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Sun
24
Mar
2019
 

This touching tale of two sisters who move with their father to a rickety wooden house in the country to be closer to their mother convalescing in a nearby hospital has gone on to achieve classic status. A celebration of the childhood imagination, it retains a freshness and originality that appears almost naive to modern viewers, and can be described (alongside 1992’s Porco Rosso) as the most personal and heartfelt of Miyazaki’s creations, with its setup stemming from an episode from his own youth when his mother was bed-bound with spinal tuberculosis.

A rich fantasy world beneath the ordinary is unveiled before our eyes as the girls explore their new environment, full of tiny spider-like creatures scuttling through the rafters and other strange supernatural beings invisible to adults. These include the huge woolly beastie of the title, hidden deep within the nearby forest, who would become the most iconic of Ghibli’s creations.

Sun
24
Mar
2019
 

In the 14th century, the harmony that humans, animals and gods have enjoyed begins to crumble. The protagonist, young Ashitaka - infected by an animal attack, seeks a cure from the deer-like god Shishigami. In his travels, he sees humans ravaging the earth, bringing down the wrath of wolf god Moro and his human companion Princess Mononoke. Hiskattempts to broker peace between her and the humans brings only conflict.

Miyazaki’s international breakthrough hit was inspired by the Muromachi period (c.1336 to c.1573), which saw the introduction of firearms to feudal Japan, the film elegantly evokes a simple natural world where animal gods and tree spirits roam the earth, though they are fast becoming threatened by the technological advances and self-serving ruthlessness of humanity.

A masterwork of animated storytelling.

 

Sun
24
Mar
2019
 

Miyazaki’s masterpiece harks back to the cosy surrealism of children’s classics such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, with its baroque visuals and freewheeling dream-logic narrative as much gushing from its creator’s unfettered imagination as drawn from traditional Japanese iconographies.

The story centres on the adventures of 10-year-old Chihiro as, to remove a curse placed upon her parents, she is put to work in an traditional bathhouse populated by a panoply of colourfully-drawn ancient deities. Here she is stripped of her identity and assigned the name ‘Sen’, an alternative reading of the first character in her name.

The top-grossing domestic production of all time in Japan, Spirited Away won best animated feature at the 2004 Academy Awards and this marked a watershed moment in the global mainstreaming of Japanese animation. It did put Studio Ghibli firmly on the map of international critics. The crossover success is hardly surprising considering how vividly Miyazaki riffs on both European and local sources, creating a dreamlike fairytale that appears both exotic and yet strangely familiar, and whose surface eccentricities can’t conceal its very human soul.

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