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Hayao Miyazaki
How can anyone with even a passing interest in anime not be familiar with the incredible library of work from master craftsman Hayao Miyazaki? Miyazaki is sheer genius, he is an unparalleled storyteller and his films have a unique visual quality stemming from a European influence. He is one of the very few Japanese animators to achieve international acclaim for his films, as well as the only one (so far) to win an Academy Award for best animated feature. His films will touch you and inspire you, these masterpieces are truly the high-point of all anime.

The Wind Rises (2-Disc Blu-ray +DVD Combo Pack)
The Wind Rises (2014)
Anime Review

When Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement, it was met with two reactions. The first group was shocked, surprised that a figure who had seemingly been there forever would finally be leaving. The second (and probably older) group chuckled to themselves, knowing Miyazaki's previous retirement attempts, simply saying, "He'll be back." This time, however, it seems he truly is finished. The Wind Rises, a tale of planes and lost love, will be his final feature film, no matter the reaction.

The Wind Rises tells the tale of real-life airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, who created the famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero aircraft used in World War II. As you might imagine, while based off of a real person, there are significant deviations in the story, so don't expect a rigid biography here. Instead, Miyazaki's fascination and love of planes takes over the steering of the film, the script, and even the characters themselves. Airplanes become an almost holy presence in the film, treated with reverence and born from Jiro's mind.

The Wind Rises (2-Disc Blu-ray +DVD Combo Pack)Jiro dreams of airplanes constantly. He envisions their flightpaths and wishes to pilot them himself, however, his poor eyesight promptly halts that aspiration. Upon having a dream featuring the famous Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni, he is instead sent on another path: designing airplanes.

He obtains a degree in engineering in 1927 and begins working for Mitsubishi. Although first suffering some failures, he eventually creates the prototype for the iconic design we'll later see flying. During this process, he encounters and becomes engaged to a young lady named Nahoko Satomi. Though afflicted with tuberculosis, Nahoko remains passionate and supportive of Jiro throughout his career.

The Wind Rises (2-Disc Blu-ray +DVD Combo Pack)Miyazaki is clearly passionate about aircraft and often waxes poetic about them through Caproni in Jiro's dreams. The script serves this purpose whole-heartedly, sometimes to the detriment of a cohesive story. Miyazaki wanders about, meandering between scenes, taking his time to bask in each moment before rushing through the years to another plot point. It's indulgent and purely to satisfy the director's whims, all while backed by a more morbid untone of the planes' true purpose.

Let's not dance around the subject too much: these planes were used to kill. Near the end of the film, Jiro speaks to Caproni in one last dream, expressing his regret at the fact the planes were used for war. Caproni sighs at the destruction, but says "there was nothing to come back to." Miyazaki never quite confronts the violence head on, instead opting for platitudes. Perhaps your own love of aircraft will affect how the film appears to you, much at it affects Miyazaki himself.

The Wind Rises (2-Disc Blu-ray +DVD Combo Pack)Despite those concerns, Studio Ghibli puts on quite a show. The Wind Rises is packed with gorgeous animation from beginning to end. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 stands out in particular as a fantastical interpretation of a terrible event. The ground twists and rolls like an incoming wave, tossing meticulously-animated debris as it barrels forward. In addition, the various planes seen in the film are detailed and captivating. It's often said the Ghibli's food is depicted so well it'll make you hungry -- likewise, their aircraft give you the childlike urge to want to fly, experiencing the wind in your hair.

The Wind Rises may not be remembered as Miyazaki's best film, but it may well be known as his most personal one. Despite its meandering nature, the pure love of flying shines through. Despite the glossed-over violence, you can still sense Miyazaki's melancholic feelings. Despite it running a tad too long, you'll still find yourself getting wrapped up in the film like a soft, warm blanket. Perhaps that just goes to show that even when things go wrong, the talent of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli is still enough to create a compelling and engaging movie. They're the masters of their craft, and even if they disband, it'll be a long time before anyone new can come along and knock them from their perch.

Anime Review by Ben Huber, Octobert 2014

PonyoPonyo
Ponyo (2009)
Anime Review

I couldn't wait for the DVD to hit American shores so I just jumped the gun to start my review by seeing the release in an honest to goodness movie theater! Chances are you've already seen it, since the buzz on the internet is big, and let's face it, there's a zillion places to download from these days.

Ponyo is big news for a number of reasons. First of all Miyazaki is supposed to be retired. Secondly, ... dammit, it's MIYAZAKI !!!!!! The man who can do no wrong, the midas-touch of anime, has he ever made a flick we didn't think was well-above average, dare we say genius in every respect?

PonyoHere's the good news: Ponyo is a delight. And if you've ever heard of "The Little Mermaid", you've already got a handle on the premise. A refreshing change from all the explosions in this summer's movies, Ponyo is G-rated faire, and wonderfully so. Less intense than say, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo is a simpler, more easy-going work, more along the lines of My Neighbor Totoro.

With an all-star voice cast which was directed by Pixar's John Lassetter, Ponyo never stops being what it really is; a nice Miyazaki film, with an impressive use of color, a visual direction that is unmatched, and a subtle, and yet noticeably-there environmental message that continues to celebrate the innocence of childhood, when magic can make dreams come true.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, October 2009

Spirited Away
Spirited Away (2001)
Anime Review

At long last history is made this year as an anime film wins the Oscar for 'Best Animated Picture' at the Academy Awards. Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's stunningly imaginative supernatural adventure about a plucky little girl in a world of ghosts bested four much higher-profile American opponents, proving quality counts.

Spirited Away with the Oscar!Using his unique trademark style, along with some very subtle computer animation, Miyazaki has weaved a lush spirit world, while Jo Hisashi breathes life into the film with yet another beautiful score. This is a film no anime fan should miss because it's perfect in every detail. Children and parents alike will find it fascinating.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2003

Princess Mononoke!
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Princess Mononoke (1997)
Anime Review

One of our favorite anime epics, Princess Mononoke was created by Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service), an acknowledged anime pioneer, whose painterly style, vivid character design, and stylized approach to storytelling take ambitious, evolutionary steps here.

The Princess in Action!Set in medieval Japan, Miyazaki's original story envisions a struggle between nature and man. The march of technology, embodied in the dark iron forges of the ambitious Tatara clan, threatens the natural forces explicit in the benevolent Great God of the Forest and the wide-eyed, spectral spirits he protects. When Ashitaka, a young warrior from a remote, and endangered, village clan, kills a ravenous, boar-like monster, he discovers the beast is in fact an infectious "demon god," transformed by human anger. Ashitaka's quest to solve the beast's fatal curse brings him into the midst of human political intrigues as well as the more crucial battle between man and nature.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2002

Whisper of the HeartWhisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Anime Review

Any anime fan can unconsciously identify a Miyazaki film via the formulaic elements that are used again and again within each film. Like a favorite musical artist's "signature sound", a Miyazaki film will contain a young heroine on the brink of becoming a young woman, vaguely European architecture, and flying sequences animated with breathtaking dynamism and a sense of wonder.

His films are simple and heartwarming, with a child's view of the world, where everything is a new adventure, and no problem can't be overcome with love. They are chock full of what we humans define as "soul".

Whisper of the HeartWhisper of the Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba) follows the basic formula closely enough to be Ghibli canon. It concerns a reclusive bookworm of a 14 year old girl who harbors aspirations to become an author herself. As will happen with the Miyazaki magic, she meets a boy. And of course, they do not get along at all, but this is certain to lead to love.

The story is deceptively simple and yet, you'll be spellbound for the entire length of this feature. Why? Because it's Miyazaki, and nobody... NOBODY crafts a story like he does. The supporting cast ingeniously helps to resolve and teach us about the main characters, as we cherish the little moments in the film that grasp at our heartstrings, help us to discover the love of life, the brilliance of youth and audacity of hope.

Produced and written by Hayao Miyazaki and created by the impeccable staff of Studio Ghibli, this is the only film to be directed by the late Yoshifumi Kondo, who was being groomed by Miyazaki as his successor. Unfortunately Kondo died in 1998 of an aneurysm, leaving us this film as his legacy.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2008

Porco Rosso
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Porco Rosso (1992)
Anime Review

We admit it's almost a cop-out at this point to list a Miyazaki film. It's like cheating, because you KNOW we're going say it's fantastic, incredible and an anime classic that you cannot live without. However, this is the master's most bizarre film, concerning a 1930's era pilot who has been transformed into a pig. On the surface, it's just weird.

Porco RossoBut of course, being Miyazaki, there's more. Way more. It's a charming, bittersweet light adventure film that will bring a smile to the face of anyone with a pulse. There's an elegant magic to it that cannot be easily defined because everyone who watches it finds something differently 'deep' about the film. It's as if our own personal demons allow us to relate to the characters and situations in our own way. Thus, Porco Rosso is also one of Miyazaki's strongest films, and his most personal.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, May 2005

Kiki's Delivery Service
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Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
Anime Review

Seriously, how can you go wrong with Phil Hartman voicing the cat! For that alone, this is worth watching. Plus, Kiki is voiced by none-other than Spiderman's sweetheart, Kirsten Dunst. Overall, this is one of the best dubbing jobs ever done for an anime film that has come to America. And of course, the film itself is pure Miyazaki. Beautiful execution and animation, enchanting Jo Hisaishi musical score, and the subtle, slow-burning to boil story that is the trademark of every film from Studio Ghibli.

Meow!The master storyteller weaves a magical world where witches are part of the community, and Kiki, a witch in training, has to start using her broom and flight powers in a delivery service role to help make ends meet. Through this premise, he builds a girl-to-woman coming of age story, with all the requisite problems of life on your own, and learning to rely on yourself, and learning about self-confidence. The struggles Kiki deals with are the sames ones we deal with every day, they are just a little bit different - because, after all, this is a Miyazaki film. There's something for all of us to learn from Kiki, and what it teaches us are the things we should carry in our hearts forever.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, Summer 2002

My Neighbor Totoro
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My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Anime Review

Hayao Miyazaki has been on the top spot for this website far too many times, and for good reason. This is it. This is the movie. This may be the greatest movie ever made, of any kind, in any genre, ever. There is no excuse not to see this movie. We shouldn't even bother writing a review, as an anime fan, you are obligated to not only have seen this multiple times times already, but to be touting it to every person (living or dead) you've ever met.

Beloved anime! My Neighbor Totoro has become one of the most beloved of all family films without ever having been much promoted or advertised. It's a perennial best seller on video. On the Internet Movie Database, it's voted the fifth best family film of all time, right behind "Toy Story 2" and ahead of "Shrek". Roger Ebert considers this to be one of the best movies ever made (it's on his list of the top 100 films of all time). Totoro is simply a masterpiece of filmic storytelling and is most definitely one of the greatest anime films ever. You'll run out of superlatives before you're done just trying to describe the first five minutes. And then there's the cat-bus...

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2002

Castle in the Sky
Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
Anime Review

Our favorite Miyazaki masterpiece comes out on DVD. Of all the films the master is famous for, this one really gives you that feeling of flight, along with a tight storyline, astounding animation and of course, the most beautiful score ever written.

Castle in the SkyThis film is absolutely, positively guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes — it's just that good. No anime collection is complete without it. This is the Citizen Kane of anime, a film that can be appreciated by children and adults alike, and for many who have seen it, a life-altering experience.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, June 2003

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
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Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
Anime Review

Many fans consider this to be the Miyazaki film, his breakout hit that set the formula for elements he would develop more fully in his later films and manga: daring, compassionate heroines; exciting flying sequences; colorful side characters; strong interpersonal relationships; and a magical, haunting score by composer Jo Hisashi that will bring tears of joy to your eyes.
Nausicaa!
What's nice about this new English dub from Disney is that it presents the film in its entirety, with strong vocal performances by Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Alison Lohman, and Edward James Olmos. This is a must own title for any anime fan.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2005

Castle Cagliostro!
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Castle Cagliostro (1979)
Anime Review

Steven Spielberg considers this to be one of his favorite films. So do we. This may be one of the greatest action-adventure comedy-romances ever made, animated or otherwise. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Laputa, Totoro, Mononoke) it's guaranteed to please everyone who watches it. That action starts five seconds into the film and never lets go, culminating in a fantastic battle that Disney shamelessly ripped off in "The Great Mouse Detective".

Lupin: Our kind of gangsta!Considering the film is over 20 years old, the animation is still amazing even by today's standards – consider the scenes where Lupin drives his Fiat 500 straight up a wall (in the best car chase we've ever seen), or later, where he's scaling the roof of the castle and everything is moving in the frame perfectly – it is just to die for. All this topped with Yuji Ono's inspired soundtrack make this one of the most perfectly crafted and executed films of all time. Absolutely not to be missed.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, June 2002

Animal Treasure Island
Animal Treasure Island (1971)
Anime Review

Most anime fans have seen at least some of the classic films brought to life by esteemed director Hayao Miyazaki: My Neighbor Totoro, The Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, etc. However, how many fans have seen the films he made back when he was just a hired hand at Toei Animation, years before founding the highly respected Studio Ghibli? One of those films, Animal Treasure Island, a 1971 production from that Miyazaki played a major role in creating, hasn't aged as well as one might have hoped, but for the seasoned anime fan, it provides something priceless: the chance to be a Miyazaki hipster. You just know you want to be able to say you know his work from before he was famous.

The film is a loose adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, featuring a young boy named Jim who stumbles over a map of the mysterious Treasure Island. For some reason never explained, most of the characters are talking animals: Jim's best friend Gran is a mouse, and the pirates are made up of walking cats, dogs, monkeys and so on. Kathy, the feisty female lead who has her own reasons for seeking Treasure Island, is one of the only other human characters in the movie besides Jim.

Animal Treasure IslandSince the animals act more or less the same as humans, at first we were wondering if there was any point to animalizing the whole cast, beyond a few cute and cuddly character designs. However, the animal characters lend a Looney Tunes-like charm to the whole thing, which is appropriate considering the tone of the film is much closer to old school, Warner Brothers-style slapstick than most anime fans are used to. In fact, at times we actually felt like we were watching an extended Looney Tunes episode, which strikes a nostalgic cord.

The cartoony humor may make the film seem perfect for young children at first, but parents beware; while the grand majority of the film is unobjectionable, there are one or two moments that might give some people pause before showing the film to their five-year-old. At one point Jim and Kathy are asked to dig a hole by some pirates, who then taunt them with the prospect of the hole becoming their graves. Late in the film, a villain slaps Kathy hard in the face, something usually taboo in children's shows.

Animal Treasure IslandWhile some may find the show inappropriate for children for the above reasons, it's not really meant for adults either. The simple, swash-buckling adventure remains entertaining throughout and has some nice moments, but it's hard to recommend over more modern fare. The animation seems pretty good (by 1971 standards of course) but the consistently green ocean is a little strange, we must admit.

However, as a piece of anime history- both for Miyazaki fans specifically and all those who want to know what anime looked like many years before the modern animation techniques and styles that we now take for granted- it's definitely worth a look. The simple, clean character designs are very appealing, and watching Kathy out-pirate the pirates with a set of antique pistols is always worthwhile.

We watched the subtitled version primarily, but checked out the dub for comparison purposes; while there's nothing wrong with the English language performances (which are exactly what you would expect, nothing more and nothing less), a poor audio mix made it hard to hear the characters over the background music. For this reason, we recommend watching Animal Treasure Island subtitled.

Reviewed by Karen Gellender, October 2012

Puss in Boots
Puss in Boots (1969)
Anime Review

Longtime viewers of Toei Animation should have been seeing this mascot logo of a cat popping out from the scene every time their logo shows up. I know I have, and I finally learn the origins of who this mascot is. It is Pero from the companyís 1969 animated adaption of Puss in Boots. This particular title finally hits the shores of the United States being distributed by Discotek Media.

Watching this film, people shouldnít expect Antonio Banderes' voice to leap out of the screen, but by no means is this puss or Pero not as charismatic and is just as much a sweet talker. Toei's Puss in Boots has a plot that is based off of the original French fairy tale. Pero is friends with Pierre, a lowly third son, who happens to fall for the fair and lovely Princess Rose. However, Lucifer, the demon king also seeks the hand of the princess...

Puss in Boots Yes this film is retro, but what makes this a timeless movie is to consider the artistic participation, it is literally a Japanese Animation Industry's "Whoís-Who" roll-call. Different scenes in Japan animation projects are responsible by a different animator that would later be credited under the character designer.

Pero's character design is by Yasuji Mori who is credited with being the first Japanese animation director. He is also responsible for supervising this movie. One of the key animators in this film also happens to be a fellow named Hayao Miyazaki. This movie was created decades before Studio Ghibli was formed, but for those who have seen the Castle of Cagliostro, Castle in the Sky and The Cat Returns should see influences from this earlier work.

Reviewed by Linda Yau, August 2012




Hayao Miyazaki

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
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Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Perfect Collection, Box Set
Manga Review

Today Hayao Miyazaki is probably best known for his films Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service which feature lavish animation and a sophisticated treatment of their young heroes. However back in 1982 Miyazaki found himself with few film prospects, so he agreed to begin work on a manga to be serialized in the popular animation magazine Animage. This series has been collected into four paperback volumes, which in 1,060 magical pages presents a fantastic epic that will have you hooked. The story reminds one of the charm of the Wizard of Oz with the futuristic ecological themes of Dune.

Nausicaa: Our kind of Hero!Set in a future where the world has been poisoned by industrial waste and other ecological horrors, the story is about a young girl in the wilderness fighting giant insects and clashing tribes. Nausicaa is a unusual hero as she is a pacifist who not only rejects violence, but she has a calming effect on both the creatures and people she encounters. Yet she is also an accomplished fighter, which is evident on the rare occasions when her rage overpowers her compassion.

When her beloved Valley faces invasion Nausicaa embarks on a journey to save not only her people, but also the world. The adventures that follow form a tale of honor, compassion, the folly of tampering with nature, and the power of love and friendship. This is a masterpiece of comic art and literature.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, June 2002

The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki
The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki
Anime Art Book Review

This lavishly illustrated book (the release of which, was obviously timed to coincide with the release of Howls Moving Castle) spares no expense to showcase some of the very best of the body of work from the master of anime, Hayao Miyazaki.

Starting as a study of the visual language of manga and anime, the book presents an overview of the mediums as a whole including processes involved as part of both traditional cel and computer generated (and computer assisted) animation, but specifically focuses on the output of Miyazaki during his earlier years before the founding of Studio Ghibli.

The book then moves into Ghibli era, highlighting all of his most famous works including Laputa, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. Aside from touting Howl's Moving Castle as the studio's latest release, the book also delves into Ghibli's "non-Miyazaki" productions as well, including Grave of the Fireflies and The Cat Returns.

Overall, this is an excellent book and a worthy addition to any anime fan's library. Miyazaki fans will, obviously, find the book one of the most in-depth yet so far (in English) regarding our favorite director, and the discussions of techniques used will be fascinating to those who know little about the magic that goes into creating animated films.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, March 2006

Spirited Away BFI Book
Spirited Away
Anime Book Review

As the eighth full-length feature film of Hayao Miyazaki, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi or Spirited Away shouldn't be an unfamiliar work to those who appreciate Studio Ghiblis works. Andrew Osmond writes a factual analysis of the film Spirited Away rather than critical. This book is meant for those who want to appreciate, understand and study the film beyond watching the 125 minutes of screen time.

In this dissertation of Spirited Away, there are comparisons with Alice in Wonderland, and Miyazaki's previous work in light of his usage of the female heroine. Chihiro is seen to be the most similar in theme to Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service. Miyazaki had made this movie with a desire to appeal to children on being stronger in spite of how personal life has those hurdles of growing up.

Spirited Away BFI BookSimilar to other books on Miyazaki, there is mention of Studio Ghiblis other films, as well as Miyzaki's relationship with Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki was already around 60 years old when he directed this award-winning film, and what was mentioned if not already questioned in this book is how would the Japanese animation film industry go after the passing of certain directors? There was an argument that was definitely not presented during the publication of Spirited Away, but it seems as though there was a disagreement between supervising animator Masashi Ando and Miyazaki that would result in Ando leaving Ghibli after this project.

Reviewed by Linda Yau, August 2012

The Art of Kiki's Delivery Service
The Art of Kiki's Delivery Service
Anime Book Review

Kiki never gets enough of a spotlight from anime in general, this and Porco Rosso are Miyazaki's most under-rated films, but trust us when we say that each one is a delight, and Kiki is wonderful and awesome on a scale that most anime never comes close to achieving.

That said, if you're interested in seeing "behind the scenes", with un-retouched background art, character designs, rough sketches, storyboards, camera techniques, and more, then you need to get your hands on this book, as it will inspire your creative spirit, light a fire in your heart, and make you want to draw and draw some more.

The Art of Kiki's Delivery ServiceAs a (former) animator, these books are what I most treasure, as each one represents the creative output of hundreds of people, and what's nice is that you can see their hands at work here, while the finished film is polished to represent only the director's vision - this is more raw, where the creativity flows like water, with concepts unrealized in the final product.

As a Miyazaki fan, heck, as an ANIME fan, you owe it to yourself to pour through these pages and understand what it takes to make a film of this caliber.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, May 2011


Hisaishi Meets Miyazaki Films
Hisaishi Meets Miyazaki Films
Anime Music Review

Personally, I don't think we celebrate Joe Hisaishi enough around here, his music can bring a warm ray of sunshine to even the cloudiest day. This album is a collection of downloadable MP3's you can run straight to your iPod or digital music player, buy the tracks individually or the album as a whole. This is a good selection of tracks if you don't already have the full soundtracks to these films, and a good collection for someone not familiar with his works -- someone who needs to learn why this man is revered as he his. All the tracks are from familiar Studio Ghibili films, so, unless you've been living under a rock in outer Mongolia, you've likely heard these while watching Miyazaki's masterpieces.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, July 2011

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke
Anime Soundtrack Review

Statement of Bias: We think the music for every Miyazaki film is perfect, astounding, beautiful, majestic, and awe-inspiring. Joe Hisaishi is the master of the killer soundtrack and this is no exception. Uplifting, inspirational, and downright beautiful, this is music guaranteed to bring tears of joy to your eyes.

Capturing the flavor of the film, from the lush, velvety feeling of the forest floor to the harder, more mechanical sound for the town, the soundtrack sweeps you into the emotions, characters, and crisis that is the plot of Princess Mononoke.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2004

Spirited Away, Vol. 1
Spirited Away, Vol. 1
Anime Book Review

Hayao Miyazaki's Academy-Award-Winning masterpiece of a movie comes to us this time as a film-comic, which is to say that the actual film frames are printed up and used to create a comic with word balloons. Although these are common in Japan, it's rare that we can find these in America — and in English, but VIZ Comics has devoted itself to bringing to you as many of Miyazaki's films as it can.

Spirited Anime!The advantage is that you get to appreciate the depth of detail from this film that you cannot experience when watching the DVD. Even if you've memorized the film, look at the pictures and study the art and craftsmanship in this wonderful five-volume set.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, April 2004

Film Score: Spirited Away
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Miyazaki's Spirited Away (Film Score)
Anime Soundtrack Review

It's Jo Hisaishi, what more do you need to know? As the soundtrack composer for every Miyazaki film since Nausicca, it's a given that the soundtrack will be everything you've ever dreamed of and more. And Sprited Away, currently playing in theaters and probably available on DVD next month, is the latest yardstick by which we define the word masterpiece.

His eccletic blend of Japanese modal tones and western neo-classicalism, synthesizer and quiet piano bring an ineffable flavor that is often imitated and never duplicated. When you hear his work, you know it's his work. And this particular soundtrack may be one of his strongest (we refuse to say his best, we still reserve that for his Laputa Soundtrack!). However, it's just so damn good that even his second best is light-years better than just about everything else out there.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, November 2002

The Art of Spirited Away
The Art of Spirited Away
by Hayao Miyazaki

Anime Book Review

Direction Hayao Miyazaki has made some amazing films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away follows in that tradition. This book takes more than one look to completely enjoy the total artistic scope of Spirited Away. The book opens up with a intro from Miyazaki, followed by a nice chapter which features watercolor pencil sketches and concept art, a treat for those of us who love pre-production artwork of character designs and detailed architectiral drawings.

Anime in an Art Book! Oink! Oink!Other chapters feature actual art used in the movie, like background paintings and animations cels of the characters. But the book features more than pretty pictures as there are interviews with the animators which give you insights into their creative process. This book is not only a must for Miyazaki fans, but anyone who loves the craft of animation film making.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, January 2003

Howl's Moving Castle
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Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
Anime Soundtrack Review

Get the jump on the latest Miyazaki film release by wrapping your hands around this Jo Hisaishi soundtrack from the film. A Japanese import, all the tracks are titled in Japanese, so unless you've got your Kana dictionary handy, you're going to have a hard time reading the liner notes!

Regardless, it's a Hisaishi soundtrack, so therefore, really good tunes are guaranteed. His unique blend of electronica and traditional instruments, highlighted by woodwinds will remind you of many of his previous soundtracks, particularly Spirited Away. In all, enjoyable stuff.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2005

Laputa: The Soundtrack
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Laputa: Castle In The Sky - Soundtrack
Anime Soundtrack Review

Statement of Bias: We think the music for every Miyazaki film is perfect, astounding, beautiful, majestic, and awe-inspiring. There aren't enough superlatives in the English language to describe the works of Jo Hisaishi. But even within his collected works are stand-out selections and Laputa is, by far, his best work.

The film has a strong link to the experiences and emotions of flight, and the sountrack enhances those feelings, with an air to it that lifts you up and makes you feel the wind rushing around you, while at the same time, wrapping you in the softness of a cloud. The title track alone will bring you to tears as you experience it's magical ability to make you float.

But the overall soundtrack is a mixture of styles and influences, smoothly flowing from one to the next, using a variety of instruments. The electronic "flapter" music is a far cry from the classical sound of the title, and the action music is complemented by the softer tracks of piano which echo the main theme. The variety of emotions and the clever ways these emotions are presented through the composition and orchestration make this soundtrack more impressive than any other we have ever heard for any film, of any genre, ever.

Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, Summer 2002





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