away
Often considered Miyazaki's greatest work to date Spirited Away is easily the most recognisable of all of the Studio's work and the one that has gained the most success worldwide. The first Ghibli film of the new decade came with a roar not a whimper.

Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a ten year old girl who is about to move house. On the way her parents get lost and decide to explore the locality. Here, they come upon an abandoned theme park and begin to chow down on the food mysteriously fresh at a stand in the theme park. As the parents eat their fill Chirio  begins exploring. Night falls and the park lights up, mysterious figures begin getting off of docking boats and Chihiro returns to her parents to find they have morphed into pigs. As she finds her way in this magical world of spirits and Gods she must find a way to get her parents back and finally get to her new home.

The film deals with the time in our lives when we are challenged to grow up, the period between adulthood and childhood. We clearly see this happen to Chihiro throughout the film. The film also, thematically contrasts the worlds of old and modern Japan and the struggle between the ancient spirituality of Japan and its modern detached and  what may be perceived as ignorant nature.

Spirited Away is not only  the highest grossing of all Ghibli's films it is also the highest grossing film of all time in Japan. It is the only Anime ever to win an Oscar winning for Best Animated Film. It also won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival.  The film has been lauded across the world and is truely an epic masterpiece created by one of the greatest animators and directors who ever lived.

If you've missed any of the posts in this feature you can find them in the widget below or in the blog archive. Look out for part 7 next week.

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