Ghibli Challenge #END – Arrietty, Graves of the Fireflies

This is it (minus a couple stubs that I lost).

I figured I need to wrap it up sooner or later, and it’s already late.

Because I saw only a screener of Arrietty and I’m not suppose to blog about it until some pre-determined time, I’ll keep my impressions mostly focused on the things you really should know. Well, I guess given it’s due out next week, RIGHT NOW is the time to blog about Arrietty, right, Disney? Never mind that the Japanese Blu-ray has been out for some time.

So I saw Arrietty some time in January. I figured it would be a great way to cap out the 12-days-of-Ghibli thing I’ve had going. And it was. Except it was not the 12th film. More like the 10th film. And I didn’t ever get to number 12. It was on a snowy afternoon that I trained up the west side to Symphony Space. The place was packed, given that it snowed quite a bit the night before. Lots of kids, as it was an 11am showing.

Well, no matter. I made it just in time and the screening was even delayed. I figured it also had to do with the snow.

Walking out of the theater I was actually stoked to find out that the NY International Children’s Film Fest, the #1 destination of new anime films in the city, was hosting A Letter to Momo. That and Shinkai’s Hoshi ou o Kodomo. The latter I’ve seen enough times (thanks Otakon!) and knowing what the former is, I am really excited. You should go see it when you can. Anyway.

Arrietty is awesome in the sense that there’s a real impression of scale and sound and smallness and the oppressiveness of large, vertical archetecture. And there’s some parkour-ish stuff. The dub was solid. For Ghibli, it’s rather intense.

Also, gosh, that hairclip. SO MOE.

Film #11 was Graves of the Fireflies, and I cheated here: It’s just something I saw on home video because it has been way too long since I’ve last seen it, I had to come up with something of an opinion on the film for a feature I’m working on for Jtor. I’m always kind of conflicted counting Graves as a Ghibli film, because it is not–they don’t own it. It is Ghibli-made, so that’s what counts, but as a result of not owning it (or rather, their parent company not owning it), you never get to see it along with the rest of the Ghibli films and they can’t publish it in the same trade dress that Disney is pumping out in Japan for the BD re-releases of Ghibli’s lineup.

I’m not sure what is there to say about it besides that it’s definitely the best Takahata film. I would also like to call it the best slice-of-life anime, motivated because that’s what it is and I want to mock people who group anime by such a label.

The other thing is, as much as it is a quality war flim, Graves was a much better experience for me as a film about poverty–the inability to meet the needs of the neediest in society. Sure, there’s this war context that drives the changes in the lives of the children, but it is a giant decoy. The problem is not so much about the circumstances, but the human relationship that was driven and tested by the circumstances. When you stop and actually think about the story (something I recommend you do with caution, for Ghibli films, unless it is Spirited Away) you might have different opinions based on your context with WW2 in Japan. But that’s not really the focus here. It’s plainly the tragedy as a result of the war and the breaking down of the social structure, that safety web, which normally holds a society and the people in it together. It isn’t that everyone in Japan is a starving war orphans–in fact, plenty of people are doing fine, even if many are strained by the events going on. It is the most vulnerable and unfortunate among society that suffers the sort of fate we see in Graves.

What is truly shocking is that this is something that happens over and over again, across the world. Even today. But if you were stuck on the war context you might not be able to connect the dot. I mean, ever read The Grapes of Wrath? Many different things can drive that sort of unraveling of societal ties. War is just the easy one.

Of course, I think the film can be enjoyable if you just allow yourself to wallow in the pitifulness of it all. And maybe that is its intent. But I think that would be short-changing a fairly powerful portrayal of suffering. Furthermore, it’s really a downer! How can you enjoy something like this without at least contextualizing it a little? It’s like, it feels bad feeling good seeing the way those slick American bombers were illustrated, bringing horrific suffering to innocent civilians. But dude, they’re so shiny!

And thus ends the Ghibli Challenge. GKID’s Ghibli festival has already made landfall in California and some other place I think. It’s going to be Austin this month, so catch it there! Catch it everywhere!


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