Studio Ghibli Flood

Disney released three Studio Ghibli films (all Miyazaki films) on DVD this week: Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and (Laputa) Castle in the Sky.

So many movies, so little time…

I think they released Totoro around December, but I can’t find it at any stores. Guess I’ll have to order it off Amazon one of these days. That’s still my favorite Miyazaki movie. Actually might rival Fantasia and Pinocchio as my favorite animated film…

The only DVD release of My Neighbor Totoro currently available is the FOX release, which is so bad that it nearly made me lose my faith in God. If you wait a bit, Disney will give it a proper two disc set. But please, under no circumstances, do not pick up the FOX version. It’s not Scottish in any way, shape, or form.

What specifically is bad about it? And how does it differ from, say, the Disney VHS version, which I admit wasn’t letterboxed but had a very nice dubbing job?

I’d say the worst thing about it is that it is the VHS version, it’s just on a DVD. Seriously, Totoro has one of the worst transfers I’ve ever been forced to lay eyes on. Worse than…than…damn, I might have to say that this is the worst DVD transfer of an animated movie of all time. I sure can’t think of any that are worse.

I’m thinking that it’ll be redubbed too, since FOX probably owns the rights to the dub. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since Disney has shown a commitment to quality on the Miyazaki dubs.

Edit: Wait, there was that German DVD version of Akira released before the official Pioneer cleaned up two disc set. But that looked like it was from VHS to DVD, and I’m assuming FOX had access to the original film when the Totoro disc was done.

I’ve seen the German Akira DVD. I wouldn’t call it VHS to DVD but it sure wasn’t a great transfer, and IIRC only a German soundtrack. Looks like they ripped the German film distribution to DVD.

Speaking of which, I’ve been rather unimpressed by Akira. I guess its fame boils down to the novelty factor as the first “serious” anime film released in the West (is that correct?). Overall I felt like I was watching a non-interactive console game. Not very exciting.

I bought the relatively recent DVD and I’d agree Akira isn’t quite the great film I remembered it to be. I don’t agree with your “non-interactive console game” remark because it’s just wrong. Akira has a pretty oddball and well-told story. I’ve yet to see a console game like that! Akira was powerful back then because I’d never seen anything remotely like it in terms of sheer imagination. Time marches on and has robbed Akira a bit.

But its art asthetic (the bike trails) and the “holy crap” factor of the power he unleashes and how he unleashes it, and how his power affects his environment, the scale of it, still blows me away. I think Akira still has some of the most imaginative special effects I’ve ever seen and It also has some great music.

Plus it’s fun to yell “Kenada!” “Tetsuo!” at the top of your lungs with a friend.

Let me clarify that the story, visual style, and overall execution of Akira would be a great achievement for any console game. However, compared to other movies this whole teenage mutant superhero vs evil army thing wasn’t terribly impressive. The story managed to be convoluted and predictable at the same time, and was there even a single memorable dialogue or characterisation? If there were any they must not have survived the German dubbing.

Actually is was much more complicated than that. It was evil teenage mutant superhero versus a mostly evil army. Lots of shades of grey there. Anyway, Tetsuo was definitely not a good thing happening, the army was probably right to try to destroy/suppress such a threat. Also didn’t it predate the console cliches you’re talking about? You probably shouldn’t judge it so harshly by today’s standards. It was more like a pioneer for console storylines than any kind of imitator.

So far as memorable characters… I found Tetsuo pretty memorable and the old-children still creep me out. It might be a translation problem. I watch my DVD with subtitles.

Add me to the list of people that has always found Akira to be somewhat underwhelming. It’s beautifully animated, but the story just didn’t do much for me.

Miyazaki does much better with “shades of gray” bad guys, anyway. He’s great at creating complex, convincing characters (something that tends to be a weak point in anime).

Agreed that Akira must have been much more impressive in its time when electronic games were in no way comparable to current JRPGs. (Just checked – Akira was made in 1988 when 2D platformers and side scrollers were all the rage!)

It’s also true that the “shades of grey” nature of its story puts it apart from most games, though I have to confess that I found the story too confusing to give it much credit for that.

I have to correct myself on the soundtrack issue, the DVD had the original Japanese soundtrack in addition to the German one, and I was watching with German subtitles. The Japanese voice acting was quite excellent and the high point of the entire movie, now that I remember it. The German subtitles still didn’t do much for my understanding of the story, though.

Anyway, I don’t mean to deny its originality and historical significance, I just think it didn’t age too well. Better than The Matrix but not as well as Blade Runner, for instance.

The anime only covered the first seven issues of a thirty-eight issue manga. Some seriously weird and wacky shit happens after like, 11 or so, which is quite beyond what the movie had. Hell, Akira’s an actual person in the manga.

Yeah, no kidding. And there’s no Grandmother character in the movie either. You don’t get the same sense of doom in the movie as you do reading the manga, especially after Akira and Tetsuo join forces and set up their little shadow government. Personally, I think Akira is as about as good as a compression and simplification of a 1000+ page graphic novel epic into a two hour movie as you could hope for.

You might want to pick up the new Dark Horse releases of the manga. There’s six volumes, in black and white, over 250 pages apiece, full size, for about $25 apiece. It’s been retranslated since the Marvel/Epic colorization and reprints, so that helps as well. I promise you, after reading those, everything starts to make a lot more sense. Not total sense, of course, because it is Akira, after all.

Yeah, the Dark Horse “phone book” release is pretty cool. I’ve got the first 4 volumes and I’ll pick up the last two as my budget allows. It’s very cool.

Want to see the first one. I’m pretty sure the second one was the first anime I ever watched. Never heard of the third one.

Probably going to Best Buy today. :)

Castle in the Sky is a very good film–not one of Miyazaki’s best, but well worth seeing. Parts of the story were obviously inspired by Nausicaa, but it stands well on its own merits. It also has a cool setting, and some great characters (Dola is awesome, as is Cloris Leachman, who does her voice in the English dub).

I’ve never seen Kiki’s Delivery Service, though I plan to rent it at some point.

Kiki’s didn’t do too much for me, though it was well-animated like all of Miyazaki’s films. I did enjoy the dubbing with Phil Hartman as the voice of the cat.

An update:

Went to Best Buy to get Kiki’s and Spirited Away. Saw “Buy all 3 new releases, get Princess Mononoke for free instantly” deal on shelf. Looked for Princess Mononoke, couldn’t find it. Found employee, asked for rain check. “Sorry, it’s an in-store offer, so we can’t. But I can look it up and find another store that has it.” Spent 30+ minutes driving to other Best Buy. Walking in from parking lot, wife comments, “Wouldn’t it be funny if they didn’t have one of the other ones?” Get to anime section, grab copy of Princess Mononoke, grab second to last copy of Spirited Away and last copy of Castle in the Sky, can’t find Kiki’s. Employee approaches, “Are you finding everything ok?” “Actually, I’m looking for one more…” “We don’t have it, our shipment didn’t come in.” Glared at wife. “Can I still get the deal?” “Sure, we’ll substitute Princess for Kiki’s at the sale price and give you a rain check so you can pick up Kiki’s for free when it comes in.” Walked away very happy, with the only downside being I have to go to the far-ass-away Best Buy to get Kiki’s from their store when it comes in.

Bottom line: Will get 4 good anime movies for $60, though really it’s more like 8 when you consider that they will be decently dubbed.

Studio Ghibli took forever to get on disk and Blu-ray and now they’re finally joining the 21st century and getting on digital.

Just announced in addition to going up on HBO Max, Studio Ghibli films will also be available for digital purchase for the first time ever. Price will be $19.99 per film.

Will be interesting to see if the HBO Max has both English and Japanese versions.


I wonder if it will be MVA, Movies Anywhere.