Friday, January 05, 2007

Japanimation or Anime

Excellent examples of feature length, science-fiction Japanese anime or "Japanimation" were directed by auteur animator and founder of the famed Ghibli Studios Hayao Miyazaki -- known as the "Japanese Walt Disney." His humanistic-oriented animations -- painstakingly detailed traditional cel animation during an era of CGI films -- were generally filled with magical and/or mythical settings, rich and fantastic characters (usually a young heroine), imaginative and visual renderings, fairy-tale motifs and plots with moral lessons, tales of the struggle between the strong and the weak, and environmental concerns. His films were actually bought for American distribution by Disney Studio, and include the following:
  • Miyazaki's second feature, the post-nuclear war tale Warriors of the Wind (1984) (aka Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind), based on the comic book (manga) Miyazaki had created years earlier, about the struggle of a peace-seeking warrior princess to keep two opposing kingdoms from destroying the planet
  • later works included Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Porco Rosso (1992) (translated as The Crimson Pig), and Whisper of the Heart (1995)
  • the powerful and poignant Grave of the Fireflies (1988), a tearjerking tale based on Akiyuki Nosaka's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name about two orphaned Japanese children during the waning days of World War II: a teen-aged boy and his 4 year-old sister, and their slow and graphic deaths by starvation; it was the only Ghibli film not personally directed by Miyazaki - instead, it was written and directed by Isao Takahata for Studio Ghibli; animation historian Ernest Rister felt it was comparable to Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), and film critic Roger Ebert considered it one of the greatest (anti-) war films ever made
  • his $20 million animated adventure-fantasy epic Princess Mononoke (1997) opened in Japan and quickly became the highest grossing Japanese film in Japanese history to that time; it was a story set in the 14th century of a mythic battle between forest gods (led by the Wolf God named Moro) and humans who were destroying the Earth
  • the magical animated adventure Spirited Away (2002), one of the director's most revered and honored films, was the Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature Film, and the second highest grossing Japanese film ever made; with its tale of a young 10 year-old girl (shojo) finding a mysterious spirit world amusement park where she must save her parents (who were transformed into pigs) by changing them back into humans
  • The Cat Returns (2002), and Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Others have created equally-inventive and beautiful animations, including:

  • director Yoshiaki Kawajiri's dark, excessively-violent and adult-oriented Wicked City (1987)
  • director Katsuhiro Otomo's cult favorite epic Akira (1989), based on the science-fiction comic book (manga) series - a post-apocalyptic tale set in Neo-Tokyo
  • director Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday (1991) and Pom Poko (1994)
  • anime auteur Mamoru Oshii's cyber-punk, apocalyptic animated thriller, Ghost in the Shell (1995) - one of the most expensive anime films ever made, and the first made specifically for the international market

Satoshi Kon's Millenium Actress (2001) and the Pokemon series of children's films (beginning in 1999) are also notable examples of anime.


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