Saturday, July 11, 2020

Studio Ghibli on Netflix

Just in time to make your pandemic a little cheerier, Canadian Netflix gets the rights to Studio Ghibli's animated movies (I can only assume US Netflix has them too). I had only seen a few of these and wanted to see more, so I'm making my way through them. So far I can say they're more diverse in subject and tone than I was expecting, but they are all beautiful and thoughtful with deft storytelling.

Howl's Moving Castle: You don't have to read the book first (though I think you should!). This one is colourful and fun, takes far too many liberties with the plot but still manages to convey much of the same magic and spirit as the original, with its own worthy twist. The castle is a triumph of animation.

Spirited Away: Weird, in the sense of uncanny, not-of-this-plane-of-existence. European imps and goblins have nothing on Japanese yokai, I'm just saying! There are a few scenes that might be scary or grotesque for younger kids, but this is a warm, thoughtful story of friendship and courage, with gorgeous imagery.

Princess Mononoke: The darkest one I've seen so far, with quite a bit of violence; definitely not for younger kids. Really interesting plot, strong environmental and anti-war message. I've noticed with all the Studio Ghibli movies I'e seen that they don't follow the black and white good-guy/bad-guy paradigm of storytelling: there are antagonists, but they tend to get transformed, or at least understood, rather than defeated. (I know there's a name for this narrative paradigm, but I can't remember it.) Except for the military: they're always definitively bad.

Castle in the Sky: So much fun: rollicking adventure, beautiful animated scenery, crazy-imaginative settings and vehicles and devices. And that island in the sky is just—there are no words—gorgeous, fascinating, melancholy, heartwarming, magical. There's some fighting and peril that might be too scary for younger kids, but nothing worse than a typical Disney movie.

Kiki's Delivery Service: Cute and sweet with great characters and stunning scenery (very European: almost a love-letter to Europe). Kiki is a delight, as is her talking cat. Lots of humour and a great coming-of-age theme that connects art with magic.

My humble opinion so far: Hayao Miyazaki deserves his reputation as a brilliant artist and director; the world needs more of this art and these kinds of stories. I'm going to watch all the rest and will report back!