Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Castles In The Sky

When it rains, as I've had occasion to find out these past few months, it pours. The obnoxious, if not quite record-breaking heat shows no sign of letting up, but at least it's not dry heat any longer: the skies have deigned to crack open, the better to vent all the perspiration they've cunningly repurposed as rain.

It has rained, and rained some more. It has since, to no-one's surprise, continued to rain. Maddeningly, while we've been suffering through a seemingly endless onslaught of piddling and spitting and showering, two weeks of Wimbledon have been had in the baking sun without interruption - the first time this century rain hasn't stopped play at least once, for that matter.

But we're not talking tennis. Nor, indeed, do I mean to grumble about the weather. In this case, appearances can be quite, quite deceiving: this is a post about Studio Ghibli, of all things. All that burbling there was just context for me to awkwardly segue from, see? Wait for it.

Wait for it...

Because - here we go - just as you can spend ages waiting for rain, years can go by without word one from the Japanese animation studio to rule all Japanese animation studios. And yet, within a few weeks, there's been news of not one bit of new Ghibli goodness to look forward to, but two. Here's the first:

The Borrowers Arrietty is set to be released in Japan just a few weeks from now. Lucky buggers. It's coming from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the key animator of Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away - two of the studio's best, at least of late - and sure, he's not Hayao Miyazaki, but then, Miyazaki hasn't always been at the helm of Ghibli's incredible creations; and given that the man announced his "retirement" a few years ago, we'd best make peace with what talent there still is at the fan-favourite production house sooner rather than later.

Saying that, The Borrowers aren't exactly my favourite thing ever. I still remember that painful live-action movie from a decade and change ago, with Ian Holmes' would-be Bilbo Baggins as the micro-family's dear ol' Daddy. But this is Ghibli, people. Dodgy subject matter or not, magic will be made. Even the least notable of this studio's output could stand shoulder to shoulder with Disney's best and come out the better for the comparison.

But who knows when we'll see The Borrowers Arrietty here in the UK. What I'm really excited about is Studio Ghibli's other big project at the moment:

Ni No Kuni, transliterally "The Another World," was announced as a DS game first of all. At some point, however, Ghibli must have glimpsed the horrifying compression all their gorgeous animations would suffer on Nintendo's low-rent handheld, and thanks be to the video-game deities, Ni No Kuni wasn't so far along the production pipeline that Level-5 couldn't trade up a platform. No, not even to the Wii. It's coming to the PS3!

After my abbreviated experience with Final Fantasy XIII, I have a sneaking suspicion that I may just be over JRPGs - breaks my heart a little to say as much, but there it is. With story and design from the incomparable Studio Ghibli, though, and the makers of Dark Cloud and the Professor Layton puzzle games doing the legwork behind the scenes, Ni No Kuni should be a hell of a game whether I play it or not.

Oh, Ghibli. Ghibli, Ghibli, Ghibli...

Clearly it's time for a Totoro rewatch, am I right? :)


  1. Heh, am watching Totoro with my daughter as I spotted this in my feeds. She loves it along with Ponyo. At four she finds some of the others a bit complicated or creepy (I'm looking at you creepy Spirited Away) so Borrowers sounds like it could be fun.

  2. Damn you. This post made me rewatch the only Ghibli film I had at home, which was Grave of the Fireflies...I've seen it at least 10 times already, but watching it is still just as painfull as the first time. Gonna cry myself to sleep tonight.

  3. The Borrowers was one of my favourite books as a child and Ghibli are my favourite animation studio I. Cannot. WAIT!

  4. Anxiously looking forward to both! Ni no Kuni: Queen of the White Holy Ashes for the PS3 is one of my most anticipated games (right there with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Metroid Other M, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, etc.) and I about jumped out of my seat when I saw what it looked like on the PS3.

    Cannot wait and I appreciated the reminder of just how great it's likely going to be with Ghibli and Level-5 (who have done excellent work with the Dragon Quest series in recent years) at the helm.