[ Song of the Week ] Priscilla Ahn – “Fine on the Outside”

from the album Just Know That I Love You. (2014)

I just finished up a great film challenge that I gave myself: to watch every Ghibli film within a year. I started in January, and now twenty-two films later, the first full weekend of September is when I finally watched the final (for now) Ghibli film, When Marnie Was There, for the first time. I don’t know why I waited so long! It is now easily one of my overall favorites from the studio. But more on that another time…

This is the ending theme to the film, written and performed by Priscilla Ahn. It’s actually quite a melancholy song, and is sort of an image song for Anna, the main character of the story.

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

I waited far too long to see this film. It had nothing to do with lack of motivation or disinterest; it’s one of the Ghibli films I hadn’t seen yet that I’d been looking forward to the most! I could just never find the time. Now more than five years after its release in 2013, I finally have watched The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and I can only kick myself for letting this much time go by! I’ve long been a Studio Ghibli fan, and this film just found its way nearly to the top of my Ghibli favorites list, though for very different reasons than other top favorites such as Kiki, Spirited Away, or Arrietty.

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is an artistic tour de force from Isao Takahata, and sadly also his swan song. Visually, it’s an animated Japanese woodblock print. The story is based on the Japanese folk tale of the bamboo cutter who finds a tiny child in a bamboo stalk, and taking it as a sign from the gods, decides to take her home and raise her. Kaguya herself fits right in with the cast of Ghibli leads, despite being a character already well-woven into Japanese culture. The unique animation style gives the story a distinct feel, rooting it in the historical era when the story takes place. Though primarily a drama, there are some great lighthearted moments in the film as well, and Takahata’s expertise with human drama is on full display.

Princess Kaguya is also the longest Ghibli film at two hours and eighteen minutes, and it is also the only Takahata film with a score by Joe Hisaishi, who usually scores Hayao Miyazaki’s films.

To give yourself a taste of this artistic masterpiece, have a look at the six minute Japanese trailer for the film:

Arrietty the Borrower

As you may recall from my latest installment of Anime A to Z, The Borrower Arrietty is one of my favorite Ghibli films. For me, it’s a “classic” from the studio, much like My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki’s Delivery Service. Hayao Miyazaki selected Hiromasa Yonebayashi to make his directorial debut with this adaptation of The Borrowers, and it resulted in a wonderful film.

The sense of scale was captured perfectly. You can tell that you’re watching tiny little people in a human-sized world, rather than normal sized people in a giant-sized world. This is especially apparent when water moves at Arrietty’s scale. The film is also very pretty artistically, and the score by harpist C├ęcile Corbel fits perfectly with the setting.

And then there’s Arrietty herself. She is one of my overall favorite Ghibli leads. Like many of her predecessors, Arrietty is a determined and adventurous girl trying to forge her own way in the world. But unlike her predecessors, she is only a few centimeters tall!

Below are a few fifteen screenshots of Arrietty from the film. It’s more than I would usually put in a post like this, but she is worth it.

Twintails from Earthsea

I finally watched Studio Ghibli’s Tales from Earthsea last weekend. As Ghibli films go, it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the studio’s catalogue, but it’s still a good film taken on its own merits. But I am not here to talk about the film right now… this is just one particular thing in it that I thought was interesting.

Meet Therru:

At the very first moment she appeared on the screen, someone else immediately sprung to mind:

Naa?

Clearly, Therru and Misaki have the same hair stylist!

Sophie’s Silver Braid

Howl’s Moving Castle may not be the first film you think of when talking about Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki, but it’s no less worthy of recognition.

Like most Ghibli films, the lead is a self-sufficient young woman, but in the case of this film, eighteen(-ish)-year-old Sophie spends most of her time on screen as a ninety-year-old woman. She finds Howl thanks to a rather helpful scarecrow, and after making a deal with Howl’s fire Calcifer, she tries to find a way to lift the spell cast on her which turned her into an old woman.

While Sophie makes a great feisty old lady, I think she looks rather fetching as her spell begins to wear off, when she regains her youthful face and body, but retains her silver hair from being old. It could be a representation of the experience she gained as an old lady, overcoming hardships in ways she couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Below are a few scenes capturing some of the moments as Sophie’s curse begins to fade.

Chihiro

A little bit of cross-promotion… I draw as a hobby, and I just finished something I’m really proud of. This is a screenshot redraw of one of my favorite scenes in Spirited Away. Yes, I omitted the car.

When Chihiro gets creeped out by the statue in front of the abandoned theme park entrance, the look on her face is priceless, so I decided I needed to try and capture it in my own way.