Monthly Archives: December 2011

Ghibli Challenge #5, 6 – Ocean Waves (And Porco the Second)

I already am not trying to watch every Ghibli film at the GKIDS retrospective, so instead I might as well watch the ones I like more than once. I mean other than Yamada’s and Totoro, every single viewing of this thing is a reviewing for me. In a way I also feel bad–by buying a ticket I’m bumping some poor sod out of a seat. I think half of the showings I attended were sold out. That means potentially some guy who has never seen Whisper or Porco would have not had the chance! Oh well, their loss.

Ocean Waves (Umi wo Kikoeru) is the odd man out. Odd, in that it is Mochizuki’s only directorial contribution under Ghibli’s young animator program. Ocean Waves is also odd in that it was a TV special, not a proper theatrical film. So when seeing it in theaters, it means a DVD that is upscaled by whatever the IFC Center has on tap to play DVDs. I suspected as much going in–I would probably buy Ocean Waves on Blu-ray (among other Ghibli stuff), had I heard about it. What is sad is that the same DVD is like, 6 pounds on over Amazon UK, which after shipping and the pretty spiffy exchange rate, probably just a buck more than full-price admission ($13 for full price adults at the IFCC). I paid $14 for it God-knows-when ago.

Still, Ocean Waves is one of those semi-arthouse affair. It deals with some well-to-do kids from Kochi. The striking City Girl both getting her Inaka Fix and the Country Boys getting their panties in a knot. But that one pan! The only pan! The non-linear narrative! I am so stoked.

Well, it’s certainly not for kids. I don’t count teenage kids as kids. Or anyone old enough to appreciate a semi-candid reference to the mess of having your first period. And of course, the anti-Disney, anti-American reference to underage alcoholic beverage use.

But really, who cares? I don’t really think this film is made for kids. It may be made for the family, but it’s clearly the sort of show targeting an adult audience. It’s just capable of passing as wholesome entertainment.

And yes, I did rewatch Porco again. I will watch it again given the chance, too (unlikely at this point). It’s my favorite Miyazaki movie by a fairly long shot. This time I walked away with a subtle thing. The translated subs said “but a pig’s gotta fly” during his phone call with Gina. If my non-understanding of Japanese is anywhere close, he was saying something about how a pig that doesn’t fly is just a pig.

Nothing wrong with the translation. But would the non-showering of sea pirates make sense without knowing how close they are to pigs that they are? Or what makes Porco a pig is who he is, which is who everyone else is? Gina has it right: Curtis and Porco are both pigs, in their self-absorbed quest to look cool.

What separates men and pigs? Law and cleanliness I guess.

The final fight between the two subverts that coolness for laughs and entertainment. They’re not fighting a war. So they can get away with being stupid. So the movie can get away with being stupid. Let the lady who is all serious and all business take care of the Regia Aeronautica?

I guess this is kind of the macho-man message within Porco Rosso. Or maybe the proper term is “Hemmingway.” Only if he was half as funny!

The fifth and sixth (woo half way!) so-called challenges are a part of an end-of-year festivity among some anime bloggers. You can find out more about the Ghibli theatrical road show from GKIDS.

Ghibli Challenge #4 – Whisper of the Heart

I’ll say it again: this movie is the best thing that has ever came of Studio Ghibli.

I say this for several reasons, but for a film that I’ve watched like a dozen times, it’s pretty amazing that I am still getting more out of it today, perhaps as much as I did years ago when I first laid eyes on it.

I mean, it captures so well a certain sort of Asian upbringing. Complete with idealized rebellion against the machine and exaggerated flirtation with future aspiration and kickstarting your dreams. It’s like what every Tiger Mom wishes for once they’ve leveled up to a certain level. How do you become an artisan? Or more importantly, how do you convince your parents about it?

That joke aside, another thing  that got me was during the entire time I was like “this girl is just like some kids on Twitter!” and the way they checkout-card stalk each other is like a low-tech cyberstalking. And Concrete Road–us being privy to an in-joke like that is miraculous script-writing. And then there was the sweet flirting and the usual nonsense. Then it came the low-tech version of NaNoRiMo. In a way I appreciate Shizuku’s no-nonsense approach. No fancy websites tweeting wordcounts, and she’s writing to test herself. Which is reason as any to burn a couple months away. Armed with a pencil and a pile of paper, she does something so many older, more resourceful people have failed.

Now that joke aside, I think all that is just to attest to the strange timelessness of a teenager’s malaise, and how things may be not so different in 2011 attests to Whisper’s gimmick-free look and its powerful narrative. It’s the best Ghibli film.

The fourth challenge is a part of an end-of-year festivity among some anime bloggers.  You can find out more about the Ghibli theatrical road show from GKIDS.

Year in Review: Team Iri Wear Pants – Comedy Reigns in 2011

If Mawaru Penguindrum can be explained by the transfer of fates via the vehicle of an allegorical apple, then Fate/Zero can be explained by the wearing and ownership of pants. The idea here is that, well, what did Rider work to get? What did Saber wear? What did Iri wear? In Urobuchi’s world, people wear pants. I mean that is typically what happens during winter in Japan anyway. Without spoiling it for you, the winner of the Holy Grail War this time also wear pants. All who survived as participants wore pants. Pants is clearly necessary for survival in the Holy Grail War.


I’m going to say that 2011 is the return of the comedy. There were a lot of funny shows in 2010, but it feels like the funnies have for the most part stayed for the year as well. What is notable is seeing more of it in serious shows. I think if OreTsuba can bust my guts laughing, anything can. The potential is there.

I mean, talking about Mawaru Penguindrum again, was it funny? It isn’t epic funny like those Nanami episodes in Utena, but there were good chuckles all along the way. And man, Ringo. Ringo!

I watched Nichijou and Sket-Dance this year, so that may have skewed things. I think Hanasaku Iroha sometimes is really funny, although I don’t think some of those instances were intentional.

Working!! returned, which is usually solid for a few laughs. Bakatest, too, had some really big ones, despite season 2’s more somber tone. Squid Girl S2 also was solid, again. Majikoi and Horizon had laughs, and the latter is as serious as Fate/Zero is. Haganai, for the most part, was still funny. Oh wait, I’m suppose to laugh at the manual stereo mage orbit talk was I?

R-15 was pretty funny, despite being more hetare-funny half the time. Twin Angel was all hetare-funny all the time (but it wasn’t THAT funny unfortunately). Yuruyuri had a couple gut-busters, which is pretty surprising. And in 2011 we learned the true meaning of being a mage.

Going back to the start of the year, we did have Mitsudomoe S2 (which was pretty funny for the most part). OreImo True End was funny enough. Level-E was epic. And, well, there was Qwaser S2.

Looking back I think I ended up watching more comedies this year than what is fairly represented, but that is probably because they didn’t suck, like, say, in 2009.


This year I read both the fan-translated Kara no Kyoukai series and fan-translated Fate/Zero series. They are available here and here, respectively.

As a result, over large stretches of 2011 my mind is full of Type-Moon-ness. It is like a keg of kerosene to react to some spark from Type-Moon. But Fate/Zero isn’t that spark.

Carnival Phantasm is that spark that blew my mind. I’m not too sure what to make of it besides that I have to fight that urge to import the whole thing. Because it doesn’t seem to make sense especially since I missed the boat on all that Take-Moon stuff way back when. I mean this is before Fate/Zero, sorta, and Fate/Zero’s been around the block once or twice already.

There is so much that goes on in that show. The visuals are engrossing and varied. It is funny. What the hell is going on? I don’t know. Does it matter? Not really.

The only regret left is that Fate/Zero content is not represented in Take-Moon, and thus missing in Carnival Phantasm. I mean, take a look at this to get an idea.

PS. #cp_dateall ftw.


Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

Continue reading

Ghibli Challenge #2, #3 – Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke

The only way I have a shot of hitting 12 movies in a less than a month is to double up. So luck would have it that I can catch the subbed versions of both films. This would be the first time I saw the sub of both in a theater. I mean, where can you see Porco in theaters?

I saw Princess Mononoke’s Disney dub many times, however. It’s always fun to watch those dubs because they’re just so much better made than the average anime dubs that we see on the market. Well, I’m not going to let lack of subtitles stop me anyway, but it’s nice to have the sub experience when possible.

This is not the first time I’ve seen either film. In fact now that I got Totoro out of the way the only Ghibli film that I have not seen is just the Yamada’s. Nothing life-changing or opinion-shattering happening here. Instead I’ll just take this chance to wax nostalgic about something that is already … nostalgic.

I mean, I guess you can’t be THAT fond of about running from Italian fascists. Miyazaki is a man who came from before my time after all, I suppose.

And a lot of the themes I see in Porco especially reflects well on today’s anime, 15+ years afterwards. I mean, isn’t Strike Witches kind of the same idea? Fio is both more American (literally) and more moe (in that she engenders that reaction in the movie) but ultimately she is a young, bodacious plane mechanic. She is not some kind of rare, imported European luxury-car-like trophy wife that the pirates and bounty hunters know about.

Maybe that is why Porco Rosso has long always been my favorite Miyazaki work. The charming mechanical design and wonderful aviation animation, however, isn’t something we will be able to find today. Well, I think it might be Miyazaki’s most mecha-like work in that regard. Porco Rosso is mecha-like in that we aren’t being shown some imposing, terrifying monster (see: Howl’s), or strange and distant like Saber’s Avalon (see: Laputa). It is something as handy as Ashitaka’s blade and homely as a bed of straw, but infinitely more complicated, in those airplanes. Those aerodynamic lines! I feel like Haganai’s Rika.

Speaking of a bed of straws, that was basically Princess Mononoke. I had a pretty good seat at Porco, but since we came back into the theater late, there was no more regular seating left. The IFC staffer kindly took out two portable couch-things for me and my companion and it was like chilling on a couch at home while tilting my head 45 degrees up and left for about two hours. The leg room made it all worthwhile though.

Out of all of Studio Ghibli’s catalog, I think Mononoke is the one movie that I have seen the most times, or at the very least, in 35mm. (I might have seen Whisper more times, but always on VHS or DVD.) And surprisingly even this time I was able to pick out things that I either didn’t pick up from previous viewings or just forgot. Namely, all the strange, magical stuff that happens in the movie. Like Ashitaka’s arm’s powers, or what the Deer God likes to do. Those pig-skinned hunters are still the creepiest things ever.

More relevantly, the viewing for both films reaffirms in my mind their status as animation treasures. Just that unlike Porco, Mononoke didn’t taste sweeter this time around, as if the wine stopped aging. Man, I can watch Porco a few more times. Maybe I will!

The second and third so-called challenges are a part of an end-of-year festivity among some anime bloggers.  You can find out more about the Ghibli theatrical road show from GKIDS.