TOKYO – “Earwig and the Witch” just hit theaters in Japan and has been Studio Ghibli’s latest work for some time. But this film is quite different from the studio’s usual productions in that it is a computer-generated animation directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s eldest son, Goro Miyazaki, 54, and produced in cooperation with the public broadcaster. NHK. Does this film give us a glimpse of what to expect from the studio in the future?
“Earwig and the Witch” marks a significant artistic departure from the textures of the hand drawn Ghibli style. His characters are like dolls, and they exist in images of tangible depth. Goro first took on the 3D computer graphics (CG) animation challenge for the 2014-2015 NHK animated television series “Ronja, the Thief’s Daughter”, and his latest film continues that effort.
“With 3DCG, you try to handle the characters like dolls. But if you make it look too much like a doll animation, it gets away from the hand-drawn anime style that people know so well. space in between, “Goro told the Mainichi Shimbun.
In Hollywood, Pixar Animation Studios’ movie “Toy Story” helped lead a trend that brought 3D animation to the United States. But in Japan, there are few precedents. The accumulation of expensive production skills to make them is also lagging behind. Despite all of this, Goro was inspired to take on the task.
“With the hand-drawn animation it feels like if people work hard it will happen, but with CG it’s a question of how much it costs. Team and we’ve been through a period of trying and hard. ‘mistakes, and there were times when we also worked independently. As a result, high quality work emerged. ”
Apparently, when his father Hayao watched a test screening of the film, he praised it and said to Goro, “This country, too, has now been able to make a film to live up to Pixar.”
But Goro’s analysis of the situation is measured: “It’s like saying we worked so hard to win once against the US military. I thought, we have to find a one-off production method. small organization. ”
The source material for this film is an unfinished work by the late English novelist Diana Wynne Jones, author of the novel “Howl’s Moving Castle”, which Studio Ghibli adapted into a film of the same name. In the new film, the eponymous daughter Earwig is growing up in an institution when she is taken to a witch. She accepts a role of assistant, provided the witch teaches her magic, but ends up being used and abused. She seeks help from those around her to defend herself.
In stories where a child is the protagonist, a coming-of-age story is the set pattern. But Earwig is tough and willful from the start. “Are these coming of age stories we see so often true? Goro asked. “Growing up physically, the thought process taking hold – is it growing up?” It’s not that adults give children something and that they grow up. . ”
Earwig’s design is different from the children depicted in other Ghibli films.
“Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki and Yoshiyuki Tomino, are in a way the first generation of those who lived through the war, who saw a radical change in values. Their opposition to authority and violence arose out of some form of resistance, and they came together to do something, to start building something new. I think it’s kind of a revolutionary state of mind. But it is not possible for those of us who were born in the middle of the period of economic development to have this. now what got me thinking about making films is in Earwig. ”
The catharsis of the ending is also separate from the sense of satisfaction seen in other anime so far.
“Dubious things are happening around the world, and there is no rosy future that awaits after upheaval. And this state of affairs will likely continue,” Goro said. “If people rose up democratically against violence, would there be stable peace? It is a very difficult situation. I feel like an ending with catharsis isn’t something you should portray without much thought. At the same time, we need some kind of mentally enriched fantasy of living. We realized that now is the time to decide what to focus on. ”
Studio Ghibli was significantly downsized after Hayao announced his retirement in 2013. But in 2017, he announced his return with the production of a new work, “How Do You Live?” This again led to a lively studio.
“Ghibli was built on the ability of Hayao Miyazaki and the intelligence of Toshio Suzuki. They have both been advancing for years now, and the question of what will happen next, absolutely no one knows. It depends on what. are the projects, the will to carry them out, and the people who make them, ”recalls Goro.
The environment around the anime has also changed dramatically and its position in society has been elevated as well.
“Creative studios have sprung up, and the fusion of cel animation and CG is a style unique to Japan. I think people who were able to create without the influence of the first generation surfaced. And a such success will probably continue. Then there is Ghibli, sitting in this strange place, completely away from such trends. It would probably be good for us to continue with a different set of values.
Being also involved in the CG anime, is Goro likely to become the central pillar of Ghibli?
“If I say I want to keep doing CG, then we’ll probably keep doing it. It’s not like it has to be CG, but I’ve found things that I want to try.”
The ending of “Earwig and the Witch” defines expectations for a sequel. Goro said: “I feel in me that it’s over”, before adding: “My producer also told me that because we made such good characters, there are a lot of people who want to see a more, and that I should do one. ” It seems like another push can come down to how “Earwig and the Witch” is received.
(Japanese original by Tomomi Katsuta, Cultural News Department)