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Castles in the Sky: Ponyo, by Aaron Pinkston

8 Aug

Though there has been one more recent release, Ponyo is the last of the Castles in the Sky series chronologically. At the age of 67 upon its release, it may be the last film directed by master filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. Strangely enough, the film may be his most accessible, appealing to the youngest audience of any of his films. Like most of his films, Ponyo is a sweet, whimsical story, though perhaps a bit light-weight when stacked up with its counterparts.

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Castles in the Sky: Pom Poko, by Aaron Pinkston

6 Aug

By this point, we’ve seen many different stories of man vs. nature, but Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko might be the most clear, satirical take from Studio Ghibli. While films like Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind are wild fantasies, Pom Poko is a much more realistic film with added fantasy elements. When a group of raccoons are evicted from an abandoned house, they begin to realize that humans are setting up construction to turn their forest dwellings into shopping mall and real estate developments. In this world, the raccoons choose to fight back.

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Castles in the Sky: Howl’s Moving Castle, by Aaron Pinkston

27 Jul

Howl’s Moving Castle is the first Ghibli film that I distinctly remember coming to theaters. I had seen Spirited Away in 2003, before Howl’s film’s release, but I was still blissfully ignorant of the studio’s greatness. Though the film garnered great critical success in the States, including an Oscar nomination (in one of the few years a Pixar film was not nominated), I neglected to see the film until the presentation of this series. It’s a good entry point in the series, a pretty mild film, thoroughly Ghibli, and balanced between the serious anime and lighter fare.

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Castles in the Sky: Princess Mononoke, by Aaron Pinkston

25 Jul

If you’ve been following my reviews for the Castles in the Sky series, you’ve probably noticed that the more serious traditional anime films haven’t been among my favorites. Princess Mononoke is the exception to this rule. Some of the problems I have had with films like Castle in the Sky and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind still exist, but they felt much less like problems. An overly complicated plot and slightly monotone, dower mood work much better in Mononoke’s narrative, which is one of the most thought-provoking and gripping of the series.

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Castles in the Sky: Spirited Away, by Aaron Pinkston

22 Jul

Is there anything worse for a young child than to move? At least in terms of minor, annoying stuff. The anxiety of a completely new environment, a new school and, of course, the pressures of making new friends. In most situations, the “new kid” is an outcast until proven otherwise — a complete reversal of our American justice system. Everything is much different for an adult, the process is more of a pest at worst, and sometimes adults can even be excited about moving into a new home. There are literally dozens of films where moving is a major or minor plot point, which explores all of these themes. There are even a few Ghibli films that have already touched on the subject. In the world of the movies, moving can even take on more sinister circumstances — you might be moving into a city of oblins or vampires or into a haunted house. In Spirited Away, perhaps the most acclaimed film from Studio Ghibli, this concept is put on its head and spun around until it vomits.

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Castles in the Sky: The Ocean Waves, by Aaron Pinkston

17 Jul

As far as I can tell, there are three major distinctions for The Ocean Waves (known as I Can Hear the Sea in Japan) in regards to the Castles in the Sky series. First, it is the only Ghibli film that I can tell was actually produced exclusively for Japanese television. Along with the delightful Only Yesterday, it is one of the two Ghibli films not previously released in the United States in theaters or DVD. It also is the first (and potentially only) film in the series told from the male perspective, this time with a boy in the middle, dealing with young love and growing up.

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Castles in the Sky: Castle in the Sky, by Aaron Pinkston

10 Jul

Yes, you read that title right — Castle in the Sky, the first official film produced by Studio Ghibli (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released two years earlier, technically before Ghibli’s existence) is the namesake of the retrospective series. I think the release trivia and general idea of “Castles in the Sky” contribute to the naming of the series more than this particular film. Castle in the Sky is certainly exciting filmmaking, but it’s not indicative of the series as a whole.

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Castles in the Sky: My Neighbors the Yamadas, by Aaron Pinkston

8 Jul

I’m not exactly sure why, but of all the films playing during the Castles in the Sky series, I was least interested in My Neighbors the Yamadas. I didn’t exactly have a lot to go on, but between seeing a few photos from the film, reading its brief description and the English-version voice actors (primarily James Belushi and Molly Shannon), I wasn’t expecting much. With these odds, I obviously loved it — one of my absolute favorites of the series thus far, an original and surprising piece of pop art.

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Castles in the Sky: Kiki’s Delivery Service, by Aaron Pinkston

5 Jul

In today’s world, the time directly after graduating college has to the be the most frightening of one’s life. It officially marks the time when it is no longer socially acceptable to live in your parent’s extra bedroom. Now you must leave your quaint suburban life to enter the dark, scary city and find some sort of steady employment. If you’re able to find work in your field of study, you’re one of the lucky few. The rest of us have to sling coffee or mail letters while trying to find our true calling. In a curious way, Kiki’s Delivery Service captures this time extraordinarily.

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Castles in the Sky: The Cat Returns, by Aaron Pinkston

2 Jul

In terms of quality, The Cat Returns is Studio Ghibli’s Cars 2. Not altogether a bad film, but when stacked up with the artistic and thematic merits of the production company’s other work, it doesn’t quite hold. Instead, both of these films went for a more pure entertainment approach, replacing heart with thrills and broad laughs.

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