The Wind Rises

DVD cover of The Wind Rises

Poster of The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises, or Kaze Tachinu in Japanese, is a 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. It was released by Toho on July 20, 2013 in Japan, and by Touchstone Pictures in North America on February 21, 2014 and the UK on May 9, 2014.

 

The Wind Rises is a fictionalized history of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982), architect of the Mitsubishi A5m and its successor, the mitsubishi A6m Zero; both airplane were utilized by the Empire of Japan amid World War II. The film is adapted from Miyazaki’s mangaof the same name, which was thus loosely based on the 1937 short story The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori. It was the last film directed by Miyazaki before his retirement in September 2013.

 

Naoko and Jiro

Naoko and Jiro

The Wind Rises was the most astounding earning Japanese film in Japan in 2013 and got discriminating acclaim. It won and was selected for a few awards, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

 

The Wind Rises is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, whose past films incorporate My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. It is the first film that Miyazaki has singularly directed since the 2008 film Ponyo. Miyazaki wanted his next film to be Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea II, howeverm producer Toshio Suzuki persuaded him to make The Wind Rises instead. The film is based on a manga by Hayao Miyazaki, which was serialized in the month to month magazine Model Graphix in 2009. The story of the manga is thus loosely based on Tatsuo Hori’s short novel The Wind Has Risen, written in the late 1930s. Despite the fact that the story in the film takes after the historical account of Horikoshi’s air ship advancement sequentially, the version of his private life is altogether narrative. The character of Hans Castorp is obtained from Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain. Miyazaki was inspired to make the film in the wake of reading this quote from Horikoshi: “All I wanted to do was to make something excellent”.

 

The Wind Rises got basic acclaim from film pundits; Rotten Tomatoes sampled 157 reviews and judged 89% of them to be sure, giving the film a “Guaranteed Fresh” appraising. The agreement expresses: “The Wind Rises is a fittingly self-contradicting swan song for director Hayao Miyazaki”. Metacritic, which relegates a weighted average score, evaluated the film a 83/100 based on 41 reviews, refering to “universal acclaim”.

Images by contactmusic.com and distresspop.com

Trigun

 

Cover of Trigun

Cover of Trigun

Blazing guns and the scorching sun, Trigun  is a Japanese manga series that was written and drawn by Yasuhiro Nightow. The manga was serialized into the Tokuma Shoten’s Shōnen Captain in 1996 and it has lasted a total of 3 collected volumes when the magazine’s production was withdrawn in 1997. Trigan continued to appear in Shōnen Gahosha’s Young King Ours magazine up until its conclusion in 2008. The two manga series were transformed into anime adaptations in the form of a television series in 1998.  Produced by Madhouse Studios, the anime first appeared on TV Tokyo on April 1, 1998. Spanning a total of 26 episodes, the final airing was on September 30, 1998. Eventually, a feature film version was released in April 2010.

The plot of Trigun is centered on a man known as “Vash the Stampede” and the two employees, Meryll and Milley of Bernardelli Insurance Society. The two ladies trail him all the time in the hope that the damages that were unavoidably caused by his appearance would be lessened. The majority of the damage blamed on Vash is actually due to the bounty hunters who are slaving over the sixty billion double dollars bounty on his head. The bounty was set due to Vash’s apparent demolition of the city of July. Despite these claims, Vash has no memories of the incident and this is because of Retrograde Amnesia which leaves him being able to remember only parts of the destroyed city and memories of his childhood. All throughout his journey, Vash exerts effort to save people without killing. From time to time, a priest named Nicholas D. Wolfwood joins in the group. Similar to Vash, the priest is an excellent gunslinger tainted with an enigmatic past. As the story develops, t Vash’s past and the history of human civilization on the planet Gunsmoke is discovered and revealed to the viewers.

The smiling facade of Vash Stampede

The smiling facade of Vash Stampede

When it comes to the main character, Vash the Stampede is described to be a very kindhearted, expert marksman. He attempts to promote love and peace and appears to be a very merry person that hates serious matters. The actual truth is that he is a very deep and serious person who hides under a smiling façade. Wolfwood often calls this a “false smile.” Underneath this smile is a ton of pain from the burdens that he has chosen to carry. Also dubbed as The Humanoid Typhoon, Vash is a nomadic gunman who is wandering around the desert with a 60 billion “double dollar” ($$) bounty on his head. This was until the government reclassified him from being a Human to to a “localized disaster”.

Images by animelist.com and giphy.com

 

Yoshiyuki Tomino

Yoshiyuki Tomino and a bust of a Gundam

Yoshiyuki Tomino and a bust of a Gundam

One of the giants of Japanese animation, Yoshiyuki Tomino is a Japanese mech-anime creator, animator, songwriter, artist, director, screenwriter and novelist. He was born and rasid in Odawara, Kanagawa and received his degree at Nihon University’s College of Art. Tomino is best known for being the creator of the epic Gundam anime franchise.

The start of Tomino’s career was during 1963 where he joined Osamu Tezuka’s company, Mushi Productions. He was in included in the script writing and the creation of storyboards and screenplay of the first ever Japanese anime television series, the legendary Astro Boy. Eventually, He became one of the most important members of the anime studio, Sunrise. This was when he started to direct several animations throughout the decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Tomino would probably be most renowned for transforming the mecha-anime genre from “Super Robots” into”Real Robots”. He did this through his creation of 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam, the 1st of many in the Gundam universe. Aside from this, he has also received several awards such as the “Best Director” award at the recent 2006 Tokyo International Anime Fair for the 2005 film Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam: Heirs To The Stars. He also won the Animage Anime Grand Prix award for directing Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979-80 and Space Runaway Ideon in 1980.

 

This mecha pioneer is also known for using several pseudonyms for minor roles that he does in his works. These include Minami Asa and Minoru Yokitani, both of which are used to credit himself for screenplays and storyboards that he does. He uses Rin Iogi to credit himself for writing the theme song lyrics he writes. When using this name, Tomino usually collaborates with other artists like Yoko Kanno, Asei Kobayashi, MIO and Neil Sedaka.

Turn A Gundam movie poster

Turn A Gundam movie poster

Tomino is highly regarded for directing numerous famous anime series throughout his career but his most popular work would be the Mobile Suit Gundam series that began in 1979. This success still continues as he creates several, spinoffs and merchandising franchises such as, Aura Battler Dunbine, Brave Raideen, and numerous others. The recent works that he has done would be Brain Powerd (1998), Turn A Gundam (1999), Overman King Gainer (2002) and most recently, Gundam Reconguista in G (2014).

What makes his creation stand out from the usual robots of the mecha-anime genre is the effort of Gundam to invoke realism into the robot design and weaponry. This is done by applying limits to the performance such as running out of energy and ammunition or breakage and malfunctioning. The Gundam universe also tries to incorporate practical technology that is partly derived from true science or at least well-explained, feasible technology. This kind of technology usually requires minimal fictional additions to function. An example of this is the Minovsky Physics which is used as a means of energy production from helium-3.

Images by gunjap.net and plummytoys.com

My Neighbor Totoro

Movie poster of My Neighbor Totoro

Movie poster of My Neighbor Totoro

One of the classics of Japanese animation, My Neighbor Totoro is a 1988 Japanese animated fantasy film that was written and directed by the renowned Hayao Miyazaki. Like most films created by Miyazaki, this was produced by Studio Ghibli. The movie stars the voice actors Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, and Hitoshi Takagi and it revolves around the two young daughters, Satsuki and Mei, of a professor and their encounters with the kindly wood spirits in rural Japan during post-war. My Neighbor Totoro recieved the Animage Anime Grand Prix prize and the Mainichi Film Award for Best Film in 1988.

The production of this animated film began right after Hayao Miyazaki’s writing and filming Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984 and Castle in the Sky in 1986. Under Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki’s production happened parallel to his co-worker Isao Takahata’s production of Grave of the Fireflies. The financing of My Neighbor Totoro came from the executive producer, Yasuyoshi Tokuma. Because of these circumstances, My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies were both released on the same bill in 1988. This dual billing is regarded to be “one of the most moving and remarkable double bills ever offered to a cinema audience.”

Totoro

Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is important because it had assisted in bringing Japanese animation into the global spotlight. It also placed Hayao Miyazaki, the film’s writer-director, on the glossy road to fame and success. The main character of the film, Totoro, is as famous among Japanese kids as Winnie-the-Pooh is among British kids. The Independent, a UK news organization, regarded Totoro to be one of the greatest cartoon characters ever made. They stated “At once innocent and awe-inspiring, King Totoro captures the innocence and magic of childhood more than any of Miyazaki’s other magical creations.” The Financial Times also saw the character’s appeal, “Totoro is more genuinely loved than Mickey Mouse could hope to be in his wildest—not nearly so beautifully illustrated—fantasies.” Because they deserve it, Totoro and the other characters from the movie are key exhibits in the Ghibli Museum.

Aside from being a cinematic success, the movie has done more outside the screen. The environmental journal Ambio described the influence of My Neighbor Totoro as ” …served as a powerful force to focus the positive feelings that the Japanese people have for satoyama and traditional village life.” Also, Totoro was used as a mascot by the Japanese “Totoro Hometown Fund Campaign” with the aim of protecting and preserving the areas of satoyama in the Saitama Prefecture. The fund raiser began in 1990 after the movie’s release and just recently there was an auction held in August 2008 at Pixar Animation Studios. The event sold over 210 original paintings, illustrations, and sculptures inspired by My Neighbor Totoro.

Images by wikipedia and

Ponyo

Movie poster of Ponyo

Movie poster of Ponyo

One of the greats of Japanese animated films, Ponyo, initially titled in English as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, is a 2008 Japanese animated Fantasy-Comedy film that was written and directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki of the famous Studio Ghibli and Toho. It is the famous director’s 8th film for Studio Ghibli, and 10th overall. The movie’s plot revolves around a goldfish whose name is Ponyo. This fish then befriends a five year old human boy, Sōsuke. This friendship prompts Ponyo to have dreams of becoming a human girl.

Quirky and out of this world, Miyazaki states that the inspiration for this film was the Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Little Mermaid”. He also said that the things derived in the film were more on the abstract ideas, rather than the actual story. Together with animation director Katsuya Kondo and art director Noboru Yoshida, Miyazaki created a set of objectives such as using traditional animation for the entirety of Ponyo. They also pursued the animation and art possibilities without struggling under the demands of the production schedule. Also included in their goals is to show the quality of Yoshida’s artwork. Lastly, they wanted to celebrate the innocence and cheerfulness that is inherent in a child’s world. The production process of Ponyo started in May 2006, and the key animation was started in October of the same year.

Although Yoshida was in charge of the art, Miyazaki was closely involved with the hand-drawn animation in Ponyo. He wanted to draw the sea and the waves himself. He also had a blast in experimenting on the ways of expressing this crucial aspect of the film. The degree of detailed drawing found in Ponyo resulted to 170,000 separate images. This is a record number for a Miyazaki film.

The seaside village

The seaside village

The seaside village which is the main setting of the story was inspired by Tomonoura, an actual town in Setonaikai National Park in Japan. It was a place where Miyazaki spent some time during 2005. Some of the places and story elements of the film was influenced by Richard Wagner’s opera Die Walküre. Some of the music used also gives reference to Wagner’s opera. The cute and weird name “Ponyo” is actually onomatopoeia. It was based on Miyazaki’s idea of what a “soft, squishy softness” would sound when touched. On the other hand, the character of Sōsuke was based on Miyazaki’s own son ,Gorō, when he was five.

Ponyo was a success as it won numerous awards which include the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year. It was released in Japan on July 19, 2008. The release date in US and Canada was on August 14, 2009, and in the UK on February 12, 2010. The film reached #9 in the US box office charts during its opening weekend.

Images by movies.disneey.com and fukuchimi.tea-nifty.com

 

Osamu Tezuka

The great Osamu Tezuka

The great Osamu Tezuka

One of the legendary fathers of Japanese anime, Osamu Tezuka  was a Japanese cartoonist, animator, film producer and activist. He is so awesome that he is even a medical doctor but he never did practice medicine. Born and raised in Osaka, he is famous for being the creator of the manga series Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Black Jack. His famous words, pioneering techniques, and innovative redefining of anime genres garnered him heavy titles such as “the father of manga”, “the god of comics”, and “kamisama of manga”. Aside from the paper medium, he is also usually referred to be the “Godfather of Anime”. He is even dubbed as the Japanese equivalent of Walt Disney, who was one of the biggest inspirations of Tezuka while growing up.

Some of his greatest works include Astro Boy or Mighty Atom in Japan, Black Jack, Princess Knight, Phoenix or Hi no Tori in Japan, Kimba the White Lion or Jungle Emperor in Japan, Unico, Message to Adolf and Buddha. But his “life’s work” was Phoenix, a story of life and death that he started to do in the 1950s up until he passed away. The world lost one of the legends of animation due to stomach cancer on 9 February 1989 in Tokyo. This was around a month after the death of Hirohito, the Shōwa Emperor of Japan. It was reported that the last words of Tezuka were: “I’m begging you, let me work!”

Astro Boy

Astro Boy

 

As a commemoration to his brilliance and contributions, the place where he grew up, the city of Takarazuka, established a museum that was dedicated to him. There were also postal stamps issued in his honor in 1997. Aside from this, starting in 2003, Kaiyodo, a Japanese toy company began manufacturing a series of figurines of Tezuka’s creations which include Princess Knight, Unico, the Phoenix, Dororo, Marvelous Melmo, Ambassador Magma and many more.

Aside from physical manifestations of honoring to his greatness, from 2003 to 2009, Naoki Urasawa and Takashi Nagasaki used an arc of Astro Boy into the murder mystery series Pluto as a sign of commemoration to the late animator. Tezuka was both a close friend and artistic influence of Brazilian comic book artist Mauricio de Sousa. In 2012, Mauricio published a two-issue story arc in the Monica Teen comic book that features some of Tezuka’s main characters which include Astro boy, Black Jack, Sapphire, and Kimba. Tezuka’s creations joined Monica and her friends in an adventure filled journey inside the Amazon Rainforest. The story involves fighting a smuggling organization that cuts down hundreds of trees in the Amazon. This is noteworthy because this was the first time that Tezuka Productions had allowed overseas animators to use Tezuka’s characters.

Images by comicvine.com and wikipedia

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

Movie poster of Laputa

Movie poster of Laputa

When one is talking about the golden age of Japanese animated movies, one will definitely encounter the master director Hayao Miyazaki. One of his masterpieces, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, is a 1986 Japanese animated adventure film that was directed and written by him. It is also memorable because it was the first movie that was produced and released by Studio Ghibli. It was distributed by Toei Kabushiki Kaisha. The movie gained success as Castle in the Sky received the top prize at the Animage Anime Grand Prix in 1986.

The movie was a big hit in Japan when released in 1986 like most of the films that Studio Ghibli produces. Towards the end of the 1980s, an English version of Laputa was shortly revealed in the US by Streamline Pictures. The dubbing was produced for the screening of the film on international flights to Japan but it was not produced by Streamline.  The plot of the movie starts with a young boy that stumbles into a mysterious girl who came down floating from the sky. The girl’s name is Sheeta and she was running from pirates, army and government secret agents. By saving her life, the two of them embark on a high flying adventure that involves all kinds of flying contraptions. Their adventure filled journey eventually ends up in the search for Sheeta’s identity in a floating castle of a long lost civilization.

Sheeta and Pazu

Sheeta and Pazu

The release of the movie on other countries was delayed after Princess Mononoke (1997) did not do well in the US as compared to Japan. Laputa: Castle in the Sky was finally released on DVD and video in America only on August 16, 2005. It was released together with Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away. Like Mononoke and Kiki, the critical opinion about the dubbing was mixed, but Cloris Leachman and Mark Hamill’s performances as Dola and Muska garnered praise and acclaims. Laputa was also reported to be the second-best selling DVD from Studio Ghibli  that was distributed by Disney during the year of its release. Eventually, Laputa, together with Ponyo, was reissued on American home video in March 2010 as a tribute. The film also saw a Blu-ray adaptation and it was released in North America on May 22, 2012, together with Whisper of the Heart and The Secret World of Arrietty.

When it comes to critical reception, the film has a 94% “Fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. In an audience poll of 100 best animations of all time, it was ranked to be the second best animation film in the list. The poll was done by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2007 and it included a total of 80,402 voters.

Images by imdb.com and behindthevoiceactors.com

 

Dragon Ball GT

Dragon Ball GT Goku

Dragon Ball GT Goku

Most kids who grew up during the 90’s will be familiar with the world of Goku. One of the versions, Dragon Ball GT, is the third television anime series that was originally based from Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball manga. The series was produced by Toei Animation and it first aired in Japan on Fuji TV on February 2, 1996. The entire anime series spanned 64 episodes and the final episode was aired on November 19, 1997. The unique thing about this version from the previous two anime series in the Dragon Ball franchise is that it does not fully adapt the manga series of Akira Toriyama. Rather, it is a sequel show to the famous Dragon Ball Z anime series while having its own original story and using the same characters and universe.

Even though this series conveys an original story that was written and conceived by the Toei Animation staff, the name was not thought of by Toriyama. The GT stands for “Grand Touring” which refers to the series having the heroes travel through the entire universe. What’s interesting is that Toriyama himself called the anime series Dragon Ball GT as a “side story of the original Dragon Ball”. Another interesting fact is chief character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru said that he felt agony while designing the Super Saiyan 4 Goku.  The new design came from the idea of the show’s producers and Nakasturu questions the necessity of furthering the transformations. Because Super Saiyan 4 can only be achieved when Goku is in the Saiyan’s Ōzaru or “Great Ape” form, he designed the hair to be “wilder” and covered Goku’s entire body in red fur. Only a single final draft of the character was made despite Nakatsuru considering making the hair blonde. Eventually, black was chosen for the hair color because is more contrasting with the red fur.

Goku's Super saiyan 4

Goku’s Super saiyan 4

When it came to critical reception, the GT series did not do well as Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. IGN deemed it as “downright repellent,” mentioning that the material and characters had lost their original novelty and fun. Criticism was also given to the GT character designs of Trunks and Vegeta. They were called goofy. THEM Anime Reviews bashed the humor and character design stating, “the humor is forced, juvenile, and stupid, the characters are trite, and the villains are ugly, power-hungry monsters with no personality whatsoever”. Despite all the negativity, there are still some who praised the animation and music stating, “At least Toei went to the trouble of bringing up the animation, and especially the music, up a notch, even if the character designs are ugly as sin and they ruined everything else about Dragon Ball in the process.”

Images by wikipedia