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.