The Secret World of Arrietty, the latest Studio Ghibli feature film distributed by Disney, continues to prove why the acclaimed studio has stood atop the mountain of Japanese animation for nearly three decades.
The film is adapted from Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers and tells the story of a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards of a typical Japanese household and the struggles they encounter as they are discovered by the outside world. Like most Ghibli productions, this film will appeal to kids and adults. Unlike many American animated features, this film entirely tells its story through its gentle and understated atmosphere. The remarkable score, composed by French singer Cecile Corbel, goes a long way in setting the tone. A notable fact is that Arrietty was not helmed by legendary director and animator Hayao Miyazaki. Instead, it was directed by Hirosama Yonebayashi while Miyazaki wrote the screenplay. Yonebayashi has worked on a number of classic Ghibli features so there isn’t any discernable difference in the quality of the film.
Originally released in 2010, it was the highest grossing Japanese film of that year. It opened in American theaters on Feb. 17 and has grossed over $141,063, 479 worldwide.
Those familiar with Ghibli’s work will recognize a few of their longstanding traditions. Of course, there is a female lead character, Arrietty (voiced by Good Luck Charlie’s Bridgit Mendler), and the painterly hand-drawn animation, which continues to set Ghibli apart from just about every animation studio in the world. For animation quality alone there is unlikely to be a better film released this year.
Unlike American animation, the meat of the story doesn’t revolve around a good vs. evil concept, but it focuses on the friendship Arrietty develops with a 12-year old human boy named Sho–who is voiced by David Hernie of Wizards of Waverly Place fame. There is plenty of tense action, but the film doesn’t really focus on that aspect. More important, there are plenty of heartwarming moments. A key scene involving Sho confessing his heart ailment to Arrietty is genuinely touching.
The lone criticism I’ve seen in other reviews is that the film was too short and doesn’t contain more of the elaborate animation sequences or plot resolutions that Ghibli films are famous for. It clocks in at just over 90 minutes, but the film is fine paced and I felt like it served its purpose by the time the ending credits rolled.
I’d highly recommend this film to any person curious about anime. While there is a lot of junk out there, Arrietty shows the very best of what the medium is capable of delivering. It’s a movie the entire family can enjoy. And if you really like it then consider checking out other Ghibli films (Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Ponyo are tremendous) available on DVD. You can find all of these and more on Netflix, Amazon or e-Bay.
In my previous blog post on anime, I gave a brief overview of what anime is and the mainstream impact its had on popular culture worldwide. Today, I will be discussing some of the intricacies which make anime different from American cartoons.
How does anime get to our country in the first place?
Contrary to popular belief, anime just doesn’t magically arrive onto our shores. Nor, does an American distributor simply pick up the phone and place a call to a Japanese studio to demand their show to be brought over here.
All anime released in America is acquired through a bidding system. American anime distributors (Funimation, Bandai, Viz Media, etc.) bid for the licensing rights for a particular show. These rights may also include the rights to broadcast the show on television (this is usually done for lucrative properties such as Naruto or Bleach). Licensing fees can be quite expensive and most licenses are only available for a specific number of years. This is the reason why a large majority of anime goes out of print, despite being immensely popular. Once a license is up, it’s up! There have also been shows that American distributors have wanted to release, yet have been unable to due to extremely high licensing fees from the parent Japanese studio.
Some American distributors have exclusive agreements to license the anime of a particular studio. Think of it as a business relationship. Perhaps the two most famous examples are the Bandai-Sunrise and Disney-Studio Ghibli partnerships. Bandai licenses virtually every title produced by studio Sunrise (Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Code Geass), whereas Disney has an exclusive arrangement to release all the films of Studio Ghibli (Howl‘s Moving Castle, Ponyo, Castle in the Sky).
How is anime released?
Anime is released in three formats–films, television series, and original video animation.
Films, which are generally released in theaters, represent the highest budgets and generally the highest video-quality. Some anime films are only released at film or animation festivals and are shorter and sometimes lower in production values. Other types of films include compilation movies, which are television episodes edited together and presented in theaters.
Television series, which are the most common type of anime produced, are syndicated and broadcast on television on a regular schedule. Television series are generally low quality compared to OVA and film titles, because the production budget is spread out over many episodes rather than a single film or a short series. Most episodes are about 23 minutes in length, to fill a typical thirty-minute timeslot with added commercials. One full season is 26 episodes, and many titles run half seasons, or 13 episodes. However, there are some television series which span numerous seasons Most television anime produced will have opening credits, closing credits, and often an “eye catch,” a very short scene, often humorous or silly, that is used to signal the start or end of the commercial break.
Original video animation is often similar to a television miniseries. OVAs are typically two to twenty episodes in length; one-shots are particularly short, usually less than film-length. They are most commonly released directly to video. As a general rule OVA anime tends to be of high quality, approaching that of films. Titles often tend to have a very regular, continuous plot which is best enjoyed if all episodes are viewed in sequence.
Why does anime have a reputation for being overtly violent and sexual?
The answer is twofold. First, I think this stigma has largely died down over the last decade with the release of so many varied titles here in America, but for some, anime conjures up images of indecent cartoons which have no place in America’s politically correct society.
During the early 90s when anime began to gain mainstream popularity in America, most of what was imported during that period were films such as Vampire Hunter D or Ninja Scroll. Though both were groundbreaking works, they were hardly the Saturday morning cartoons those in our society were used to.
American distributors at the time felt that all anime fans were teenage-college aged males. Naturally, they felt titles which focused on sex and violence would appeal to this group. Hence, why some of the most popular titles of that period included AD Police, Wicked City, and Fist of the North Star. Basically, each of these shows were packed with plenty of extreme violence and sexual gratuity. I guess many of those distributors didn’t think there was a market for family-friendly or intellectually challenging anime.
Though anime has become one of the hottest cultural commodities in the world, and has even won an Academy Award for Best Animated Film (Spirited Away in 2002), it’s inevitably the “adults-only” stuff which seems to garner the lion’s share of media attention. That’s really sad when you consider that the bulk of anime released here in America over the last decade has been anything but excessively violent or sexual in nature. Saying that all anime is representative of ”sex and violence” is like saying all American cinema is representative of Tom Cruise films (and I love Cruise). It just doesn’t make sense.
What types of anime are there?
This is one of the most toughest questions to accurately answer. Many anime shows feature a large mix of genres, making distinguishing and categorizing difficult. For instance, a show might have a seemingly innocent surface plot, but at the same time feature a far deeper storyline. However, the following are a few broad categories for which most anime can be applied to.
Shonen- The most popular and mainstream genre. Shonen is the Japanese term for boys and is used to describe any anime targeted at boys. Popular examples include Dragonball-Z, Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Inuyasha.
Shoujo- As the Japanese term for little girl, shoujo refers to any anime targeted at girls. Popular shows in this genre include Cardcaptor Sakura, Sailor Moon and K-On!
Mecha- Anime featuring giant robots. The various Gundam series, Gurren Lagaan, and Neon Genesis Evangelion fall into this category.
Progressive- One of the hardest genres to pinpoint. It’s usually highlighted by extremely stylized or non-mainstream subject matter. I tend to think of this category as “artsy” anime. Some well-known titles include Haibane Renmei, Kino’s Journey, Baccano, Diamond Daydreams, Human Crossing, Paranoia Agent, Wings of Honneamise, Summer Wars, and Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. Any film from Studio Ghibli would fall into this category as well.
Harem- An anime revolving around a single male protagonist who is surrounded by many girls vying for his affection, often including mild sexual humor. Some examples include the various Tenchi series, Ah! My Goddess, Love Hina, and Negima.
Comedy- Anime designed to tickle your funny bone. Popular titles include School Rumble, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, Excel Saga, and Kodocha.
Sports- These titles are usually shonen series with a sports plot, yet they are numerous and deserve a category of their own. Popular titles include Slam Dunk, Whistle, The Prince of Tennis, and Eyeshield 21.
Mystery/Suspense- These titles share a detective/whodunit theme in addition to having moments of intense suspense. Popular titles include Death Note, Spiral, and Detective Conan (Case Closed).
Fantasy- Anime that revolves around a medieval European, role playing game, or mythological theme. Popular titles include Berserk, Record of Lodoss War, The Twelve Kingdoms, and Vision of Escaflowne.
Science Fiction/Cyberpunk- Anime that revolves around the problems resulting from the abuse of technology in a future setting. Popular titles include the films and television series of the Ghost in the Shell franchise, Akira, Serial Experiments Lain, Battle Angel, Appleseed, and Bubblegum Crisis.
Samurai Era- Anime which takes place during the feudal era of Japan. Popular titles include Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Deeper Kyo, and the first half of Otogi Zoshi.
Horror- Anime that is straight up creepy. Be sure not to watch these before you go to bed or you’re guaranteed to have nightmares. Lol. Popular titles include Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, Elfen Lied, Boogiepop Phantom, and Rumiko Takahashi’s Mermaid Saga.
Kids- These anime appeal mostly to very young kids and are often based on card dueling games. Many of these are regularly shown during Saturday morning American cartoon blocks. Popular titles are Pokemon, Beyblade, Bakugan Battle Brawlers, and Yu-Gi-Oh.
This is just a small sampling of the enormity that anime encompasses. Most of these titles overlap with other genres, so it’s nearly impossible to have a single anime that appeals to one segment of the population. I could have listed another ten genres, but these pretty much give you an overview of what anime has to offer.
I’ve finally got around to writing about one of my biggest passions in life– anime (Japanese animation). I love writing about pro wrestling and other subjects, but anime occupies a special place in my heart. Wasn’t that a bit melodramatic! Lol.
I’ve been so busy job searching and trying to make sense out of the current wrestling scene, that I feel as if I’ve been neglecting anime. There was a period between last year and the early part of this year where I was purchasing anywhere from one to two anime shows on a weekly basis. And anime isn’t cheap either (though I always find great deals from Amazon and e-Bay). Some people spend their money on clothes, cell phone accessories and things for their car. Mine went to anime.
I’m at a point where I have enough anime to watch for close to an entire year. At last count I had close to 90 titles in my collection. That includes movies, television series, and other pieces of straight to video animation. The average anime television series ranges from four-six discs, so I‘m in the neighborhood of having around 250-300 discs. Theoretically, if I were to watch a single disc from my collection everyday starting on Jan. 1, 2012, I would have enough to make it all the way to October.
Even though anime has been popular in America (and around the world) for decades, I often get quizzical looks from my friends or coworkers whenever I bring up the topic. Most casual fans only know about the major anime shows that have gained mainstream acceptance abroad. These are shows such as Dragonball-Z, Bleach and Naruto. However, there is much more to anime than those three shows. Anime has a long and storied history in its native land of Japan and in America.
I plan to write a series outlining the basics of anime. I want to enlighten others as to why anime has consistently been one of the most enduring forms of entertainment in pop culture history. The irony is that more people have probably watched anime at some point in their lives without even realizing what it was, or have watched American shows that were clearly influenced by anime; like Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Everyone has heard of The Matrix, the groundbreaking science fiction film by the Wachowski brothers. They’ve admitted in interviews that their concept for the film was directly inspired by Ghost in the Shell; Mamoru Oshii’s landmark 1995 anime feature film. GITS is routinely listed near the top of every list of the most influential anime created and was the first anime production to fully integrate cell animation with computer graphics; thereby changing the entire landscape of animation on a worldwide basis.
Many thematic elements of Disney’s The Lion King were pulled from Osamu Tezuka’s 1965 anime series Kimba the White Lion. Its been heavily speculated that the 2001 Disney film Atlantis:The Lost Empire (specifically the concept of an underwater civilization), was inspired by Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, a very popular anime series from the early 90s. In all fairness, both were heavily influenced by the works of French author Jules Verne.
This article is just a preview of what’s to come. In my next installment, I will discuss some of the genres and various production types of the medium, as well as many of the common misconceptions that anime has yet to overcome in America. In the meantime I’ll wet your appetite with this video clip detailing the rich history of anime. Enjoy!
This past week has been one of the more eventful ones of the last several and not in a typical sense. I was sick for a few days with a horrible fever. Once that was over I got a new surge of energy and applied to a few more jobs. I’m close to approaching the magic 20. I got my first two jobs so quickly, that I’m not used to going through such a long period without at least hearing back from a potential employer. And today I finally went and got myself a new transmission for my car. The silver lining was that it ended up being about $35 less than what I originally thought it would be. There is nothing I hate more than spending money on non-wrestling or anime related things. But driving is pretty important!
For some reason the job situation has been weighing heavily on my mind. I think a large portion of it comes from seeing so many of the friends I went to college with working high paying jobs and realizing that maybe with a little more determination I could be like them. My first full-time job was great and the salary was awesome. My second job was not so great. I made close to the same salary, but absolutely disliked my boss. Plus it was a boring office assistant job.
Earlier this week I noticed a job opening at a local newspaper for a general assignment reporter. I called the managing editor and inquired about the position. He told me that he would e-mail me a copy of what he referred to as a “deal maker.” It was basically a description of everything I would probably like or hate about the job. That way I would know for sure whether to apply for it or not to waste my time.
I’ve always had a unique fear of working at a real newspaper. Though I wrote for my college newspaper and had successful internships at others, I’ve always dreaded the lifestyle of a news reporter. You’re constantly on the go covering everything and it’s as if you never seem to have much of a life outside of the job. I should know being that my best friend works at one. In fairness, I did check out what the editor had to say. Here’s what it read:
“I tend to be direct –some say blunt –and don’t like to waste your time or mine.
So here’s the deal:
Our top reporter is leaving for a bigger job. She covers city of Monroe, schools and non-profits for starters.
Despite the beat, the job is mostly general assignment. We have but three reporters covering a county with 14 municipalities and 210,000 people.
Obviously way more work than we can do. So we pick and choose as best we can.
That means I need a reporter — a person who can build relationships, collect information, stay informed — so we can make good choices about what we will write.
I need someone who can write tight and fast, and who won’t blink at our publisher’s requirement that reporters write an average of 10 stories a week. I need some who also knows how to knock out a quick and dirty story to leave enough time to go deep on a story that merits real work.
For all that, we will pay you about $21,500 with BC/BS, dental, mileage and 401K.
And, you have to be a good team player and do your share of the piddling work — typing, social news, etc.
We are few and we all have each other’s backs. I do want someone who will be a good fit.
And obviously this job would require relocation.
After reading it I decided to decline. Instead I applied to two local jobs that deal with writing and editing. That way I can at least put to use what I learned in school.
A lot of people may be curious as to why I may not be as proactive in getting a newspaper job. After all, everyone assumes that I should at least give it shot. It will give me experience and you know how the old saying goes: “You should at least do it for a little while even if you don’t like it.”
That is where I draw the line. I’ve been around enough miserable people (plus from my own experience) to know that there is no worse feeling than reporting everyday to a job you cannot stand. I’ve literally made a personal promise to myself that it will never happen again. My current part-time grocery store job is one of the few jobs I’ve had that I can honestly say I love showing up to work for. My coworkers are like family and I like the place so much that I’m actually willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to serve our customers. In a nutshell, that it what having a dream job is all about. Do I want to be there forever making slightly above minimum wage? No. But I do consider myself fortunate to actually enjoy what I’m doing for a living. Besides, I still stay with my folks so it’s not like I have to worry about rent and bills (thank God).
It seems that striving to catch up to my peers has caused me to really develop a misguided view of success. I’ve always believed that true success will come once I earn a huge salary, live in a huge house, and finally land a major book deal (all three will happen for me), but I must admit that I feel successful everyday I wake up. I’m college educated, working a job I enjoy, have a loving family, a great girlfriend, great friends, a great credit score, plenty of money saved in the bank, and I’ve never been in trouble with the law. Sounds like I’m living a darn good life after all!
The following is a quote from the Anime Movie Guide by Helen McCarthy. The excerpt is from a review of Hayao Miyazaki’s film Kiki’s Delivery Service (which is one of the best animated family films ever).
“She also has to confront the possibility that life may not work out just as she wants it to; her talents may fail her, she may not be a big success, and maybe she’ll just have to get by on hard work, good nature and kindness. Her faith in herself waivers, and it takes the help of good friends to restore it; but she comes to realize that, whatever special talents or abilities people may have, it’s their human qualities that make them special in themselves.”
This quote sounded so great that I just had to put it in here even if it kind of doesn’t relate to this story. Well, I’ll take a shot at tying it in.
The point I wish to make is that success means different things to different people. Don’t ever get so caught up in getting ahead in life and impressing others, that you forget what‘s truly important. Often, when we think to ourselves that life isn’t going the way we would like, it may be that you’re actually doing the right thing all along. Sometimes you just have to keep working hard at things and wait for them to turn around. Just because I’ve applied to a ton of jobs without hearing back from any doesn’t mean that I will give up. I’ll keep applying and in the meantime, I’ll try my best to not complain and to continue enjoying life, because when I stop and really think about it, I’m really thankful to be where I’m at in life.