Studio Same As It Ever Was Ghibli

Posted by Michael Pinto on Dec 20, 2010 in Animation |

Coquelicot saka kara

Studio Ghibli has picked the shojo manga Coquelicot saka kara to be their next film subject. I don’t have to see the film to know that they’ll do an amazing job with it — especially as the manga is reported to be very close to Miyazaki Hayao’s heart. Yet to me it’s sad that Miyazaki doesn’t seem to be taking any chances in his old age. Of course many of the great directors like Walt Disney or Howard Hawks seemed to make the same film again and again over their career; but to me it’s a sad reminder of someone like Tezuka who really experimented in his later years.


Tezuka wasn’t trapped by the success of AstroBoy but liberated by it.

Today we know Tezuka for all of his mainstream work from Astroboy to Kimba to Blackjack. But what I’ve always admired about Tezuka was that while he “followed the formula” to pay the bills that he wasn’t afraid to try something new. The first example to me is his 1970 film Cleopatra (クレオパトラ) which actually got an X rating in the United States. Tezuka was inspired to try a more adult film because of Fritz the Cat did well. Sadly Cleopatra didn’t do well — but the fact remains that Tezuka tried something different even if it didn’t do good box office.

Towards the end of his life Tezuka could have rested on his laurels, but even to the end he didn’t stop trying something new. In the 80s he did a series of fine art animation films which were nothing short of brilliant. In 1984 he made the short film Jumping followed in 1985 with the film Broken Down Film. While most anime fans might not recognize either film as anime from a casual glance to me the represent some of the best animation coming out of Japan during an era dominated by giant robots and spaceships.

Jumping from 1984.

Broken Down Film from 1985.

And this brings me back to Miyazaki Hayao: When he was first getting started he did some great work with Lupin III. Of course Lupin III. was created by Miyazaki, that honor goes to the artist Monkey Punch who created the manga in 1967. As early as 1971 the manga became an anime series — yet when Miyazaki started working with Lupin in the late 70s he really made the series his own. The result was nothing sort of amazing: The two episodes he directed and the film The Castle of Cagliostro really stand the test of time.

This is Miyazaki’s work on Lupin III — keep in mind what you’re looking at is an anime series from the 70s which was done on a low budget.

In fact it was because of the success of Lupin III that Miyazaki was able to start Studio Ghibli. In 1984 they went on to create Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and the rest is history. Yet to me that’s the problem: It feels like Miyazaki has been doing the same thing for the last 25 years. While he has created an amazing body of work, I really really wish that he’d take some chances and just try something different.

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