When the trailer for Pokťmon X and Y hit last week, not once did I imagine that it would cost me as much time as it has. Iíve already spent about 12 hours because of this trailer, and that number is likely to increase even today. But how could that be?! You watch a trailer once or twice and youíre done, right? You could watch it a third time to really appreciate the awesomeness of Fennekin, I guess, but after that thereís no way youíre not done with it yet. Okay, maybe once more, thereís a lot of awesomeness to appreciate in that little fox, after all. But after that youíre really done. Final count: 6 minutes, 7 tops.
So how could a simple trailer possibly cost me a good 36 hours of my life?
Because of this guy:
This asshole right here.
When I first saw him, I thought he looked pretty good. Nice and colorful and a good counter to the other Legendary, Yveltal, but other than that nothing really stood out for me. Not so for some other people. Immediately after the trailer hit, we saw several people commenting on how much Xerneas looked like something from a movie called ďPrincess MononokeĒ. One comment I remember in particular read ďGo back to Princess Mononoke, Xerneas. You're not fooling anybody.Ē, which I guess would be a clever little commentÖ.if I had ever seen Princess Mononoke.
Upon seeing these comments, I became curious. I had certainly heard of this movie before, but for some reason I never watched it. After a bit of snooping around on Wikipedia and IMDB, I came to the conclusion that Princess Mononoke was entirely my sort of movie, and that I should definitely see it.
And thatís when tragedy struck.
During my research (I call it that to make it sound less like wasting my time scrolling through Wikipedia pages), I came across the official list of Studio Ghibli films, none of which I had ever seen before, but with some I had already heard about on it; mostly Spirited Away and Ponyo (didnít bbain write something on that last one a while back? Wouldnít surprise me, what with the sea creatures and all). So I checked some of their respective pages, and quickly found out that all of them, save perhaps Tales from Earthsea, are supposedly incredibly good. Furthermore, lots of them sounded exactly like the type of movie I would enjoy.
So I decided then and there to watch all of them. When it comes to things like these, Iím way too thorough for my own good. I never decide to watch ďsomeĒ of something new, be it a series, a Letís Play or whatever else. No, I watch all of it, all the time, from start to finish. This backfires occasionally, because something new pops up while Iím still busy with my previous pop-culture crush, but I just sort of learned to live with that.
This week, my new crush became Studio Ghibli.
And with that, Iím going to out-anime Strider.
So far Iíve already found all of the 18 films (I count Nausicaš, but not Ocean Waves Ė should I?), and I have most with dual audio; Japanese with English subs and an English dub. For some I only have one of the two, but that hasnít given any problems yet. I try to watch them in Japanese first, but the ones I had to watch in English had very decent dubs, with some very big names behind them even, so itís all good.
As of yet, in one week, sometimes even two on one day, I have watched: Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Kikiís Delivery Service and Only Yesterday. Porco Rosso is scheduled for tonight, which from the looks of it is about the Red Baron, except a pig, so I canít imagine how it could possibly not be the most amazing thing ever. Then, after two more movies, I will finally reach Princess Mononoke, which was what got me into watching these in the first place. Iím very curious about that one, canít wait!
So far my favorites are Nausicaš and My Neighbor Totoro, but Iíve enjoyed the others as well. Both Grave of the Fireflies and Only Yesterday are quite a bit different from the others, no fantastical magic or strange creatures here, so I liked those the least. That is more proof of the fact that Iím an uncultured Neanderthal than anything else though. I know, and see, that these are great movies, but theyíre just not as much fun to watch as the rest of them because of their subject material. Grave of the Fireflies is literally just two hours of watching two children die of starvation. Only Yesterday is a little more lighthearted, but at the end of the day is just about a woman recalling scenes from her childhood for better or worse. Both are good movies, Grave especially so, but you wonít find any lighthearted fun or a cool adventure here. Contrast this to Nausicašís action or Totoroís whimsicalÖ.whatever it is, and I canít say anything else than that, with a little bit of guilt, Iíd rather watch the latter two.
Luckily, Nausicaš approves.
From what Iíve seen of Studio Ghibli so far, Iím very impressed. Thereís very good art at work here, especially in the environments, the music is great when Joe Hisaishi is involved (Iím listening to the Nausicaš, Laputa, Totoro and Kiki OSTs as I write this) and Iím loving the story and characters. Iím also really impressed with how female-centric these films are. Totoro and Kiki in particular barely feature any men in speaking roles, and I really think it somehow adds to these movies. It just gives them that little bit of extra charm. Totoro just wouldnít be the same if it had featured two boys, or even a boy and a girl. The two sisters are what makes it work (them and their absolutely wonderful dad) much better than any boys could ever have. They probably wouldíve poked the mysterious kindhearted forest spirit-thing with a stick or something. Nausicaš herself as well is a spirited gal who doesnít forsake femininity for ass-kicking or vice versa.
The final thing I found striking was Miyazakiís (the mastermind behind Ghibli, who Iím led to believe is more popular in Japan than Walt Disney could ever hope to be in the west) ability to make great movies without any conflict in them. Sure, both Nausicaš and Laputa follow the more well-trodden route of good guys fighting the bad guys, but Totoro and Kiki feature nothing of the sort. In fact, My Neighbor Totoro may very well be the happiest movie I have ever seen. The only time where thereís some drama is towards the end, but a good 75% of the movie is done without any sort of strife at all. Even visiting their sick mother in the hospital provides only happiness and laughter. Thereís no bad guy, and Iíll go even one step further: there are no non-nice people in this movie. None at all. Let that sink in for a second. Everyone is kind, with the exception of one boy who acts a little rude towards the older of the girls, but itís implied that he just doesnít know how to deal with the new girl yet, especially since he may just like her a little bit if you know what Iím saying. Besides, he warms up considerably by the end of the movie. Seriously though, how many movies can you name where not one character is at least a little bit of a dick? I canít think of any. Actually, no, thatís not right. There may be one: Ö.Kikiís Delivery Service. But then weíre just moving in circles, arenít we?
Even when one of the girls tells her father that she saw a thing she names ďTotoroĒ, thereís no drama. Any other movie wouldíve gone the route of the disbelieving parents: ďNow, you know youíre supposed to lie to your parents little missy!Ē or perhaps ďGet your head out of the clouds, thereís no such thing as Totoro!Ē. In this movie? None of that. How does dad respond? ďYou probably met the king of this forest. You were very lucky; he doesnít come out very often.Ē I donít know if itís because the Japanese in general are more accepting towards spirits and the like or if itís something else, but just the fact that dad decides ďyou know what, let the kid run with itĒ, or perhaps genuinely believes her, is both amazing and way rarer in fiction than it should be.
In short, My Neighbor Totoro, for the majority of the film, is just about two girls exploring their new house and the environment, or spending time with their awesome parents. And itís more compelling than any save-the-world story you can care to name.
So yeah, conclusion; I fucking love Studio Ghibli now. If you havenít seen these movies yet, go do so. Really impressed with all of their efforts so far, and I have no fear of that changing any time soon. A big thanks to everyone who pointed out the Xerneas Ė Mononoke connection! I have yet to see if you are right, but I donít even care anymore. Youíve unwittingly introduced me to some great movies already, and I expect more to follow.
And finally, before we move on to the caps, my current ranking of the Ghibli films, to be updated in next weekís Shadeisms:
1. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind
3. Laputa: Castle in the Sky
4. Kikiís Delivery Service
5. Grave of the Fireflies
6. Only Yesterday