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Studio Ghibli Reviews (Mark 2)
sweevo
I'll find out tonight, dragonq - in a way, it's kind of sad that I'm knowingly reviewing the last ever Studio Ghibli film, since it may not survive without Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata to help run it.
 
sweevo
Good news: "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" will be released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on 13 July, so get your pre-orders ready (I have the Japanese version, so I'm OK). Smile Tomorrow is the review of "When Marnie Was There", finally ready after much technical hassle.
 
sweevo
My final SG review is up at long last!

28. When Marnie Was There (2014)

Sapporo-based 12-year-old Anna Sasaki is a social (and emotional) recluse. Following an asthma attack at her local school, she is sent to the countryside to recover, taking up residence with Setsu and Kiyomasa Oiwa, relatives of her adoptive mother, Yoriko. While living in the seaside town of Kushiro with her temporary carers, Anna begins to have visions of a girl named Marnie, who lives in a mansion on the marsh, and the two eventually meet on the night of the Tanabata festival. Anna is convinced that she has known Marnie before - with the aid of a local painter named Hisako, an eccentric (and near-silent) fisherman named Toichi and a girl named Sayaka, the latest resident of the marsh mansion, Anna begins to uncover the truth behind the mystery that is Marnie and the marsh mansion.

This is Hiromasa Yonebayashi's second film with Studio Ghibli, and it seems appropriate that he took cues in storytelling and characterisation from each of his mentors (Arrietty has more of a Hayao Miyazaki influence, with themes of hope, triumph and often bordering on fantasy, while this film seems to take its inspiration from the works of Isao Takahata, primarily Only Yesterday, to which it feels like a spiritual successor, as it is more focused in the real world and centres more on human drama), showing that he can handle both realism and fantasy but at the same time knowing when to reveal enough during a key scene, a mistake which both Miyazaki and Takahata have made a few times in their careers (Takahata tends to rely on telling rather than showing, while Miyazaki takes the opposite approach). Will Yonebayashi continue to prove himself? Only time will tell.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 stars - and what a way to end the Studio Ghibli legacy Smile
Edited by sweevo on 27 September 2015 20:33:36
 
sweevo
Another one up (I'm surprised the studio is still active despite the death of co-founder Isao Takahata and on/off "retirement" of Hayao Miyazaki):

29. Earwig and the Witch (2020) (TV Movie)

An orphan girl named Earwig (no, seriously, that's her name) goes from foster home to foster home with varying results until she is taken in by a self-centred witch named Bella Yaga and her husband, an aspiring writer with a soft heart (but not much talent) called Mandrake. Earwig (who goes by the name Erica Wigg) is not your typical Studio Ghibli protagonist: she's manipulative, morally ambiguous and even callous in some regards, a sort of darker version of Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service - she can craft nearly any situation to her desired outcome thanks to her quick thinking and scheming, although she offers a softer side to those who are genuinely decent people. Earwig learns her biological mother was part of a semi-punk rock band of the same name, and she sets out to discover the secrets behind her new guardians' eccentricities, eventually learning to brew spells and potions.

This is the third film directed by Goro Miyazaki, after the 2006 train wreck that is Tales from Earthsea and the 2011 improvement that is From Up on Poppy Hill. I hate to say this, but this is quite easily the worst film the studio has put out since TFE and, to a lesser extent, Pom Poko by Isao Takahata (although that one falters due to its lack of accessibility to Western audiences and ending fatigue, which is a Takahata trademark). This film is based on a posthumously-released novel by Dianna Wynne Jones, whose most iconic work is the 1986 fantasy story Howl's Moving Castle, which was also adapted into a movie by the studio in 2004. A large part of criticism is directed at the film's 3D/CGI look, a first for Studio Ghibli, which is a bit of a shame as they are known for doing their own thing amidst a sea of wannabe Pixars, and this movie is no Pixar. The story itself isn't bad but the execution falls flat for about half of its runtime - as stated, Earwig almost comes off as the antagonist due to the poor writing, and the haphazard direction doesn't help. Originally a TV movie, it was due for a theatrical release this spring, which was postponed due to the ongoing (at the time of writing this review) Covid-19 pandemic.

Final Score: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars - 1 star off for crappy main character, 1 star off for amateur direction (Goro, you're not your father - From Up on Poppy Hill is your best work and that's only because your dad was involved in writing the story) and 1/2 star off for an abrupt ending which solves next to nothing. For completists only, although it is worth watching at least once.
 
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