Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata by Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc

The first Studio Ghibli movie I ever saw was Spirited Away. At first I wasn’t sure what all the hullabaloo was about (yes, I DID just use the word “hullabaloo!”) Studio Ghibli films are not like animated films Americans are used to. They may not have a linear plot. You may only meet a character once and then never again. Or, a minor character may come back at the very end and suddenly be significant. Probably the closest counterpart in American culture is Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. But the art is usually breathtakingly beautiful, and the stories are unusual.

The first edition of this book published in 2009. This updated second edition examines not only the films under the Studio Ghibli brand, but also the work that led to the formation of Studio Ghibli. I’m much more familiar with Miyazaki’s work than Takahata’s.

Studio Ghibly Front Cover (Oldcastle Books)

Studio Ghibli Front Cover (Oldcastle Books)

 THE COVERAGE: The book begins with an introduction, including some background on Miyazaki and Takahata. Next is “The Pre-Ghibli Works of Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao.” These include some Nippon animated shows I’m going to have to look up, like “Anne of Green Gables” and Heidi.” Also included are feature films done before the formation of Studio Ghibli. Each has background information, summary, and discussion. These include:

  • Horusu: Prince of the Sun/The Little Norse Prince
  • Panda Kopanda
  • Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro
  • Downtown Story
  • Goshu the Cellist
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Then come The Studio Ghibli feature films. (Please note: the authors use the names and spellings from the UK releases; I am using those from the US.)

  • Castle in the Sky
  • The Story of the Yanagawa Canals
  • Grave of the Fireflies
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Only Yesterday
  • Porco Rosso
  • Ocean Waves
  • Pom Poko
  • Whisper of the Heart
  • Princess Mononoke
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas
  • Spirited Away
  • The Cat Returns
  • Howl’s Moving Castle
  • Tales from Earthsea
  • Ponyo
  • The Secret World of Arietty
  • From Up on Poppy Hill
  • The Wind Rises
  • The Tale of Princess Kaguya
  • When Marnie Was There

Then come a brief section on other projects, such as shorts.

MY TWO CENTS: This is a fairly short book and a quick read. I’ve seen most of the feature films discussed, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I was captivated enough by the background and descriptions to want to see a few more that I haven’t. (The exception is Grave of the Fireflies; I just really don’t need to see that one. I don’t care if it’s “beautiful.”) I learned quite a bit.

BOTTOM LINE: If you’re a Studio Ghibli fan, this book is a must-have. (If you’re not a fan, give something like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle a try. You might be surprisingly captivated.)

TEACUP RATING: I give the book 4 out of 5 teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata will be on sale in paperback and ebook formats on October 1, 2015.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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