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  • Shona McCarthy

FREE Ghibli Documentaries! AnimeLab!

With lockdowns continuing for a few more days in Melbourne, I thought I'd share about some Ghibli related documentaries I found on AnimeLab.com. For those who don't know, AnimeLab.com is a free online streaming service where you can watch anime as much as you want without paying anything. The catch is that without a subscription you will have to sit through a lot of advertising. But none the less, the service makes it possible to access a lot of programs that mightn't be so easily found. Some of those include documentaries about Studio Ghibli and the people who work there! "But isn't that boring?" I hear you say. Or, "Why don't I just go and watch the Ghibli movies on Netflix?" Well, what I learned by watching one of them so far is that learning more about how the Ghibli movies were made greatly increases your ability to appreciate them. The first I watched was this one:

Isao Takahata is probably the second-least known director of the three main Ghibli film directors. And I had remembered The Tale of Princess Kaguya as seeming relatively mediocre out of the Ghibli collection. I like it, I own it on DVD. But I couldn't understand why anyone would bother making a documentary about how it was made until I watched the documentary itself. I saw then that I had completely misunderstood the intent and quality of the film. Here are words from a post I made to Facebook just as I was finishing up with it: "When I first saw Isao Takahata's "The Tale of Princess Kaguya" I simply thought the style was strange and experimental, or an effort to make a more "impressionistic" animation style. But now that I've seen the documentary and I know his intent better, I feel quite sad that this movie is so underrated and poorly understood.

You see, in the animation process, initial sketches always must be done. These tend to be rough and emotive; to have a kind of raw artistic energy to them. Then, typically, those drawings would be turned into carefully manicured cells in stages. But the initial passion is always lost this way. Takahata wanted to create an animation style that would preserve the raw energy of those initial sketches. He practically turned Studio Ghibli upside down in this effort. But because people don't realise this, they just see the roughness and think, "I'm not sure about this."

Knowing all this now, I would watch the film again and see that it was so much more than just another summer cinema cash cow. Takahata really wanted people to see the value in living organically and earnestly, rather than always trying to convey an image of perfection." I think I said it there as well as I could say it, so I saw no reason to type it again. After this experience, I have it in mind to watch the other two Ghibli related documentaries on AnimeLab. The next I plan on watching is this one:

"In 2013, film director and animator Hayao Miyazaki suddenly announced his retirement at the age of 72. But he couldn't shake his burning desire to create. After an encounter with young CGI animators, Miyazaki embarked on a new endeavor, his first project ever to utilize CGI. But the artist, who had been adamant about hand-drawn animation, confronted many challenges. The film even faces the danger of being cancelled. Can an old master who thinks he's past his prime shine once again? This program goes behind the scenes over two years as Miyazaki overcomes struggles to create his short film using CGI." - AnimeLab.com , 7/6/21 I decided to find out what film is being discussed in the documentary. It turns out that the short film is called "Boro the Caterpillar" and was made especially for the Ghibli Museum. Miyazaki had originally conceived of "Boro the Caterpillar" in 1995. But Toshio Suzuki, a producer in Studio Ghibli felt Miyazaki should make Princess Mononoke instead. I haven't been able to find an online copy of "Boro the Caterpillar". Probably because much of what is inside The Ghibli Museum is forbidden to be photographed or videoed. So, watching this documentary is your best chance of seeing much of it without going all the way to Tokyo. So, the third documentary to see would be this one:


"Studio Ghibli, the brainchild of directors Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, has captivated audiences the world over with its dreamlike, fantastical animations such as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Grave of the Fireflies. This documentary looks at how they managed such an amazing run, and what could be next for the beloved studio." - AnimeLab.com , 7/6/21 Since this documentary seems to be a general overview of the history of Studio Ghibli, it seems to be the best one to watch last. BONUS FEATURE:

This is a four part documentary series about Miyazki. It seems to particularly come from the phase of his life where he was making Ponyo. I haven't seen it yet, but given that it is produced by NHK World, I would expect the quality to be high. If you would like to supplement your virtual experiences of Japan with wearable objects and homewares, you could try perusing my online store. I try to keep my prices reasonable, and my products a blend of the fun and practical:

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