Studio Ghibli fans surprised to find hidden images in Grave of the Fireflies anime poster

The new meanings revealed in this image, thirty years after the film’s release, have anime fans reaching for the tissues.

It’s been a sad month for anime fans after internationally acclaimed anime director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata passed away in Tokyo on 5 April, after being hospitalised for heart and health conditions during a long battle with lung cancer.

As tributes poured in for the 82-year-old, Nippon TV paid their respects to the accomplished director by broadcasting one of his most well-known films, Grave of the Fireflies, on national TV on 13 April. Known for its heavy content, depicting the lives of two siblings struggling to survive in the Japanese city of Kobe during World War II, anime fans knew to have the tissues nearby during the televised broadcast, but what they didn’t realise was that there was another heart-wrenching moment on the way for them, waiting to be discovered in one of the promotional posters for the film.

The poster, which has now become a hot topic on chat forums in Japan, appears to show the two main characters of Seita and Setsuko sharing a rare moment of joy while surrounded by a field of fireflies.

Instagram Photo

This particular poster has been around since the film’s release thirty years ago in 1988, so fans wouldn’t normally think twice about looking into the details of the already-familiar image. One Twitter user, however, has now caused a stir online by unveiling a hard-to-see object in the darkness, which gives the poster a whole new meaning and a poignant sadness that many fans are seeing for the very first time.

The lightened image on the right of the tweet clearly shows a warplane in the sky above the children’s heads; a striking detail that’s easy to miss on first glance in the original poster. What’s even more heartbreaking is the implications of the plane on our initial reading of the image, which @comicloverhouse mentions in his accompanying text:

“I just read a theory that the fireflies in the Grave of the Fireflies poster aren’t all insects, so I analysed the image and it’s really true. I never knew about this.”

Given that the movie contains a number of scenes showing Japan being firebombed, it becomes clear that the differently shaped lights glowing in the night sky show not only fireflies but bombs from the air raids as well.

With tens of thousands of likes and retweets for @comicloverhouse‘s tweet, Ghibli fans have been expressing their surprise at the revelation.

“Wow. I’ve seen this picture a hundred times before but never seen these details.”
“So the round lights are fireflies and the longer ones are firebombs? That’s a heartbreaking image.”
“It’s amazing that they could conceal these types of details in a poster.”
“So “fireflies” has a double meaning…”
“Is that why they use the kanji for “fire” and “dangle” to mean “fireflies” in the title?”

It’s true that the movie title in Japanese, “Hotaru no Haka“, is written out as “火垂るの墓“, which uses  (hi), the kanji for fire, and (tareru) which describes something dangling down, like a droplet of water about to fall from a leaf, to make up the word hotaru, which means firefly in Japanese. Ordinaily, hotaru is written out in its own kanji – 蛍 – so the double meaning in the title actually references the incendiary bombs, which appear on the poster.

Instagram Photo

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know how important the firefly motif is, not only to the animated scenes onscreen, but also to the storyline, with the short lives of the insects symbolising the young lives lost during war. While the firefly/firebomb reference is clear to see once it’s been pointed out, its initial subtlety and the understated subtext are great examples of the small details that make Studio Ghibli films stand out in the anime film world.

To uncover some more of the studio’s secret details, don’t forget to check out this video here, which reveals all the Easter eggs hidden inside Ghibli films!

Source: Otakomu
Featured image: Instagram/ryuzi_kobayashi

Ghibli Museum merchandise from Boro The Caterpillar short anime movie now on sale!

The newest character from Studio Ghibli is out to charm us all with official merch.

After 20 years in the making, Ghibli’s Boro The Caterpillar was finally released last week, and along with the first screening came a collection of new merchandise for fans.

Available only at the gift stores inside the Ghibli Museum, where the short film is being exclusively shown, these goods are some of the hardest to get, so we made sure we stopped by to see what was available after our recent visit.

Whether you’re a fan of Ghibli or simply a fan of cute goods, this new range of merchandise is sure to put a smile on your face!

▼ The Mama Aiuto gift store inside the museum is
named after the sky pirates in Porco Rosso.

The store sells a whole heap of exclusive Ghibli merchandise you can’t buy anywhere else, but now they’ve got a new lineup of products in store, dedicated to Boro The Caterpillar.

First up, we have a clear stationery file for 350 yen (US$3.34), which captures the moment Boro lands inside a bright yellow groundsel flower, which is one of the most adorable scenes from the film.

If you’ve been to the museum store before, you’ve probably rifled through the drawers in the big chest which has dozens of pin badges featuring all sorts of characters from different films. Boro is the latest character to appear in the extensive pin badge collection, with two varieties available for 583 yen each.

▼ This one shows Boro emerging from his egg,
gazing out wide-eyed at the new world around him.

▼ And here Boro is pictured on a green leaf,
which is one of his favourite things to eat.

If you’re into scrapbooking, or simply want to add some flair to your gift-wrapping game, this cute masking tape is sure to do the trick.

▼ Priced at 467 yen, this adorable little piece of
stationery is covered in images of Boro.

He can be seen trundling about in nature, surrounded by leaves, pollen, flowers and delicious squares of blue “air jelly”.

The most expensive, and cutest, piece of merchandise is a tiny toy plushie of Boro the caterpillar, which retails for 1,050 yen.

The adorable palm-sized soft toy might seem a little on the expensive side at first, but once you feel his hard stomach and take a look at his posterior, the reason for the high price becomes clear.

It turns out that this little Boro actually moves! Simply pull the cord out of his bottom and he’ll start to vibrate and move forwards.

The clever arrangement of feet and threads underneath the toy add to the realistic caterpillar-walking effect.

Take a look at Boro in action below!

▼ Who knew a tiny brown caterpillar could be this cute?

Mama Aiuto is not the only gift shop at the Ghibli Museum, so if you’re interested in the art of animation, head over to the Tri Hawks bookstore on the third floor to pick up the “pamphlet”, which is really a 10-page colour booklet with lots of juicy background information on the process behind making the film, including plenty of beautiful images from the movie.

▼ At 432 yen, this booklet is a bargain!

Still, if you’re keen on stocking up on Boro merchandise, Mama Aiuto should definitely be on your list of places to go. They also stock a sheet of stickers and a set of postcards, all featuring the character of Boro and scenes from the film, so be sure to have a good look around next time you’re in the store!

As with many of the shorts, the entire range of goods will only be available for a limited time, while the movie is showing at the museum’s Saturn Theatre, from 21 March-31 August. Tickets to the museum for March and April are already sold out online, but May tickets go on sale from 10 a.m. (JST) on 10 April so you’ll still have time to see the movie if you’re planning a visit to Japan.

And for more Boro news, don’t forget to stop by here to check out our spoiler-free look at the new film, which has all the details about what you can expect to see, and hear, during its 14-minute-20-second runtime.

Photos ©2018 Studio Ghibli ©SoraNews24

Boro the Caterpillar anime now showing at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo 【SoraReview】

Our spoiler-free review of Hayao Miyazaki’s first new film in five years comes with a sneak-peek look at the official movie programme.

Late last year, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK screened a documentary about Studio Ghibli’s co-founder and acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki, revealing that he was working on his first film in five years, which would be an anime short screened exclusively at the Ghibli Museum in the Tokyo city of Mitaka.

Ever since the announcement, we’d been counting down the days until the movie’s first screening on 21 March, and after securing a ticket to one of the very first showings, it was time to head down to the museum’s in-house Saturn Theatre, the only place in the world where the much-hyped Kemushi no Boro, or Boro the Caterpillar, is being shown.

▼ Say hello to Boro the caterpillar.

Before viewing the film, we had a vague idea of what to expect, given all the media updates surrounding the new work in the lead-up to its release. Miyazaki himself, who’d been planning the story for almost 20 years, has described the short as “a story of a tiny, hairy caterpillar, so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers”, and just days ago it was revealed that famous Japanese comedian Tamori had lent his voice to the sound effects of the film.

Still, despite all this background information, nothing could’ve prepared us for what we saw – and heard – during the short anime’s 14-minute-20-second screening. Without giving away any major plot points or spoilers, there’s still a lot that can be said about this movie, particularly given that it’s an original screenplay, written and directed by the famously talented Miyazaki while he was meant to be retired from filmmaking.

So is Boro the Caterpillar set to be one of the best original shorts ever shown at the Ghibli Museum? Or will it end up being viewed as a self-indulgent post-retirement project that failed to hit the mark? Well, in our opinion, it might very well find itself slotting somewhere in between the two, and here’s why.

The film opens with Boro the Caterpillar hatching from an egg on a stalk of grass, surrounded by a new and unfamiliar environment, which he immediately sets out to explore. From the very beginning, the tone is strangely dark and unsettling, which works well to transport the audience into the 16-legged body of Boro, from where we can view the giant world through his tiny eyes, but at the same time, it’s a departure from many of the gentler, more child-friendly Ghibli shorts shown at the museum.

The first thing viewers are bound to notice, aside from the visuals, is the audio soundtrack. Miyazaki has been quoted as saying, “This film would not have been completed without Tamori-san”, and that’s entirely true, as his voice is used to bring sound to everything, from the titular caterpillar himself, to other flying insects, and even the sound of a girl’s squeaky tricycle.

To be honest, though, it’s an odd choice to use the voice of a 72-year-old male actor to bring life to the just-born baby character of Boro, and it’s even more peculiar to have this one actor create sounds, at a similar low pitch, for all the characters that appear in the movie. This makes it difficult for the viewers to distinguish Boro’s noises, and therefore connect to his emotional responses, in amongst all the other insects when they’re pictured together onscreen.

What’s even more surprising is the absence of any range in volume level; whether an insect is pictured close-up or buzzing further away in the distance makes no difference to its volume. While some might argue that this one-dimensional sound is due to the lack of a high-quality stereo system in the theatre – and it must be, because this is the work of an acclaimed animation studio and not an amateur college project – others might say that a different approach, perhaps with more range in volume and tone, would make it easier for audiences to get a feel for the different insect characters and add to the overall enjoyment of the film.

Miyazaki’s 2013 feature-length anime, The Wind Rises, was well-known for featuring mouth-made sound effects, but this short film takes this concept to a whole other level entirely. There’s very little range in tone here, and little effort made towards achieving any sense of realism. Whether he’s voicing the baby character of Boro, the caterpillar’s older senpai senior figures, or even a passing bumblebee, Tamori’s deep voice is neither light nor feminine, which means that all the insects in the film appear to be male.

Still, Tamori does an admirable job of making insects sound more like vehicles, jackhammers, and passing traffic rather than real insects, which makes us consider our own lives and the noisy environments we live in, and one of his best performances comes with the appearance of a hunting wasp, which Miyazaki has drawn to appear like an “aircraft on a battlefield”.

What the audio lacks in variety, the visuals make up for in spades, with beautifully drawn scenes capturing the moment Boro gets his first taste of “air jelly”, comes into contact with the sun’s rays, and munches on deliciously green nutrient-rich leaves.

Miyazaki has always been a masterful visual storyteller, needing nothing more than an image to evoke a mood, with even the tiniest of movements helping to convey an emotion. If you’ve ever seen Miyazaki’s 2006 short Mizugumo Monmon (The Water Spider) at the Ghibli Museum, you’ll see some common similarities in Boro the Caterpillar, both in imagery and storyline.

Water spiders and caterpillars are both tiny beings in large and often frightening environments, yet nothing in life remains constant, and both characters go on a journey of self-discovery, where they learn to adapt to new worlds and experiences. In this sense, Boro is a metaphor for our own lives, as seen through the eyes of a caterpillar, only without the pleasant sound effects and majestic soundtrack that featured in The Water Spider.

In fact, in Boro, even the incidental noises made by natural movements – like caterpillars pooping, which takes up a good portion of screentime – are all silent. This absence of real-world noise throughout the film, with cars, buses, and even the footsteps of humans left silent as Boro makes his journey through life, is a puzzling, pared-back move you’d expect to encounter in an arthouse film by an avante-garde director.

Watching the movie turns out to be like viewing the world from an inch below water, where you can see things going on around you, but all you can hear is your own voice in your head.

Is Miyazaki trying to tell us that caterpillars are hard of hearing? Or that we need to listen harder to the subtle noises in the natural environment around us? It’s an interesting and thought-provoking approach to filmmaking, and one which could probably only have been made by Miyazaki at this point in his career, when he has nothing to prove to anyone and can make stylistic choices that his producer friend Toshio Suzuki would have resisted years ago. After all, it was Suzuki who advised Miyazaki to put Boro on the backburner and go ahead with Princess Mononoke instead, when Miyazaki first pitched the film to him 20 years ago.

While viewers will be divided over Boro’s soundtrack, there’s no denying that Miyazaki has achieved what he set out to achieve with this new film. By viewing the world through the eyes of a tiny caterpillar with the use of stunning visuals, we are encouraged to re-evaluate our own lives and the way we live them.

While the soundtrack might be less grandiose than those of his other movies, by reminding us of the natural world around us, and the characters that live within it, Miyazaki’s legacy of promoting an environmentally aware lifestyle has never been louder or clearer. Sure, it’s a self-indulgent project that ties up unfinished business from the start of his career, but at the same time, it’s pretty wonderful in its unique style too.

Photos ©2018 Studio Ghibli © SoraNews24

Studio Ghibli inspires “The Glassworker”, a groundbreaking new anime film from Pakistan 【Video】

The beautiful love story between Vincent and Alliz reminds us that “life is beautiful but fragile, like glass itself“.

Studio Ghibli films have been inspiring artists around the world since the mid-’80s, when the studio was first founded in Japan by the now world-famous directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, and the producer Toshio Suzuki.

One of the most charming aspects of any Ghibli film is the exquisite hand-drawn animation, which creates a sense of intimacy and magic that computer-animated movies have a hard time replicating, and it’s this human element that’s now inspiring a group of animators in Pakistan to take out their sketchbooks to create a brand new anime that takes its styling cues from the world of Japanese animation.

Called “The Glassmaker“, this new film is attracting attention amongst anime fans around the world with its beautiful stills, heartwarming storyline, and its groundbreaking ambition. Usman Riaz, the artist, composer and director of the new film, first fell in love with Studio Ghibli movies from a very young age, and recently fulfilled his dreams by founding Mano Animation Studios, the very first hand-drawn animation studio in Pakistan.

Riaz and his animation studio now employ a small group of talented artists, who are working to produce The Glassmaker, using the same hand-drawn animation process as Studio Ghibli. The results, which can be seen in the first five minutes of the clip below, promise to take us into the beautiful coming-of-age love story between Vincent, the son of a glassmaker, and Alliz, a young violin prodigy.

The Ghibli inspiration is evident in the scenes featured in the clip, and in the storyline itself, which deals with issues such as war and growing up, but there’s still a beautiful local touch to the anime, as the characters speak in their national language of Urdu throughout.

The story, which is narrated by Vincent as an adult, recalls his childhood, and his relationship with Alliz, whose interaction occurs mainly inside the glass shop. According to the director, the glass shop is a metaphor for life, as “life is beautiful but fragile, like glass itself”.

In the behind-the-scenes look at the new studio and its artists, which follows the preview in the clip above, it’s revealed that The Glassworker initially began as a short film, but as Riaz continued to make storyboards, the film grew in length, with the director finally deciding it should be a full 80-minute long feature-length movie.

Riaz credits the many supporters who helped raise more than US$116,000 for the movie on Kickstarter in 2016, saying everything they’ve been able to do has been because of them. While the movie will take a few years to complete, Riaz says he is “fully prepared to do whatever it takes to making our dream of making hand-drawn animation a reality in Pakistan”, which would be a huge first for the country.

To find out more about the movie, and to keep up-to-date with developments as the film progresses, be sure to check out the studio’s website and Twitter account. The release date is currently set for the end of 2020, which looks to be the start of a good decade for anime fans, with the new Ghibli Park scheduled to open in Japan, along with a new feature-length film from Hayao Miyazaki in store for us then too!

Images: YouTube/Mano Animation Studios

Hayao Miyazaki says Studio Ghibli once stood up to Harvey Weinstein with a Japanese samurai sword

According to Hayao Miyazaki, the act meant “I defeated him”.

Ever since news of sexual abuse allegations against American film producer Harvey Weinstein broke last October, more and more disturbing claims have surfaced, detailing the mogul’s extensive use of intimidation and bullying tactics in order to satisfy his personal desires and face down anyone who appeared to stand in his way.

While many people were forced to relent to Weinstein’s menacing ways, one man and his team in Japan refused to let the producer mess with them, standing up to him in a most memorable fashion: with a Japanese samurai sword.

The story, which has resurfaced in the midst of the Weinstein scandal, was first told by Studio Ghibli director and co-founder Hayao Miyazaki in an interview with The Guardian in 2005, back when Weinstein was still a respected, albeit feared, Hollywood producer.

At the time, Miyazaki was in Venice promoting his latest film, Howl’s Moving Castle, and the rare interview was said to be the first one the director had agreed to in 10 years. While the discussion mostly revolved around his craft, at one point the interviewer asked whether the rumour about him sending a samurai sword to Harvey Weinstein was actually true.

Miyazaki confirmed the story, saying, “Actually, my producer [Toshio Suzuki] did that”, before going on to reveal that the sword was sent after Weinstein, who was in charge of handling the U.S. release of Princess Mononoke, bombarded him with an “aggressive attack” and “all these demands for cuts”.

The sword was sent to Weinstein in the post with the following message attached: “No cuts”.

Weinstein, who was known for editing down movies to his liking, eventually backed down from making any cuts to Princess Mononoke’s U.S. release, and as Miyazaki recalled the story to the interviewer, he smiled and said “I defeated him.”

Source: Metro via The Guardian
Featured image: Flickr/Big Ben in Japan
Insert image: Flickr/Mark Vegas

Ghibli characters come to life in time-lapse painting of magical My Neighbor Totoro scene 【Video】

This talented artist paints a detailed Ghibli movie scene every time a child is born into the family.

It’s always nice to hear about unique family habits and traditions that tie relatives together in profound ways. In Japan, we’ve seen families who live by interesting mottos and others who take pride in unconventional rituals, but for one family in Germany, they have a different way of bonding, and it involves some stunning artwork from Studio Ghibli.

Called “Son of Ghibli” on YouTube, this German-based artist has started up a beautiful family tradition, saying: “Every time a child is born into our family I a paint a scene from “My Neighbour Totoro” (となりのトトロ) as a present for them.

Going by the first painting shared by Son of Ghibli online, these are some lucky children, as the beautiful image created looks exactly like a magical scene from the movie. The time-lapse video of the artwork being created shows just how much work goes into the process.

Take a look at the making of “Totoro in the Tree” below:

The video begins with the initial pencil drawing, which goes from a rough sketch to a more defined image after it’s tidied up with an eraser and some bold lines.

Once the initial drawing is complete, it’s time to give it some colour. Here, the artist uses Nicker poster paints, which are the same paints used by Studio Ghibli artists for their anime artwork.

By gradually building up the colour, the Ghibli scene comes to life, with a variety of brushes used to get the right amount of precision in all the finest details.

The final result is a beautiful painting that not only captures a magical moment from the movie, but also captures the heartfelt sentiment of joy and love from artist to child.

The fascinating journey from sketch to finished painting now has us inspired to take up our own brushes to try our hand at creating a Ghibli masterpiece of our own.

Looking at some of the artwork inspired by the famed animation studio, including a Stranger Things crossover and this Guillermo del Toro Totoro,  there are plenty of ideas out there to help guide us on our artistic journey!

Source: Kotaro Blog
Images: YouTube/Son of Ghibli

【Lucky Bag Roundup 2018】Celebrate New Year with Studio Ghibli merchandise from Donguri Kyowakoku

Totoro from My Neighbour Totoro and Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service are the stars of the show this year.

As we make our way through the fukubukuro lucky bags released around Japan at the start of the New Year, there’s always one that we look forward to buying, and it’s the fukubukuro from Donguri Kyowakoku, the Japanese retail chain that sells officially licensed Studio Ghibli goods.

This year we picked up their 3,000 yen (US$26.65) lucky bag, which contained the following bounty of gorgeous Studio Ghibli merchandise.

Inside the dark grey tote that everything came packed in was another, much smaller mini tote bag. Called the “My Neighbour Totoro Monthly Tote Bag”, this one comes with an adorable yellow-orange Totoro with the number 2, for February, scrawled across his belly.

There were also two small hand towels featuring Jiji the magical black cat from the film Kiki’s Delivery Service.

▼Jiji also made an appearance on a cute zippered pen case.

The other items in the bag featured Totoro from the world-famous 1988 feature film My Neighbour Totoro. There was a cute lunch box bowl…

▼ A stainless steel drinking flask…

▼ An 80-piece “Art Bowl” jigsaw set…

▼ And an adorable soup spoon, complete with case, perfect for all the hot soups we’ll be having at work over winter.

While the Donguri Kyowakoku fukubukuro are known to contain different items, meaning you can’t be entirely sure of what you’ll get until you open up your purchase, they always represent good value for money, given the high retail price point of Studio Ghibli licensed goods.

With more than eight items for just 3,000 yen, these fukubukuro typically sell out within hours of going on sale at stores on January 1, so if you want to get your hands on one of these, be sure to get in line early on new Year’s Day next year!

Related: Donguri Kyowakoku Store List
Photos © SoraNews24

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