Howl’s Moving Castle is one of Studio Ghibli’s best films. Jeff and George reviewed the Hayao Miyazaki film during the original blu-ray release in 2013 on Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show). Read on to see if this is a film you should buy.
Jeff: Howl’s Moving Castle, while it’s not as good as My Neighbor Totoro, it’s certainly up there in my opinion. The story of a young girl named Sophie, trying to break a curse from the Witch of Waste, boards Howl’s moving castle right into a world of fantasy. The plot is obviously more clear this go-round, and the film is still fantastic.
George: Agreed. Howl’s Moving Castle is a bit more romantic and always struck me as a film designed more for teens. It’s another film that we’ve watched countless times and never seems to lose its magic. Like My Neighbor Totoro, I wasn’t prepared for how spectacular Howl’s Moving Castle looks. It’s obvious that the skills of the Studio Ghibli staff grew tremendously over the 16 years that separate My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Not that Totoro isn’t beautiful, it’s just that Howl’s Moving Castle is simply stunning.
Jeff: Just like My Neighbor Totoro‘s transfer, Howl’s Moving Castle looks beyond words on Blu-Ray. The picture is crisp and clear, and allows you to see things you may have never noticed before. I’m absolutely impressed by how much work went into these conversions, as they are probably two of the best I have ever seen before, Disney or otherwise.
George: The blu-ray release of Howl’s Moving Castle is hurt only by the lack of any major extras. There are a few, like one about the voices, but they don’t offer anything for dedicated fans. The history and ground-breaking films of Studio Ghibli would enable some amazing special features. There definitely needed to be an introduction to the studio on these Blu-ray releases, especially for the Ghibli newb.
Jeff: I was a little struck by the lack of major special features, especially after the wealth of them on Totoro‘s disc. However, the few provided are enjoyable, if not a little lackluster. George is right, though: having a sort of introduction to Studio Ghibili on these discs would go a long way to help newer fans learn a little more about the company. In all, though, the lack of extras shouldn’t deter you from buying the disc. It’s well worth the price. Adding both of these films to your collection is highly recommended, especially in their superior, Blu Ray form.
Have you seen Howl’s Moving Castle? What’s your favorite Studio Ghibli film?
My Neighbor Totoro was released on blu-ray in 2013. Jeff and George covered it on Communicore Weekly during the original release of this Studio Ghibli classic. Have you seen this amazing film by Hayao Miyazaki?
George: My Neighbor Totoro, hands down, is one of the best animated films ever made. I wouldn’t hesitate to even say it’s one of the best films, period. I first saw My Neighbor Totoro after watching Spirited Away on DVD in 2003. I was instantly a Miyazaki fan. We’ve collected each movie that’s been released on dvd and blu-ray. Easily, we’ve watched My Neighbor Totoro more than 20 times and it still fascinates and charms us.
Jeff: Just like George, I fell in love with the film on dvd in the early 2000s. I’ve been lucky enough to see it in the theater once for a special, limited engagement, and every time I see it, I fall in love more and more. It’s charming and adorable, and it just gets better and better upon each viewing. I have to say that this blu-ray conversion of the film is quite possible the best version of the film I’ve ever seen.
George: What shocked me about the blu-ray was the sound. Of course, the visuals are absolutely gorgeous on blu-ray but I wasn’t expecting the soundtrack to pop including the addition of some of the sound effects. Granted, they’ve always been there, but they weren’t as noticeable on the dvd transfer. There were points when the music swelled and simply captivated us.
Jeff: Not only is the sound a stand-out, but the transfer is absolutely breath-taking as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes! How could a film released in 1988 look so good on blu-ray?! It’s absolutely amazing. All in all, this film is a total win all around. While it may not even contain a coherent story (being more of a bunch of scenes loosely connected together), it is still an absolutely stunning film from beginning to end. My Neighbor Totoro is a blu ray truly worthy of the film itself.
George: One of the things I love about Studio Ghibli films is that, often, there isn’t a clear villain or a villain at all. Like the incredible Ponyo, which is a story about love, My Neighbor Totoro is a film about a family and village that grow together and learn more about loving each other. It truly is a spectacular experience that begs nothing but for you to enjoy it. Disney has included a few extras with My Neighbor Totoro that add a lot to the blu-ray. Unlike the other Studio Ghibli blu-ray, where Disney just included the short DVD extras, Totoro includes interviews with Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki about the creation of the film and Studio Ghibli. By far, the best special was the locations of Totoro. We go on a journey to discover some of the real locations that inspired the film and the locations that were inspired by the film.
Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? Tell us what you think about this Studio Ghibli film.
Hayao Miyazaki is one of the most acclaimed and respected filmmakers in the world. He’s been called a modern Walt Disney, which isn’t an inaccurate description; Miyazaki has pushed the boundaries of animated filmmaking beyond anyone else. The Wind Rises is his final full-length animated film, as he announced his retirement in 2013. Of course, there are hopes that he will continue with smaller projects.
Studio Ghibli was formed in 1985 and has released 19 films, including Ponyo, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Howl’s Moving Castle and the incomparable My Neighbor Totoro. Once you experience a Studio Ghibli film, it changes the way you see animation and filmmaking. The Walt Disney Company has distributed Studio Ghibli films in North America since 1996. They currently share theatrical rights with Gkids.
The Wind Rises
If you’ve ever watched a Miyazaki film, then you know that he has a deep love of airplanes and flying. With his final film, Miyazaki pays tribute to Japanese aviation by adapting his manga series that is a fictional account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a designer of several aircraft used by the Empire of Japan in World War II. It’s a bittersweet film that seems to mirror Miyazaki’s career with his desire to simply create something beautiful.
Like every Studio Ghibli film, the animation is simply breathtaking. The animation is on a level unlike what you’ll see anywhere else, including films by Pixar and the Walt Disney Studios. I’m sure that Miyazaki is beholden to budgets and restrictions, but his films are filled with details that bring his worlds to life. There are moments that are so sublime in The Wind Rises that you forget you’re watching an animated film. Nature is so important to Miyazaki and becomes a central character in the landscape. During one scene, in particular, Jiro is approaching Naoko near a spring. The camera pans along the stream and there’s a white flower. It’s unnecessary but adds to the depth and the complexity.
The film is full of moments like this, whether it’s a train full of people or a tiny, fat baby strapped to someone’s back. The detail is simply too amazing to comprehend at times. The Wind Rises is incredibly beautiful. Beyond the animation, Miyazaki has created a story that pulls you along. The characters are fully realized and you develop a vested interest in them. Naoko looks at Jiro and you can see the love in her during one very emotional scene. It’s not simply written on her face, but it’s a very nuanced animation that let’s us share her emotional space.
The film is also very long. To the point that people who aren’t already fans of Studio Ghibli might dismiss it or review it poorly because it’s not suited for modern filmgoers who are looking for a quick laugh or memorable song. One of my first thoughts after the film was how it compared to Frozen, which is arguably one of the most popular animated films since The Lion King. I thought that The Wind Rises made Frozen look like a film for a child.
Frozen was beautiful and very well done, but there’s not much that can stand toe-to-toe with a film by Hayao Miyazaki; that’s simply the truth.
If you are an animation fan, you need to see this film. You owe it to yourself.
It has received critical reviews in Japan and America and was the highest grossing film in Japan in 2013. Word of mouth will help the film, but getting adults to see an animated film is a challenge. It is rated PG-13, but there wasn’t anything that I felt was inappropriate for my eleven year-old. The PG-13 rating was assigned based on the prevalence of tobacco use and some disturbing images. Still, both of my sons (15 and 11) completely enjoyed the film. We brought one of my oldest son’s friends, who was not familiar with Studio Ghibli films, and he enjoyed it as well. My youngest son proclaimed that The Wind Rises was awesome. I have to agree.
I urge you to see The Wind Rises. It is simply one of the best animated films you will ever see.
Have you seen The Wind Rises? What is your favorite Studio Ghibli film?
George: We’ve got two blu-ray releases from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Studio Ghibli for you this week. One of them, we’ve been waiting for many years and the other one turns out to be a surprise! Disney has released many of the Studio Ghibli films in the United States, including spending time, talent and money to make amazing English-language dubs of the films. Spearheaded by John Lasseter, the Studio Ghibli films were brought to US audiences with a lot of fanfare and love. Anyone that’s followed Communicore Weekly knows that we’re both huge fans of Studio Ghibli.
Jeff: Let’s start with the title I didn’t know much about first. The Cat Returns is one of those weird things I literally had no idea what to expect. But, being Ghibli, how could I go wrong, right? RIGHT! The Cat Returns is about a young girl named Haru who saves the life of a cat. And then things get…weird. The cat begins to talk to her and somehow has her wondering what it would be like to marry a cat. In American culture, we have only seen something as weird as this in Howard the Duck, but in Anime, anything goes.
George: The Cat Returns is a very interesting title and one that my family had seen before. Like most Studio Ghibli films, it might seem a little strange to Western audiences, but it has a charm that’s hard to deny. The style is not as realistic as the Miyazaki-produced films and it retains more of the manga-feel that inspired the film, Two of the main characters are featured in the Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart and continue their roles in this film.
Jeff: And, let’s be honest, I’ll watch anything with Kristen Bell’s name on it. That said, the film surprised me a bit. It was really enjoyable, and not at all what I expected. The extra features were just OK, though. The “behind the voices” thing just doesn’t seem to be all that great, on any disc, and more fluff than anything else. But the story boards were fun to watch, and see how the scenes evolved from concept to final form.
George: It’s not the best Studio Ghibli film, but it is a fantastic animated film that most people (of all ages) will enjoy. It has a really good pacing and the art style lends itself well to the subject matter. And cat fans are really going to love it, especially the scenes with Moota. It looks great and sounds great on blu-ray, as well.
Jeff: Like George said, it’s not the best, and heck, it’s not even the weirdest! But it’s up there. I just want to visit the Cat Kingdom, though. Sounds like a full day trip!
George: Disney’s Cat Kingdom? Do you really want to spend all day being ignored?
Jeff: I’m strangely OK with that. SPEAKING OF strange, how about the next blu-ray, Spirited Away? Who DOESN’T love this film? For many, this is the first Studio Ghibli film we saw, and fell in love with.
George: Like many Studio Ghibli fans, I saw this film during it’s initial DVD release in 2002. I remember that my oldest son (who was almost 5) watched it with us and he begged to watch it a second time. It was enchanting, mesmerizing and confusing; it is really hard to explain to people what makes the film so magical. But it is.
Jeff: It’s just…weird. But in a good way. I remember watching it for that first release in 2002, also, scratching my head and going “WHAT IS THIS?” And then growing to love it more and more on each viewing. The story involves a young girl, and her parents getting turned into pigs, and then working in a bath house, and, and, and…it’s just weird, you guys.
George: Weird but amazing. The first viewing often leaves people spellbound and wanting to know more (I always recommend this great book to learn more about the Studio Ghibli films). It’s obvious that the film is a masterpiece and is one that needs to be a permanent addition to your collection. Spirited Away has some of the most incredible animation that never gets in the way of the story, even with the Disney English-language dub.
Jeff: It really does shine on the blu-ray. It’s super crisp and clean, and it impresses me with how much they got the colors to pop. I mean, it’s not often something like this manages to impress me, even years later, but this one really knocked it out of the park. It made me remember WHY I loved this film so much when I first saw it years ago.
George: Sadly, the bonuses aren’t that exciting and I wish they had included some history of Ghibli Studios as well as some interpretations of the story for Western audiences. There’s the standard “Behind the Microphone” and a look at making the film, but nothing that would entice you to buy the blu-ray. Other than the amazing film.
Jeff: I did like the Nippon TV special, where they actually GO to the studio and interview key members of the team about the film. That said, it is presented in standard definition, as are most of the other extras, which is kind of a bummer. It’s a good thing the film itself is so stellar!
George: Even though Kristen Bell isn’t in Spirited Away?
Jeff: She IS in The Cat Returns, so I’ll let it slide.
George: Just like how these movies need to slide into everyone’s collection?
Jeff: We could do this all day, folks. But we probably won’t.
George: Or shouldn’t. So, definitely head out and buy Spirited Away. The Cat Returns is a good rental, but you’ll probably end up adding it to your collection, too!
This is a release that I’ve been waiting years for.
Spirited Away is the first Studio Ghibli film that I saw. I watched it with my son in 2003 (he was five) and he begged us to watch the film a second time. By far, it is one of my favorite films, along with My Neighbor Totoro, and it’s one that we’ve been waiting for the blu-ray release since Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment started releasing the Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki films
It’s really hard to explain Spirited Away, especially to someone who is not familiar with the works of Studio Ghibli or Hayao Miyazaki. When I’ve shared Spirited Away with non-animation fans, I’m amazed at how captivated they are with the film and the story.
Spirited Away is one film that every person should see.
If you want to learn more about Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki, check out our Studio Ghibli episode of Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show)!
Porco Rosso, Tales From Earthsea and Pom Poko are finally getting released on Blu-ray by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. These Studio Ghibli films aren’t the most popular, but they are still amazing works of art. Look for them on February 3, 2015!
The latest episode of Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show) is all about Hayao Miyazaki and the films of Studio Ghibli. We take an in-depth look at Miyazaki and his many films and we review the latest blu-ray releases. I also review a book about the films of Studio Ghibli and we share a Totoro-inspired Five Legged Goat!
If you’re a fan of Hayao Miyazaki and films by Studio Ghibli, then you’ll be very interested in picking up The Art of the Wind Rises.
The film saw limited release in the United States and dues to the timing, there wasn’t a lot of attention heaped onto the film. The film is gorgeous and I urge you to seek it out when it’s released on Blu-ray. The book is a great addition to your library and if full of pre-production art and text about the creation of the film.
Films from Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki are particularly stunning and true modern masterpieces. Disney owned the United States theatrical and home video release rights and spent a lot of time, money and effort to provide an amazing English translation and overdub work. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Ponyo are usually regarded as the most spectacular, although you can’t go wrong with any of the other Blu-ray and DVD releases that Disney had a hand in.
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Both films are fast-favorites at the Imaginerding household. Hands down, My Neighbor Totoro is one of our favorite films of all time and it’s one we watch over and over. I was excited for the Blu-ray release of both films for the hi-definition transfer. What I wasn’t prepared for was how good My Neighbor Totoro sounded. It was like watching a new film.