Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Blu-ray out today in North America

Studio Ghibli fans in North America have new reason to celebrate today with the release of Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) on Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks.

Until now, only five Studio Ghibli films were available on Blu-ray in North America, all courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.  An many fans are already aware, Grave of the Fireflies was not one of the titles that Disney acquired the home video distribution rights to following the Disney-Tokuma deal in the late 1990's.  Due to this fact, many fans wondered if the title would ever be released on Blu-ray in North America after the initial release in Japan earlier this year.  The fact that Sentai Filmworks announced a North American Blu-ray release only a few months following the Japanese release was a welcome surprise not only to anime fans, but also fans of the HD format in general.
As reported previously, Sentai Filmworks has included a brand new English dub produced by Seraphim Digital on this release.  The new English voice cast includes Adam Gibbs as Seita, Emily Neves as Setsuko, Shelley Calene-Black as the children's mother, Marcy Bannor as their aunt, and various additional actors whose names will probably be familiar to frequent anime viewers.
As far as picture and sound quality go, the North American Blu-ray release features a 1080p high definition video transfer with the original Japanese audio track and new English dub presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The Japanese audio track can be selected with or without subtitles, depending on the viewer's preference.  The original 1998 English dub, as featured on the previous home video releases of the film, is also included as a selectable track. Special features include a Japanese theatrical trailer, storyboards, and deleted scenes storyboards.
An early Blu-ray review is already available from DVDBeaver and the title can be ordered from just in time for the holidays for $19.99.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Nausicaä manga box set out today

Available today in North America from publisher VIZ Media is the brand new, deluxe hardcover box set of Hayao Miyazaki's epic manga masterpiece Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

The manga series, previously available in a seven-volume "Editor's Choice" edition in North America from VIZ Media, was originally written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki over a period of twelve years. The full series ran in Animage magazine from February 1982 to March 1994, although only the first sixteen chapters were used as the basis for the 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. After the film's release, interest in the manga in Japan increased dramatically, resulting in sales of more than 10 million copies.

The new North American set contains the complete manga series in two deluxe hardcover volumes, packaged inside a decorative slip box. Each volume includes illustrations and text printed in classic sepia-tone as well as an additional eight pages of full-color artwork. An exclusive two-sided fold-out full-color poster is also included, rounding out the set nicely.

The Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind deluxe box set is available on for $34.58.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Isao Takahata

This past Monday, October 29, 2012, marked the 76th birthday of animator, director, and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata.

Born on October 29, 1935 in Ujiyamada, Mie prefecture, Japan, Takahata became interested in animation at a young age after seeing the French animated feature Le Roi et l'oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird).  After joining Toei Animation almost by chance, he made his directorial debut with 1968's Hols: Prince of the Sun (Taiyō no Ōji: Horusu no Daibōken).  After the film failed commercially, Takahata attempted to make an animated feature based on Pippi Longstocking, a character created by children's book author Astrid Lindgren.  When the project didn't pan out, he moved into television animation, directing several episodes of popular anime series including Lupin III (Rupan Sansei), Heidi, Girl of the Alps (Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji), 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (Haha o Tazunete Sanzenri), and Anne of Green Gables (Akage no An).

After the success of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no Tani no Naushika), Hayao Miyazaki invited Takahata to join the newly-founded Studio Ghibli.  There Takahata would go on to direct films including Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka), Only Yesterday (Omohide Poro Poro), Pom Poko (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko), and, most recently, My Neighbors the Yamadas (Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun) in 1999.

Takahata is currently in production on a new feature, a film rumored to be based on a 10th century Japanese folktale known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari), which is due out next year in Japan.  Grave of the Fireflies, the first film directed by Takahata after joining Studio Ghibli, is currently available for pre-order on for $16.99 and is scheduled for release on Blu-ray for the first time in North America on November 20, 2012.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pre-order Grave of the Fireflies on Blu-ray

In a little less than four weeks, Isao Takahata's 1988 animated masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) will make its Blu-ray debut in North America courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

As reported previously, the Blu-ray release will feature a a 1080p high definition video transfer with the original Japanese audio track and a new English dub presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.
The title is currently available for pre-order at for only $17.98, an affordable price point, especially when compared to Disney's standard release week pricing of Studio Ghibli titles.
Grave of the Fireflies arrives on store shelves in North America on November 20, 2012.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Neppū magazine now available digitally

Studio Ghibli's monthly magazine Neppū, previously obtainable in printed form only from bookstores in Japan, is now available for free download from the studio's official website.

Neppū magazine's October 2012 issue (source)

According to an article published by Anime News Network, Studio Ghibli made the announcement regarding the magazine's new digital format early last week after Japanese fans reported difficulty in obtaining printed copies from local sources.  The monthly magazine is a free handout that serves as a line of communication between the studio and its fans, providing a behind-the-scenes look at their work in animation as well as information on various goings-on within the company and the lives of their employees.  In print since January 2003, this month's issue marks the first time the magazine will be distributed digitally and made widely accessible to fans outside Japan.

The October issue of Neppū will be available for download in PDF format at Studio Ghibli's official site until November 11, 2012.  Additional issues are expected to be posted each month.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two new Blu-rays headed for U.K. release

In a little less than four weeks, Studio Ghibli fans in the United Kingdom will be able to add two classic Hayao Miyazaki films to their Blu-ray collections.

StudioCanal, a French-based production and distribution company, recently announced plans to release Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (Rupan Sansei: Kariosutoro no Shiro) and My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in the United Kingdom on November 12, 2012.  Both films were directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released in Japan in 1979 and 1988, respectively.  Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) was also rumored to be getting a Blu-ray release on the same day, but it appears as though that is not the case, as no official announcement has been made and the title is not currently listed on online stores.

Counting "pre-Ghibli" films Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Kaze no Tani no Naushika), ten Studio Ghibli Blu-rays will be in available in the United Kingdom by the end of November.  This clearly beats the six titles that will be shelves in North America after Grave of the Fireflies is released next month.  However, since the U.K. releases are typically Region B-locked, fans in North America will either have to wait patiently for Disney to play catch up or resort to importing the titles directly from Japan.

Although a future Disney release My Neighbor Totoro on Blu-ray in North America is pretty much guaranteed, the chances of Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro in high-definition are a little less certain.  Manga Entertainment released a "Special Edition" DVD version of the film in 2006, but their ownership of the home video license is said to have expired in the last few years.  Maybe, if we're lucky, a studio such as GKIDS or Sentai Filmworks will pick up the license, if available, and release this film on Blu-ray in North America once and for all.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Japan Airlines jet illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki

From a princess who soars through the post-apocalyptic skies on her glider in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wing to a former fighter-pilot-turned-pig in Porco Rosso, to say that Hayao Miyazaki has an appreciation for aircraft would be a huge understatement.  That fascination reached a new level recently when Japan Airlines revealed a Boeing 787 jetliner decorated with illustrations by contest-winning children and the Studio Ghibli founder himself.

Artwork adorns the side of a Boeing 787 jetliner (source)

Anime News Network has shared a story published by the Mainichi Shimbun, a major newspaper in Japan, detailing the results of the "Fly the Skies" program, an art contest held by Japan Airlines (JAL) from 2007 to 2008.  After a delay in the project in the years since, a group of seven children were selected as winners from a group of over 13,000 participants.  Their artwork, along with a piece by Miyazaki, now adorns the side of one of JAL's flagship airplanes.

Miyazaki's contribution is an illustration from one of his short films (source)

As a continuation of the program, JAL will screen Miyazaki's 2002 short film Kūsō no Sora Tobu Kikaitachi (Imaginary Flying Machines) and Porco Rosso on future flights.  During production, JAL served as a major investor in Porco Rosso after originally commissioning it as a short film based on Miyazaki's manga Hikōtei Jidai (The Age of the Flying Boat) for transatlantic flights.

Friday, October 12, 2012

From Up on Poppy Hill nominated for ASPA

Gorō Miyazaki's 2011 film From Up on Poppy Hill (Kokuriko-zaka Kara) has been nominated for an Asia Pacific Screen Award in the category of "Best Animated Feature Film."

The Asia Pacific Screen Awards, now in their sixth year, aim to "recognize and promote the cinematic excellence and cultural diversity of the vast Asia Pacific region."  The organization is headquartered in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and credits their awards as "the region’s highest accolade in film," holding an annual ceremony in November since 2007.  This year's event is scheduled to take place on November 23, 2012 in Brisbane and will be streamed live online.

Studio Ghibli shares their nomination in the "Best Animated Feature Film" category with fellow Japanese productions A Letter to Momo (Momo e no Tegami), Rainbow Fireflies (Niji-Iro Hotaru: Eien no Natsu Yasumi), and Wolf Children (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki)Happy Feet Two, the sole film from Australia, rounds out the nominations.

GKIDS will handle theatrical and home video distribution of From Up on Poppy Hill in North America.  A theatrical release date of March 15, 2013 has been set for New York and Los Angeles with more cities in the following weeks.  The English dub cast was previously revealed late last week and includes Sarah Bolger and Anton Yelchin in the lead roles, with well-known actors Ron Howard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Gillian Anderson, and Beau Bridges voicing supporting characters.  An English-language trailer is expected to be released sometime this fall.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New hardcover Nausicaä manga box set

Publisher VIZ Media has announced plans to release a new, deluxe hardcover box set of Hayao Miyazaki's epic manga masterpiece Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in North America.

The manga series, currently available in a seven-volume "Editor's Choice" edition in North America from VIZ Media, was originally written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki over a period of twelve years.  The full series ran in Animage magazine from February 1982 to March 1994, although only the first sixteen chapters were used as the basis for the 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  After the film's release, interest in the manga in Japan increased dramatically, resulting in sales of more than 10 million copies.

The new North American set will contain the complete manga series in two deluxe hardcover volumes, packaged inside a decorative slip box.  Each volume will include illustrations and text printed in classic sepia-tone as well as an additional eight pages of full-color artwork.  An exclusive two-sided fold-out full-color poster is also included, rounding out the set nicely.

The deluxe box set is scheduled to be in stores on November 6, 2012 and is currently available for pre-order on  The individual "Editor's Choice" editions are also still available and can be found at many online retailers for around $10.00 each.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grave of the Fireflies gets new English dub

Sentai Filmworks upcoming Blu-ray release of Isao Takahata's 1988 war tragedy Grave of the Fireflies will feature a brand new English dub, according to specifications on the case artwork.

Although a list of voice actors and other details are not yet available, it has been reported that the new dub is being produced by Seraphim Digital, a post-production studio based in Houston, Texas that has extensive experience in dubbing Japanese films and television series in English.

According to the case artwork, the Blu-ray release will feature a 1080p high definition video transfer with the original Japanese audio track and new English dub presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  The original English dub, as featured on the previous home video releases of the film, is also listed for inclusion.  Special features include a Japanese theatrical trailer, storyboards, and deleted scenes storyboards.
Sentai Filmworks' Grave of the Fireflies Blu-ray arrives on store shelves November 20, 2012 and is currently available for pre-order on for $19.99.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Meet the English cast of From Up on Poppy Hill

An article published by Variety has revealed the English language cast of Gorō Miyazaki's From Up on Poppy Hill, set for a North American theatrical release on March 15, 2013.

From Up on Poppy Hill recording session (source)
The article, published today, adds to the list of names previously revealed by various media sources.  As it stands, the cast includes Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern, Christina Hendricks, Ron Howard, Chris Noth, Aubrey Plaza, Anton Yelchin, Sarah Bolger, Beau Bridges, Jeff Dunham, Isabelle Fuhrman, Emily Osment, Charles Saxton, and Alex Wolff.  Gary Rydstrom, director of the English language versions of Tales from Earthsea and The Secret World of Arrietty, returns as director for this project, along with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, who served as executive products of Ponyo and The Secret World of Arrietty.

Recording took place as recently as August 24, 2012 (source)
As reported previously, GKIDS will handle theatrical and home video distribution of the film in North America, making in the first time a new Studio Ghibli title will not be released by Disney.  I was personally able to confirm a North America theatrical release date of March 13, 2012 in New York and Los Angeles, with "more cities opening every week after that."  Here's hoping that the film enjoys a wide release and long run so that fans everywhere get a chance to enjoy what appears to be another heartwarming classic from Studio Ghibli.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Another two Blu-rays in Japan

By the end of the year, animation fans in Japan will be able to add two more classic animated masterpieces from Studio Ghibli to their Blu-ray collections.

Hayao Miyazaki's 1989 heartwarming classic Kiki's Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) and Isao Takahata's 1991 gentle drama Only Yesterday (Omoide Poro Poro) are scheduled to make their Blu-ray debut in Japan on December 5, 2012.

Although we can probably expect a Kiki's Delivery Service Blu-ray release from Disney in the not-so-distance future, seeing Only Yesterday in high definition might be a little trickier if you live in North America.  The film is one of only two Studio Ghibli titles to have never been dubbed in English or released on home video in North America, the other being the 1993 television movie Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru), directed by Tomomi Mochizuki.  It wasn't until last year that these films had a proper North American debut, premiering theatrically for the first time in the United States at the IFC Center's Studio Ghibli Retrospective, an event made possible after GKIDS acquired theatrical distribution rights to Studio Ghibli's back catalog from Disney in 2011.

GKIDS is set to handle both theatrical and home video distribution of Gorō Miyazaki's From Up on Poppy Hill in 2013, so there may be the slightest possibility that they will do what Disney never did and finally release Only Yesterday on home video in North America.  Until then, the best option may be to import Only Yesterday if you wish to have a complete Studio Ghibli Blu-ray collection anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grave of the Fireflies Blu-ray coming to North America

Sentai Filmworks will release Isao Takahata's 1988 animated masterpiece Grave of the Fireflies on Blu-ray in North America this November.

The company, which describes itself as "one of the fastest-growing anime companies in North America," previously announced that they had acquired the North American distribution rights to the film and released a digitally-remastered DVD in March of this year.  The Blu-ray edition is scheduled to hit store shelves on November 20, 2012 and is currently available for pre-order on for $21.99.
Also available from Sentai Filmworks in November is Makoto Shinkai's 2011 film Children Who Chase Lost Voices (Hoshi o Ou Kodomo), which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD and will feature both the original Japanese language track with subtitles as well as a newly-recorded English dub.
If you are a Studio Ghibli fan and aren't already familiar with this film, you should definitely check it out.  As you can see from the cover art alone, the look of the characters is very "Ghibli-inspired" and the story reminds me a lot of some of the fantastical worlds created by Hayao Miyazaki in his films.  Both the Blu-ray and DVD editions are up for pre-order on Amazon and scheduled for release on November 13, 2012.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New cover art for Grave of the Fireflies DVD

As reported last month, Sentai Filmworks has acquired the North American home video license for Grave of the Fireflies and will release the film on DVD on March 6, 2012.  Recently, cover artwork for the new edition has been posted on the pre-order page.


Although the new cover is similiar to that of the previous DVD edition released by Section23 Films in 2009, the inclusion of film ratings by critics on the cover is a nice touch and I like the overall sophisticated look of the updated design.  It seems as though Sentai Filmworks holds this title with respect and I hope they have the option to release the film on Blu-ray in North America once it is released in Japan sometime in the future.

Let's hope that by getting this title back on the shelves, Sentai Filmworks will create new legions of  Studio Ghibli fans who haven't already discovered the works of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki.  This film was one of the first few I watched after discovering the studio and it definitely deserves to be seen all over the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Is Disney preparing to dub Kokuriko-zaka Kara in English?

Walt Disney Studios may be in the process of prepping Gorō Miyazaki's 2011 film Kokuriko-zaka Kara for an English language dub.

Japanese theatrical poster for Kokuriko-zaka Kara

Den of Geek! published an interview last week with producer and long-time Steven Spielberg collaborator Kathleen Kennedy, who served as producer on Disney's English language dubs of Ponyo and The Secret World of Arrietty, due in North American theaters February 17, 2012. 

In the interview, Kennedy discusses her years of work as a producer as well as Spielberg's recent films War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, and briefly touches on her collaboration with Disney and Studio Ghibli on the English dubs of their two recent films:

"They came to us because, for a wide variety of reasons, they wanted to understand why Miyazaki’s movies were so popular in Japan, and didn’t necessarily translate to an American audience. And I can’t say that, by any means, we’ve come up with the answer, but I think that each time - and we’re going onto the third collaboration with them - we learn something. And that’s really been what the process has been, we’ve been trying to help them bridge the gap with the people that are doing the marketing and distribution of their movies in the United States."
At this point, I think it's safe to assume that the "third collaboration" she mentions will be on Kokuriko-zaka Kara, Goro Miyazaki's second film, released in Japan on July 16, 2011.

It is still way too early to tell whether Disney plans a theatrical run of the film in North America or if they will go the Tales of Earthsea route, which was released direct-to-DVD alongside Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind's North American Blu-ray debut last March.  If they do go the home video only route, let's hope it's straight-to-Blu-ray this time around, since by then the film will definitely have already been released on the format in Japan.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lupin III and Panda Kopanda DVD release dates

Discotek Media has announced via Facebook the release dates for their upcoming DVD releases of Lupin III: The Complete First TV Series and Panda! Go Panda!

Previously released in North America on DVD but now out of print, Panda! Go Panda! will return to store shelves on April 17, 2012.  Distotek has confirmed that both short films, Panda! Go Panda! and Panda! Go Panda! The Rainy-Day Circus will be included in this new DVD release.

Next up is Lupin III: The Complete First TV Series, scheduled to make its North American DVD debut on June 26, 2012. No word yet on whether the set will feature an English dub, but it is probably more likely to feature the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

I'm really glad that Discotek Media has acquired these licenses and is dedicated to getting out of print titles back on the shelves and bringing other titles to North America for the first time.  Now if they could only acquire the rights to Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro and release it on Blu-ray here we'd be all set!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Happy Birthday, Hayao Miyazaki

Today marks the 71st birthday of animator and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki.

Born on January 5, 1941 in Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan, Miyazaki became an artist at an early age.  Fascinated with aviation, he began drawing airplanes and started what would become a life-long obsession with flight, a theme that is heavily incorporated into many of his films.  During high school, he devoted his efforts to becoming a manga artist, but after seeing Japan's first full-length animated feature, The Tale of the White Serpent, he discovered that animation was his passion.  The rest, as all Ghibli fans are well aware, is anime history.

To me, Hayao Miyazaki and his films are like a fine wine, getting better with age and becoming more valuable as years pass.  Although he's been in and out of retirement a few times in recent years, Miyazaki is still pushing forward at 71 and breaking new ground at Studio Ghibli.  Early reports indicate that he is already hard at work on the next feature film he will direct, his eleventh since directing Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro in 1979.

I look forward to the cinematic tales Miyazaki still has to tell in the years to come and hope for the continuation of what has already been a successfully long career in animation.  Happy Birthday!