Ghibli Month: Howl’s Moving Castle

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Welcome back to Ghibli Month where we take a look at one movie from this studio every weekend through the month of December. This weekend, we’ll be looking at Howl’s Moving Castle, directed by Hayao Miyazaki and based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. Thought to be influenced by Miyazaki’s disapproval of the US war in Iraq, this movie depicts strong images of how war causes undue destruction while also seriously discussing the concept of aging in a very positive light.

If you have not already watched this movie, here is a quick overview:

Sophie is, by her own definition, a boring woman with little interest in modern fashion even though she works at a hat shop. While going to visit her sister, she has a run-in with a mysterious wizard who sweeps her off her feet – literally – as they try and escape capture by the Witch of the Waste’s henchmen who were on his tail. Inevitably, Sophie becomes targeted by the Witch of the Wastes who puts a curse on her that turns her into an old woman. In an effort to break the curse, she journeys into the wastes where she is picked up by the wizard Howl’s moving castle who just so happens to be the wizard she met that day. It’s here she joins his make-shift family as a cleaning lady, discovers the secret behind his castle, and witnesses the devastation that war can bring. Continue reading

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Ghibli Month: Spirited Away

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Welcome back to Ghibli Month where we take a look at one Ghibli movie each weekend in December. This weekend, we’re taking a look at a classic that I’m sure most of you have seen: Spirited Away. A huge hit in both Japan and America, it held the number one grossing spot on Ghibli’s list for a long time, which is understandable as I believe this is one of the best examples of what this studio and the vision of Hayao Miyazaki can do.

For those of you who haven’t seen Spirited Away yet, here is a quick synopsis:

Chihiro is a young girl who is moving to a new town with her parents. While trying to find their new house, her father takes a wrong turn and winds up driving down a dirt path that leads to an abandoned amusement park. But once the sun goes down, the park becomes populated with spirits of all shapes and sizes coming to take advantage of the herbal waters of the bath house. After her parents eat the food that was supposed to be for the spirits, they are cursed to take the shape of pigs. Now, to prevent them from being eaten and to find a way back to the human world, Chihiro must take a job at the bath house under the rule of the powerful witch Yubaba. However, her job comes with a price: she must give up her name and consequently watch her memories of her human life slowly fade. With the support of the dragon Haku and other spirits she helps along the way, she must work to recall who she is in order to return to her previous life. Continue reading

Ghibli Month: Whisper of the Heart

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Welcome back to Ghibli month! This weekend we take a look at Whisper of the Heart, the first movie from Studio Ghibli that isn’t directed by Miyazaki. Based off a manga by Aoi Hiiragi, the screenplay was written by Hayao Miyazaki and is the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo before his death in 1998. Watching this one after Castle in the Sky definitely helped me recognize a few differences in the way Kondo directs compared to Miyazaki, but we’ll get to those in a little bit.

For those of you who haven’t seen Whisper of the Heart yet, here’s a quick synopsis:

Shizuku is a bookworm living with her parents and sister in a small apartment in Tokyo. While checking out books at the local library, she notices that all of them have also been checked out by a mysterious boy named Amasawa Seiji. As she tries to imagine what kind of person this boy is, she encounters another boy from her school who begins to annoy her, calling the lyrics she had written for their school ceremony corny. On her way to the library one day, she spots a cat riding the train and decides to follow it. It leads her on a convoluted chase that eventually ends at an old antique shop run by an old man named Shiro Nishi. Sitting on one of the tables is a striking statue of an anthropomorphic cat with dazzling green eyes. Eventually it is revealed that the boy who was annoying her is the grandson of the antique store owner and is studying to become a violin maker. Shizuku is captivated by his skills and becomes inspired to put her own to the test by writing a book about the mysterious cat statue that is simply called “The Baron.” Continue reading

Ghibli Month: Castle in the Sky

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Welcome to Ghibli month! Where I take a look at one Ghibli movie every weekend in the month of December. This weekend’s movie is Castle in the Sky, the first animated movie produced and released by the studio in 1986.

For any of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, here’s a quick synopsis:

A government airship carrying a captured Sheeta is attacked by a gang of pirates looking to take the crystal necklace she is wearing. In the resulting struggle, she falls from the airship but is saved when her necklace begins to glow, slowing her descent right into the arms of a very amazed Pazu. Upon awakening, she finds herself in his home where he is building a plane to take him on a quest to find the mysterious floating city of Laputa that his father once saw long ago. But that dream is cut short as the pirates that attacked her on the airship return along with the government agents, all after her crystal necklace. Pazu and Sheeta must stick together and discover the mystery behind her glowing necklace and how it connects to the legend of the floating city of Laputa before its ancient power falls into the wrong hands. Continue reading