We (re)watched “Princess Mononoke” today... The backgrounds are breathtakingly ALIVE!? The 3-4 moments that the BG were moving w/ the characters on battle action were... DOPE! The anti-war messages and pro-nature and peace are strong in all of Miyazaki’s films but... I felt so much pain watching this and the inevitable future/past of mankind taking advantage and overusing earth... So many metaphors, so many great characters, so much good and evil... Ashitaka didn’t wanna hurt Eboshi even when she cut off the Forest Spirit’s head and tried to get her to Irontown and said to San that her mother already took revenge (speaking of eating her arm before dying) and that settles it and SAN HELPING OKKOTO GETTING TO THE LAKE AND THE SOLDIERS DISGUISED AS HIS CHILDREN TO DECEIVE HIM AND DRIVE HIM MAD oh my... and the women fighting and saving the city while everyone’s gone and THE AIR I COULD FEEL THROUGH MY HAIR AND THEGOOSEBUMPS WHEN THE SPIRIT WAS RISING, WHEN MONONOKE’S MASK WAS SHOT AND BROKEN, OR THE VILLAGERS SHOOTING ASHITAKA CARRYING SAN OUT OF THERE my heart stopped i didnt remember many great details.. THE FOREST SPIRIT taking Mother Wolf and Okkoto to the other side instead of healing them as the others expected so many many metaphors and symbolism my brain can’t fathom it in mere paragraphs they need to be an essay.. uugh i LOVE MIYAZAKI HAYAO I WANNA LIVE IN ONE OF STUDIO GHIBLI’S WORLDS WITH MY DARK LORD OF A CAT AND SPACE WITCH I CO-LIVE WITH PLEASEEEE
ps: Michiyo Yasuda ‘s colors are otherworldy and thank you for existing ma’am
Ghibli Museum Exhibition 2019 – Coloring Films
Despite an indefinite hiatus from feature film production for the studio, work is still active at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. The short animated film “Boro The Caterpillar” was released in March earlier this year, and now the museum is back with a new exhibition titled “Coloring Films”.
Exploring the brilliant work behind the color designs used in Ghibli’s animated films, the exhibition will spotlight the nuances on the subject matter employed by the founders of the studio, Isao Takahata and Miyazaki Hayao, at the same time honouring the work of the late color designer Michiyo Yasuda.
I love that the exhibitions at Ghibli Museum go on for a full year ( most anime exhibitions in Japan run for just a few months or even weeks ), which gives a much bigger opportunity for fans from overseas to plan a visit, and also allows for the painstaking and beautiful work by the museum staff to be fully appreciated over a longer period.
I’m making plans to visit the Gustav Klimt exhibition in Tokyo next Spring, and will likely visit this exhibition as well.
The exhibition will start on the 17th November and end on November 1st 2019. Tickets to the museum are strictly by reservation only ( no walk-ins ), and get snapped up very early, so definitely make your plans in advance if you wish to visit.
More information on the tickets here.
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Ponyo on the Cliff Art Exhibition at the Ghibli Museum – Preview
Visiting The Studio Ghibli Structures Exhibition, Tokyo.
Studio Ghibli Layout Exhibition – A Preview
Studio Ghibli Structures Exhibition
Ghibli Museum Illustrated Postcards By Yoshida Noboru
1969 was an interesting year in Japanese cinema, as the public was presented with distaff versions of two extremely popular characters: Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, and Tange Sazen.
The first was The Crimson Bat series from Shochiku Studios. The series stars Yoko Matsuyama as Oichi (referered to several times in the series, even by herself, as “blind Oichi” or “Oichi the blind”). Strangely enough, she is never called Crimson Bat in any of the films, and that name only appears on the international versions of the films. There is much speculation as to where the name came from, although Oichi does carry a red sword cane, and her costume through most of the second of the second film is a red kimono.
While based on a manga series, the films are clearly a response to the popularity the Shinato Katsu Zatoichi film series, produced by Daiei and still running strong at the time.
Other than the obvious difference between the characters in that Oichi is female, she is also given the rather sexist weakness for always pining for love, and usually falling for one of her male adversaries. While that might make sense in the first film before she becomes an expert swordswoman and learned to be self-reliant, it makes absolutely no sense in the later films when she’s become a bounty hunter.
Another big difference between the two: Zatoichi is always portrayed as scruffy and looks like he’s spent most of his life living on the road. Shintaro Katsu was also kind of pudgy, and certainly - at this point in his career - could not be accused of having matinee idol looks. Oichi, on the other hand, is just flat out gorgeous. Her make-up and, clothing and hair always look like she’s ready for a modeling gig. And she has the super-power of always keeping her hair perfectly coiffed, either while battling dozens of opponents or falling off cliffs (which she does a couple of times),
There were only 4 films in the series, the first 3 released in 1969 and the last in 1970. The following year Yoko Matsuyama returned to the role in a TV series that ran for 25 episodes. Ms. Matsuyama also went on to marry Teruo Tanashita, the artist who created the original manga introducing Oichi, the lucky guy. In America I guess the equivalent would be William Moulton Marston or Harry G. Peter (the creators of Wonder Woman) marrying Linda Carter.
I enjoyed the movies despite the annoying flaw with Oichi’s character, but I guess the filmmakers thought it was necessary A: because she was a woman (that’s just my assumption; I don’t agree with that as a valid reason); or B) to differentiate her more from Zatoichi.
I haven’t been able to locate the TV series yet, but would love to check it out if I do.
The second distaff character making the scene in 1969 was Lady Sazen, the female version of Tange Sazen.
Tange Sazen is a one-armed, one-eyed ronin who was introduced in 1927 as a minor character in a serial story about Ooka Tadasuke, an actual historical person who was a magistrate in Eo (Tokyo) during the Shogunate. Tange Sazen was so popular with the readers, however, that three films were produced by three different studios featuring Sazen as the hero. These were so successful that a new story, with Sazen as the hero, was serialized in the newspapers.
Tange Sazen went on to have a long career in both print, film, and eventually TV. There were several film series, sometimes from competing studios released in the same years, released in Japan, The character has been portrayed by several notable Japanese actors. The ones most familiar to most Western fans who be Ryutaro Otomo (Orochimaru from The Magic Serpent), Kiinosuke Nakamura (Itoo Ogami in the Lone Wolf and Cub TV series), and Tetsuro Tanba (Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice, and one of Japan’s most prolific actors - the man never turned down a role!).
The character is so popular because, like Zatoichi, he is considered an outsider from society due to his handicap, but is nonetheless a tireless champion of justice and the downtrodden.
Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword from Daiei Film stars Michiyo Okusu (billed as Michiyo Yasuda), who - despite the fake scar over her right eye - is almost too pretty to be taken seriously in the role. Her character’s real name is O-kin, but people call her “Lady Sazen” because of her similarity with Tange Sazen (which, to digress, is kind of meta: in the world of this film does Tange Sazen actually exist, or is he a fictional character that O-Kin resembles?).
Like her male counterpart, O-Kin loses her arm and eye due to treachery. She trains herself to become a master swordswoman, and is quick to butt in when she finds injustice. The main plot of the film involves a daimyo (feudal lord) who is a rabid sword collector trying to get O-Kin’s fabled Drenched Swallow sword for himself. It turns out the lord is also the one responsible for O-Kin’s disfigurement and the death of her family when she was younger.
Ms. Okusu/Yasuda does a wonderful job with what is traditionally a male role. Despite her beauty, she does her best to scowl menacingly, talk gruffly, and be prickly in the best Tange Sazen fashion. She did a great job at Sazen’s signature move, which is drawing her sword while holding the scabbard in her teeth. She does well in the sword fighting scenes, especially with the difficulty of having to do so with her right arm tucked behind her back.
This was not the first time a female version of the character had appeared on the silver screen. Thirty years earlier Komoka Hara gave audiences a Lady Sazen in at least one, some sources say maybe two film. The main difference there, at least as far as I can ascertain, is Ms. Hara played Tange Sazen as a female character, instead of Ms. Okusu/Yasuda’s playing a woman who is similar to Sazen, but isn’t actually Tange Sazen.
The film’s co-star is Kojiro Hongo, who was one of Daiei’s matinee idols, and many fans may recognize him from a few of the Showa-era Gamera films. There’s also the usual stable of supporting actors you’ll find in every Daiei film from that period, many who had appeared in all the Zatoichi films.
Sadly, there was no follow-up to this film. I don’t know whether it was because the film did poorly at the box office, or because the audience did not accept a female Sazen.
Or maybe it fell victim to Daei’s impending collapse. The advent and popularity of television was killing off the film industry in Japan at that time. By the early 1970s the studio system as it was known in Japan had disappeared, studio and film budgets were drastically slashed, and Daiei was bankrupt and out of business.
Nevertheless, this was another film I enjoyed. It actually shares a spot on my DVD shelves with my other Tange Sazen films, whereas all others I meticulously store in alphabetical order.
Can we just talk about Srudio Ghibli’s artwork right now? It’s so good. Good doesn’t even begin to describe it. The artists put so much detail into the BACKGROUNDS, which is something that I myself seriously need to work on. My current favorite movie is Howl’s Moving Castle and every single time I see it I can”t help but to pay attention to the sheer detail and beauty and COLOR. in the backgrounds. Somehow, they make all those beautiful colors work together and I’m the end, it looks amazing.
A lot of different people work very hard on Ghibli movies which I think people sadly forget and only seem to focus on Miyazaki. Which… ok yeah. But I feel a lot of people get overshadowed like Kazuo Oga. Or even worse Isao Takahata who is the co-owner of the studio and the director in charge of movies like “Only Yesterday” (one of my faves) Pom Poko, Grave of the Fireflies and Princess Kaguya.
But yes. Oga is the major driving force in how the movies look as far as backgrounds and atmosphere goes. I had a quick look and although he wasn’t the art director, he WAS lead background artist for Howl’s Moving Castle. So the background work in that movie is definitely him for the most part (not counting any assistants he might work under him)
Another person who often falls through the cracks is Michiyo Yasuda, who was in charge of most of the colour direction in Ghibli movies (she sadly passed away last year). So although she wasn’t in charge of backgrounds, a lot of the look of the movies in terms of colour (and animation in some parts) are thanks to her. She’s th one in charge for how the characters look within the backgrounds and I’m assuming if Ghibli uses Colour maps for a film that would also be something she’d have worked on.
Again, looking at Wikipedia sh was also the colour director for Howl’s Moving Castle.
Howl is actually not one of my favourite Ghibli movies. My favourite Ghibli movie is and probably always will be Laputa: Castle in the Sky, a film Yasuda worked on but not Oga. (after all, it’s what my tumblr is named after :3c ) However when it comes to background art as its own thing I think it’s an impossible competition between Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Pom Poko, Porco Rosso and Only Yesterday’s “present time” sequences. All of which are Oga.