Tsunderin: After the confusing, unemotional mess that was Nausicaa and with a whole roster of films now under his belt, Miyazaki decided to try his hand at another, more ‘user friendly’ environmental film—which was probably needed more than ever due to Pom Poko. Indeed, the ten year hiatus of sorts was beneficial because it helped Miyazaki learn to zero in on his message, bring it out, and not hit people over the head with it. For these reasons, as well as the gorgeous art, Princess Mononoke is considered a masterpiece, even transcending the cultural barrier—Mononoke is much more Japanese in feel than, say, Porco Rosso or even Nausicaa—so much so that it’s even gotten its own musical. But what is it about Mononoke that has captured so much of the world?
Tsunderin: Whereas Only Yesterday was the Ghibli film I wanted to see the most, Whisper of the Heart is indisputably the Ghibli film I love the most. I barely know any people that remember this film, let alone talk about it, but I think there’s something beautiful in its understated glory. Perhaps my love for this film is what helped me love Only Yesterday: the films share a soft-spoken nature and a realistic message about growing up and deciding your own path. But look at me already digressing before I say anything about the plot.
Tsunderin: Welcome to the second month of Ghibli month! We start this glorious milestone with another environmental tale from Isao Takahata. I’m not going to lie: I went into Pom Poko expecting I would absolutely loathe it and why shouldn’t I? Pom Poko is generally considered one of Ghibli’s weaker films and I personally haven’t read or heard a single good thing about it. As thus, before actually forcing myself to sit down and watch it I was more than prepared to hate it. I was going to criticize the shit out of this film.
What did I think about it? Eh, it was decent.
Tsunderin: One upon a time many years ago, Adult Swim was hosting something they called the ‘month of Miyazaki’: a month of showing Miyazaki—I can’t remember if they threw in some Takahata to shake things up—films ass-early in the morning. I was bound and determined I was going to watch every single one. Every. One. I started out well, made it through Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, but the film that followed them just couldn’t keep my attention at all and I conked out.
After giving it another shot though, I’ve found that Porco Rosso has really grown on me. Perhaps the reason I didn’t like it was because of the deeper intricacies that went right over the head of younger me or the fact that it didn’t star someone particularly likable (not as likable as Miyazaki’s previous heroines/heroes, at least). Or maybe it was because it starred a pig, because seriously, what would even make you think of that?
Out of all the films on Ghibli’s roster, Only Yesterday is the film I was looking forward to watching the most and is the one I’ve heard the least about. After finishing the ninety-some minute drama, I think I have a better understanding as to why I haven’t heard much.
The film focuses on Taeko, a Tokyo business woman and all-around city girl in her late twenties, who decides to take a ten day trip to the countryside where her brother-in-law lives. Taeko feels no ill for city life, nor does she hold any attachment to it: at her office job she feels as though she’s just floating by. She adores the country, but she doesn’t know why.
On her journey to Takase—a small farming town in the Yamagata Prefecture—she is slowly overcome with memories of her younger self, specifically her fifth grade self. She mentions that that moment in time was a defining moment in her life, a moment where she changed from one form of herself to another. In that same vein, she feels like this trip may be another one of those points in her life.
Tsunderin: Realizing that he must have hit a sweet spot with his previous small-scope, through the eyes of a child film, Miyazaki once more set forth to capture another important point in everyone’s lives through his next film, Kiki’s Delivery Service. The target this time: coming of age. It can of course be argued that Castle in the Sky was also a coming of age story, but that part of the plot was overshadowed by a larger storyline as opposed to Kiki’s. Success of such things either relies on a series of stories in which the characters have a chance to grow slowly and more robustly, or a narrow focus. Again, Miyazaki chose to go with the latter.