Category Archives: Movies

Heart Whisper

Covid-19 Day 12

Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 Japanese animated romantic coming of age drama film directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi.

It was animated by Studio Ghibli.

It was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki or Isao Takahata.

Whisper of the Heart was Kondō’s only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondō would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.

This is a teenage romantic story. Very simple and straight forward. Despite the indications from the poster it is mainly set in the modern real world with a few mystical elements.

Despite it’s success at the time, it has not aged well and would be one of my least favorite Studio Ghibli films.



Pom Poko

Covid-19 Day 11

Pom Poko is a 1994 Japanese animated comedy-drama fantasy film directed by Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli.

It’s the story of Raccoons battling development outside Tokyo. They have magical abilities, being able to transform into other animals and even humans.

If feels like a vast saga over generations. There are factions that don’t agree and go to war. Heroes emerge to take on the Humans and mystical Raccoons are sought out for a final battle.

I do like the story, as you never know where it is taking you. Will the Raccoons somehow overcome the odds. It seems unlikely.

Unfortunately the story is so ambitious and at times lumbering that it needs a narrator to explain the backstory and events taking place.

So while a good film, the themes of environmentalism, nature, destiny and pretty much everything does overwhelm the story at times.

There isn’t much about the film on-line and it’s probably not one of the favorite Studio Ghibli films.






Yes Man

Covid-19 Day 7 (One Week in)

Yes Man is a 2008 comedy film directed by Peyton Reed, written by Nicholas Stoller, Jarrad Paul, and Andrew Mogel.

It stars Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel. The film is based loosely on the 2005 book of the same name by humorist Danny Wallace, who also makes a cameo appearance in the film.

Although I hadn’t seen this film, I knew kiwi Rhys Darby was in it. The film also stars Bradley Cooper and Terrance Stamp.

Another example of an old guy (Carrey was 46) and young woman (Deschanel was 28) comedy romance.

Carrey plays Carl, a banker stuck in his ways and needing a jolt to get him out of his rut. It comes in the form of a club/movement ‘Yes Man’. So when Carl starts saying ‘Yes’ to everyone you know things will go wrong, and they do, but it gets him a new romance and outlook on life.

Carrey is his usual frenetic self, goofing around and having fun. However it’s Deschanel who anchors his character and the film.

During the end credits the characters put on Rollerman Suits and take off down a highway.



Covid-19 Day 6

Pinocchio is a 1940 American animated musical fantasy film produced by Walt Disney Productions. It is based on the Italian children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.

It was the second animated feature film produced by Disney, made after the first animated success Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).

This is one I had never seen. Portions, especially the songs were familiar “When You Wish Upon a Star”, “I’ve Got No Strings” and Give A Little Whistle”.

It’ beautifully drawn and has very fluid character movements, often to comedic effect. The blue fairy almost looks like she was rotoscoped. However the animation of the Blue Fairy closely followed live-action footage of Marge Champion (who was also the performance model for Snow White).

The story is a basic heroes journey. Once a real boy, Pinocchio embarks on a journey. First to seek his fortune then to save his father.

A delightful movie and not surprising it is one of Disney’s favorites.


Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso from 1992 is the nest Studio Ghibli film. It was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

It is based on Hikōtei Jidai (“The Age of the Flying Boat”), a three-part watercolor manga by Miyazaki.

The English dub includes Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett and
David Ogden Stiers.

Porco Rosso is a man/pig fighter pilot from the first work war who operates as a bounty hunter in the Adriatic Sea. Why he is a pig hybrid is never explained, however the story indicates at the end he may have changed again. The main story is about his conflict with an American pilot and his friendship with a female hotel owner.

The story moves along at a good pace and in only 90 minutes it provides action, adventure and plenty of dogfights. There is humour and a touch of romance. Despite the dark undertones of the era between the wars, the film has a light and fun tone.


Only Yesterday (1991)

Only Yesterday from Studio Ghible is a 1991 Japanese animated drama film written and directed by Isao Takahata, based on the 1982 manga of the same title by Hotaru Okamoto and Yuko Tone.

It was released on July 20, 1991. The ending theme song “Ai wa Hana, Kimi wa sono Tane” Love is a flower, you are the seed” is a Japanese translation of Amanda McBroom’s composition “The Rose”, made famous by the Bette Midler version..

Only Yesterday is a realistic drama written for adults, particularly women. The film was a surprise box office success, attracting a large adult audience and becoming the highest-grossing Japanese film of 1991 in the country.

Set inn 1982, Taeko Okajima is 27 years old, unmarried, has lived her whole life in Tokyo and now works at a company there. She decides to a trip to visit the family of the elder brother of her brother-in-law in the rural countryside to help with the safflower harvest and get away from city life.

While traveling at night on a sleeper train to Yamagata, she begins to recall memories of herself as a schoolgirl in 1966, and her intense desire to go on holiday like her classmates, all of whom have family outside of the big city.

During her stay in Yamagata, she finds herself increasingly nostalgic and wistful for her childhood self, while simultaneously wrestling with adult issues of career and love.

The film alternates between the adult and child stories. There is little overall story, it feels more like a impressionist version of a film. Just impressions, hints and feelings about the central character.

Because of this, and its realism there was little to engage me.

So although I saw all of the two hour film, this is my least favorite of the Studio Ghible films.

The English dub features Daisy Ridley (Star Wars) and Dev Patel.

Kiki’s Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Kiki’s Delivery Service is the forth Studio Ghibli film. It is a coming-of-age fantasy film written, produced, and directed by Hayao Miyazaki as an adaptation of the 1985 novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono.

The film tells the story of a young witch, Kiki, who moves to a new town and uses her flying ability to earn a living. According to Miyazaki, the movie portrays the gulf between independence and reliance in teenage Japanese girls.

The English dub included actors Kirsten Dunst andDebbie Reynolds.

A charming tale of a young girl’s coming of age.



My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. The film tells the story of the two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in postwar rural Japan. The film won the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize and the Mainichi Film Award and Kinema Junpo Award for Best Film in 1988. It also received the Special Award at the Blue Ribbon Awards in the same year.

The character made multiple cameo appearances in a number of Studio Ghibli films and video games and also serves as the mascot for the studio and is recognized as one of the most popular characters in Japanese animation.

Totoro was ranked 24th on IGN‘s top 25 anime characters.

The English dub features sisters Elle and Dakota Fanning, with Tim Daly as the father.

The third on my list is smaller in scale, just involving a family. It’s slow and takes it’s time, only 90 minutes. It’s not clear just what Totoro and the wood spirits are. They could be just fantasy, or are they manifestations of the girls stress of having a mother in hospital and wanting her back.

The mothers sickness is not stated, but at various points you wonder if she will return.

One of the best scenes is just the girls standing at a bus-stop with Totoro in the rain.

Enchanting and aimed at a younger audience. Everyone should like this.

Sky Castle

The second Studio Ghibli film is Castle in the Sky, also known as Laputa: Castle in the Sky in Europe and Australia, from 1986.

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

It follows the adventures of a young boy and girl in the late 19th century attempting to keep a magic crystal from a group of military agents, while searching for a legendary floating castle.

Another enjoyable story. This appears to make direct reference to the WW2 nuclear attacks. This time there is a bad guy without a clear backstory of objective. Some explaining was needed near the end, but he could have been dropped without reducing the jeopardy of the main characters.

The pirates were fun, especially as they change their relationship to the main protagonists.

The english voice cast includes:
James Van Der Beek
Anna Paquin
Cloris Leachman
Mark Hamill
Mandy Patinkin
Andy Dick



It was recently announced that all the films of Japanese film Studio Ghibli were to be released on Netflix. While I have seen a few, I will be watching all the films in chronological order.

Although it was made before Studio Ghibli was founded, this film is considered a Ghibli work.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is science fantasy adventure film adapted and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, based on his 1982 manga of the same name.

The English dubbed version includes actors Patrick Stewart, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman & Mark Hamill.

Set a thousand years in the future, long after environmental devastation, the people have a strange combination of medieval costumes but with futuristic flying machines.

The film tells the story of Nausicaä, the young princess of the Valley of the Wind. She becomes embroiled in a struggle with Tolmekia, a kingdom that tries to use an ancient weapon to eradicate a jungle of mutant giant insects. It’s the relationship between Nausicaä and the bugs that is central to the film.

The animation is beautifully drawn, the characters movements and the direction are excellent. The score is mainly orchestral, but uses occasional pop songs that seem out of context.

After a slow start, the story moves quickly and constantly surprises. There is no good vs evil, each side of the conflict have understandable motivations.

The film covers themes of environmentalism and anti-war. Although not as good as some of the films to come, enjoyable and worth watching.