New illustrated Studio Ghibli folding fans: A beautiful way to deal with Japan’s summertime heat

Totoro, Jiji, and No Face are here to provide a cool breeze as you set out on warm-weather adventures of your own.

If you’re an anime fan who’s planning a trip to Japan, it’s pretty much a given that going to Donguri Kyowakoku, the chain of shops stocked with amazing Studio Ghibli merchandise, is something you’ll be doing. And should said trip to Japan happen during the next few months, another thing you’ll definitely be doing is sweating profusely, thanks to the high temperatures and humidity of Japan’s summer months.

So while you’re tossing voice-activated Laputa levistone pendants and moving No Face coin banks into your shopping basket, make sure you leave a little room in your budget for some of these gorgeous Ghibli Japanese-style folding fans to help keep yourself cool.

Four designs are available, starting off with the Cool Breeze Totoro, which features the beloved Studio Ghibli mascot on a deep blue background, with a soot spirit ornament dangling from the base of the fan.

If you’re after a more classically feminine look, or want all three differently colored versions of Totoro together, the Wisteria Totoro has the large gray and medium blue forest spirits on the fan itself, with the micro-sized white one as the ornament.

Summer Smile Kiki’s Delivery Service may not feature the tituar witch herself, but the logo of her (also titular) business is found at the far right. Multiple images of Kiki’s easygoing familiar Jiji appear on a field of sunflowers, with the black cat also taking on the ornament role.

And last, in the Camellia Spirited Away fan, decorated with a soot sprite ornament, it’s No Face who immediately draws the eye, but let your perspective expand a bit and you’ll discover Haku, in his dragon form, streaking across the sky.

Should you worry that carrying these lovingly illustrated fans around in your bag will leave them soiled and bruised, Donguri Kyowaoku also has a cloth fan pouch, although only the Cool Breeze Totoro motif is offered.

▼ Front and back sides shown

The fans measure 21 centimeters (8.3 inches) in radius, and are priced at 2,980 yen (US$28), while the pouch sells for 900 yen. All go on sale later this month at Donguri Kyowakoku branches and the chain’s online shop, and should you still be looking for Ghibli-inspired ways to deal with Japan’s humid summers, the Kiki’s Delivery Service body mist fragrance line would be a good place to start.

Related: Donguri Kyowakoku, Donguri Kyowakoku online store
Sources: Japaaan, PR Times
Images: PR Times

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

Studio Ghibli’s co-founder, Isao Takahata, has passed away

Anime director, producer, innovator, and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has passed away on April 5th, newspapers have reported. He was 82. Different sources cite heart problems or lung cancer as the reason of death. Studio Ghibli is yet to confirm the reason. However, it is known that he had been frequently hospitalized since last summer.

The 2013 animation ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’, a breathtakingly beautiful film animated to look like a painting, remained Takahata’s last work. He is best known for the 1988 film ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, a depiction of two orphans in second world war Japan.  His other work include films like ‘Pom Poko’ and TV series ‘Heidi: A Girl of the Alps’.

(Via Variety, Hollywoord Reporter, The Guardian)


The post Studio Ghibli’s co-founder, Isao Takahata, has passed away appeared first on ARAMA! JAPAN.


Studio Ghibli co-founder and anime director Isao Takahata passes away in Tokyo

Anime veteran leaves behind a legacy of more than 50 years of landmark anime including Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Most people would say that 82 years is not a tremendously short life. And yet, in a way, it feels like the time to say good-bye to anime director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has come far too soon.

Takahata passed away on April 5 at a hospital in Tokyo, succumbing to poor health and heart conditions that had been plaguing the 82-year-old anime director since last summer and causing him to be hospitalized multiple times. An unnamed personal acquaintance was quoted as saying that Takahata looked startlingly thin when they last saw him in November. “He’d always given the impression of an inquisitive child with glimmering eyes, but [in November] he looked so tired that he seemed like a completely different person.”

Entering the anime industry as an employee of Toei Doga (the precursor to Toei Animation), Takahata would go on to have a tremendously long and successful career. A few years after he started at Toei, he met a new recruit named Hayao Miyazaki, and the two would work together on a number of projects after both left the company in 1971.

▼ The Takahata-directed Grave of the Fireflies

Takahata’s breakout work, and his theatrical directorial debut, was 1968’s Horus: Prince of the Sun, an epic fantasy on which Miyazaki served as key animator. During the 1970s, Takahata directed landmark anime TV series Heidi, Girl of the Alps and Anne of Green Gables, as well as a number of episodes of Lupin III. All became, and have remained, cultural icons in Japan even outside of the anime fan community, and once again, Miyazaki was also involved with each.

Realizing by this point that the two of them had a real knack for making anime, Takahata and Miyazaki, along with producer Toshio Suzuki, founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. In the years since, Miyazaki has gone on to be synonymous with the Ghibli name in the minds of many moviegoers, but arguably the studio’s first film to earn substantial international respect was the Takahata-directed Grave of the Fireflies (originally released in Japan in 1988).

A tragic tale of two orphans struggling, and eventually failing, to survive in Japan immediately following the end of World War II, Grave of the Fireflies, although fictional, dealt with real world events, and in an unflinching manner. That gave it an immediate sense of importance and relevance, and being a Japanese-made movie about Japan provided the cachet of being a window into a foreign society, and this mix of cultural, artistic, and even educational weight. All that resulted in solemn recommendations from mainstream English-language film critics as soon as subtitled or dubbed versions became available, even as Miyazaki’s Totoro and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind struggled to find acceptance overseas beyond small circles of hardcore anime fans until the late 1990s.

▼ Takahata’s Only Yesterday

In addition to Grave of the Fireflies, Takahata directed Ghibli’s Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, My Neighbors the Yamadas, and, his final film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which was released in 2013. Though his films contained such fanciful elements as shapeshifting tanuki swinging their enlarged testicles as weapons and magical moon princesses, Takahata’s works are introspective and tender in comparison to Miyazaki’s bolder grand adventures, showing off Ghibli’s trademark talent in a quietly different way.

Despite his immensely impressive professional resume, Takahata spent much of his career getting little to no attention abroad. His 1970s TV work largely predates international appreciation of anime’s artistic qualities, and when Studio Ghibli did become a readily recognized name among non-anime-focused critics in the early 2000s, the primary focus was always on Miyazaki’s films, such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo. It was really only after new fans drawn in by those started looking into the older anime of not only Ghibli, but also the studio’s key personnel, that English-language critics really started to sing Takahata’s praises in chorus.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

In a way, though, that almost seems appropriate. Takahata was borderline infamous for taking his time on projects (Miyazaki once vocally speculated that his Ghibli comrade must be “descended from sloths”), and while he developed a distinct, inimitable style, he was never the sort to draw attention to himself over the anime he created. So even if he’s no longer with us, his works, and his legacy, are still patiently waiting for anyone with a love of animation to experience.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Sanspo via Jin, NHK News Web
Top image: YouTube/Madman

Studio Ghibli enters the perfume game with launch of Kiki’s Delivery Service body mist line

Anime witch Kiki and cat pal Jiji grace the bottles of fragrances saluting the Hayao Miyazaki classic.

For fans of the anime of Studio Ghibli, the Donguri Kyowakoku chain has just about anything you can imagine, from Spirited Away No Face coin banks to magical light-up Laputa pendants. But just when we thought the stores had mined every last possible avenue of Ghibli-related merchandise, Donguri Kyowakoku has once again thought far outside the box.

As of this week, Donguri Kyowakoku is offering a line of Kiki’s Deliver Service perfumes. Four different scents are available, each inside a bottle decorated either with little witch entrepreneur Kiki or her black cat familiar Jiji.

The Kiki’s Delivery Service Body Mist line is a joint venture with fragrance Fernanda. Two of the aromas, Maria Regale and Lovely Melody, are part of the company’s preexisting favorites.

▼ Maria Regale (left) contains the scents of jasmine and pear, while Lovely Melody has rose and freesia notes.

The remaining two are original fragrances made just for the Kiki collaboration. Thankfully, Fernanda decided against modeling either after the strong tobacco scent that likely surrounds longtime heavy smoker and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, instead opting for orange and rose in My Story, and peach, jasmine, and honey for Magic Moment.

▼ My Story (left) and Magic Moment (right)

The body mists contain a moisturizing agent, and Donguri Kyowakoku says they’re safe to use on your face, hair, and clothing fabric, so you could even use them as a Fabreeze substitute if you’ve gone out for some particularly pungent ramen after building up an appetite binge-watching anime.

All four varieties are identically priced at 1,500 yen (US$14) for a 100-milliliter (3.4-ounce) bottle. Alternatively, the whole set can be purchased here through the Donguri Kyowakoku online shop for 6,000 yen.

Related: Donguri Kyowakoku
Source: PR Times via Ghibli no Sekai
Images: PR Times

Ghibli successor Studio Ponoc announces new theatrical anime for release this summer【Video】

Director of When Marnie Was There crafts first original story for film that’s explicitly not trying to be like a Marvel movie.

In the U.S., summer is the time for movie studios to release their action blockbusters. In Japan, though, summer is when prestige theatrical anime premier. Especially for big-budget animated films that are hoping to reach beyond hard-core otaku audiences, a summer release is seen as a must.

Studio Ponoc, largely composed of artists who were with Studio Ghibli until it went into extended stasis following the release of When Marnie Was There in 2014, chose last July for the debut of its first anime, Mary and the Witch’s Flower. Now Ponoc has announced that it’ll be back in theaters again in the summer of 2018 with its second animated feature, titled Little Heroes -Kani, Tamago, and the Invisible Man-, which will hit theaters on August 24.

The reason for the lengthy title is that Little Heroes -Kani Tamago, and the Invisible Man- is actually an anthology film consisting of three parts, each with a different director. Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of both Mary and Marnie, is helming the fantasy adventure “Kanini and Kanino,” which will be his first time directing a story he created himself, as opposed to an adaptation of a preexisting novel.

Holding the reins for the film’s middle section, “Samurai Egg,” is Yoshiyuki Momose, whose Ghibli resume includes storyboarding, key animation, and/or visual design for Spirited Away, Only Yesterday, and Grave of the Fireflies. “Samurai Egg” is based on the story of a real boy Momose knows who has a severe, potentially deadly egg allergy, and the short shows his courage and loving relationship with his mother.

Finally, Akihiko Yamashita, character designer for Howl’s Moving Castle and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, occupies the director’s chair for “The Invisible Man,” which tells a story of the lonely struggles of a man who can’t be seen by anyone else.

Studio Ponoc CEO Yoshiaki Nishimura explained the decision to craft three shorts was inspired by the works of Ghibli directors Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, who have always pushed themselves to try new things, as well as the innovative spirits of Pixar and Disney. That doesn’t mean the new work will be derivative, though, he asserts. “Are we to sit idly on the foundation others have made as we make our films? No. We have to create a new area where the rich artistic qualities of animation can be discovered, and I believe short animation is somewhere we can do that.” Though Nishimura made no explicit mention of such, there’s probably also a bit of a practical concern, as securing the funds for lavish full-length anime movies two years in a row might be a tall order for the still-young Ponoc.

Nishimura was also clear on who Studio Ponoc is not drawing inspiration from: Marvel. “We don’t want to tell superhero stories like Marvel,” he said while expanding on the Little Heroes title. “When we asked ourselves what we can give to the children of the world, we thought that maybe we can give them hope and courage…Even if people aren’t seen as very important by others, they might still be doing their best every day, and making good things happen. This summer, through our anime, we’d like to send the message that those people really are big heroes.”

The idea of small things having a big impact is applicable to the ambitions of the film itself, too. Each segment of the film is scheduled to clock in at roughly 15 minutes, with an additional five minutes of animation total for the opening and closing. That would give Little Heroes a total running time of less than an hour, which is remarkably short even compared to other anime movies, which are generally shorter than their live-action counterparts.

Still, between Little Heroes, CoMix Wave Films’ (of Your Name fame) upcoming China-set anthology, and the brand-new Hayao Miyazaki anime short Boro the Caterpillar, movie-goers with a love of anime and brevity have a lot to be excited about these days.

Source: Comic Natalie via Otakomu
Images: YouTube/東宝MOVIEチャンネル

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