It’s no secret that I absolutely adore stop-motion animation and Laika Studios (Coraline, The Box Trolls) is in my opinion the best out there at this style. Kubo and the Two Strings, follows young one-eyed Japanese boy named Kubo who is hunted from birth by his grandfather, known as the Moon King. Armed with a shamisen Kubo is forced to flee the home he shares with his mother and winds up on a scavenger trail-esque adventure with a talking monkey and a samurai beetle.
The film has a fantastic balance of comedy, emotional scenes and genuinely scary moments throughout (that probably would have terrified me as a child!) and it definitely had surprising moments that emotionally cut you right to your core. The animation was fantastic as expected, and even exceeded my expectations. Laika Studios really seem to be pushing what is possible with this medium and it’s absolutely fantastic to watch.
If that hasn’t sold you yet the film features what is believed to be the largest stop motion puppet ever made (pictured above, it’s 16 feet tall!)
Overall, if you haven’t seen this magical adventure film yet please do go buy a ticket to support this amazing animation studio who just keep getting better and better with their storytelling style and I can’t wait to see what they do next!
Another farewell film from Studio Ghibli as Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday) calls The Tale of the Princess Kaguya his final film. Today I went to a double bill screening at the Cornerhouse with Morayo to see The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (English subtitled version), and Isao Takahata and His Tale of the Princess Kaguya which is a documentary about the making of the film.
Based on a famous 10th Century Japanese folktale titled The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, which is considered the oldest existing Japanese prose. The Tale of The Princess Kaguya centres around a tiny princess who is found by a bamboo cutter inside the bamboo, she turns into a baby and is raised by him and his wife. It’s a tragic story about life and regret that is very much rooted in Japanese culture.
Like Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises it was a very personal project for Takahata. The animation was beautiful, I’ve never seen anything like it. They used messy, rough lined sketches to animate the characters and bring them to life against watercoloured backgrounds. Breaking away from Studio Ghibli’s usual cel animation technique, Isao Takahata explained in the documentary that this was to give the animation passion. The style definitely worked for this film as they could show the character of Princess Kaguya with so much spirit and life. The film is completely unique in its style and mesmerising to watch. The documentary was incredibly interesting, it showed the animation process and all the set backs production had. The film took 8 years to make because of how different the animation is in this film but they definitely ended up making something special.
I loved the character of the Princess Kaguya. She was such an interesting character, longing to live life to the full. She, as a character was very relatable and had a lot of depth and personality which was great to see. She spends much of the film locked up in frustrating traditions and customs that she is desperate to escape from. The whole film was very human centred, it was about human emotion, life and desire.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It’s very different to other Ghibli films but very beautiful.
“The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!”
I had been desperate to see this film for nearly a year as I am a huge fan of the Studio Ghibli films. When I travelled to Tokyo last summer “The Wind Rises” was showing in Japanese cinemas so there were posters all over the city advertising this film. I also visited the Studio Ghibli museum (which is incredible by the way for any fan of the films!)
Furthermore, it was announced that this would be the 11th and final film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Creator of Studio Ghibli and the director of the Oscar winning “Spirited Away” as well as many other amazing films including my personal favourite Ghibli film “Howl’s Moving Castle”. As i’m such a huge Miyazaki fan I ended up traveling from Plymouth to Exeter to see “The Wind Rises” on its opening day in the UK (9th May). I saw the Japanese version with English Subtitles, I would love to see the dubbed version too at some point.
The film itself is a tribute to the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a young aeronautical engineer who designed Japanese fighter planes during the Second World War (most notably the Mitsubishi A6M Zero) The film documents key historical events in Japan such as the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and part of Japan’s involvement in the war. I think one of the main successes of this film is that like many of Hayao Miyazaki’s films that touch on the subject of war it does not glorify war. If anything, it is anti-war. To quote the English subtitled trailer the film is most focussed on “how did Japan’s youth survive at such a time?” It’s a very human approach to the time and as an animation is absolutely stunning. There was controversy over the film in Japan, some saying it was “Anti-Japanese” and that Miyazaki is a “traitor” due to it’s anti-war stance. Hayao Miyazaki said in 2011 that he was inspired to make the film due to a quote he read by Jiro Horikoshi that said “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful”. Which is definitely the main theme. Whilst in the film Jiro is clearly a pacifist, he continues to pursue his dream either in denial or not realising the devastating consequences of his work which I believe is very reflective of the time as well as being incredibly human.
To conclude, “The Wind Rises” is incredibly beautiful and a really different perspective on Japan at the time. A brilliant film for Hayao Miyazaki to retire on even if I will miss his great work!