Last night I saw Tales from Earthsea for the firs time. Fantastic film and visually it has got to be one of the most beautifully drawn and animated Studio Ghibli films. It’s a bit slow though, it takes a while for things to really get going. But that third act is incredible and depressing. Tales from Earthsea is perhaps the most mature Ghibli film I’ve seen and its theme about coming to terms with mortality resonated with the current state of Studio Ghibli. Even though the Studio is somewhat being saved, it most likely won’t be what it once was. I always find it sad how a Studio dedicated to making unique, significant and amazing animated films that most of us love, has been at a state of limbo for some time and death keeps knocking on the door. We’ll see what the future holds for Ghibli, but we still have this big selection of worthy films to see and experience if you haven’t already. Tales from Earthsea was a pleasant surprise and it affected me emotionally in a way I didn’t expect. Death is a frightening thing and there’s a sea of shit all around us, but it’s all these challenging and grim things that give value to life. Go watch Tales from Earthsea, it’s the most thought-provoking Ghibli film I’ve seen thus far. Now onto My Neighbors the Yamadas and The Wind Rises.
Even though I wanted to buy ALL the Studio Ghibli soundtracks now available in iTunes, I ended up buying the two essentials. Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle are my absolute two favourite Ghibli films, and in true Ghibli fashion both their soundtracks are majestic. They’ve been on repeat all day.
ハウルの動く城 Howl’s Moving Castle, Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (2004).
The story of Berserk deserved a better trilogy of films, but at least from second on the films were visually arresting.
Animation layouts and their corresponding scenes from the The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ).
Over the past two days I’ve been catching up on Monogatari Series Second Season. Now, before you stop reading because anime might hold zero interest for you let me invite you to stay. Like many people, there are always certain movies, music, books or TV shows you really enjoy but others either do not or don’t even know of its existence. As media passionate people, it’s natural for us to want to introduce our friends to stuff we love. The way I see it, if a piece of media has touched me at a personal level I want it to touch others as well or at the very little set up the scenario where they can be touched. Case in point: the anime Monogatari.
For some odd reason, anime is not that well regarded in Western society. This is not to say people don’t watch it, but more about the fact that when anime is mentioned a serious of predispositions quick in. I don’t know the specifics, because I’ve been watching anime since I was 7, but I know that the few times I’ve mentioned anime to other people the primary reaction is judgement. They either think I’m too childish, a nerd or a pervert. All valid assumptions to a certain degree. I’m 22 now and things haven’t changed much.
What boggles my mind is that if people were more open minded then things in the world wouldn’t be so shitty, but specifically to anime I think people will be surprised to discover that some anime series are incredible pieces of both art and entertainment. Pieces with their own unique style that nevertheless can make you feel things and think about many aspects of daily existence. If nothing else, they at least introduce you to a world and characters that are super different from anything made here in the west. So why not give anime a chance?
So the question is: what should I watch first? I’d say go with Cowboy Bebop, Death Note, FLCL or Attack of Titan if you want something recent. But if you want something really cool, distinctive and thoughtful go with Monogatari. This particular anime posses a challenge from the get-go, which is the fact that you need to watch it with subtitles. Subtitles continue to be a major issue for some people, but if you think about this anime like a visual novel then that might make it easier. Don’t worry you will get lost in some episodes, but that’s okay. Visually you’ll be in awe and if didn’t understand something, rewinding doesn’t hurt. Don’t we all backtrack sometimes when we’re reading in order to actually comprehend what is being said?
At any case, I want to talk Monogatari. I fucking love this anime to the point where, at least the first season titled Bakemonogatari, is my favourite anime show of all time. If my understanding is correct, the word Monogatari refers to “story” and in the show the stories are about aberrations like ghosts and gods. The show revolve around protagonist Koyomi Araragi and his friendship with an assortment of women. While the protagonist is interesting in his own right, it is the women who provide the most intrigue since they are the “victims” of the aberrations. Each of the girls gets their own arc and with it we learn more and more about them.
In true anime form, all the characters have some serious issues. They are exceedingly interesting characters with a specific outlook on life that is very refreshing to see in a piece of media. One of the biggest themes of the show is self-deception. Each of these characters in some shape or form act in a way that goes against who they are. Some do it more than others, but the exploration as to why this self-deceit occurs is absolutely fascinating to me. I’m one of those people who is opposed to self-deception, especially since for many years self-deceit was a trait I was all too familiar with. It’s interesting to see the arc of these characters as they gradually come to terms with who they are, and sometimes that self-deception was a form suppressing other more insidious inner issues.
Then there’s the visuals. This anime has by far the most aesthetically pleasing and awe-inspiring visuals of any anime I’ve seen. Every frame, every setting, every character design is so vibrant and beautiful that it’s almost like you’re watching a series of paintings, which add more to the visual novel nature of the series. On visuals alone this series is above the rest and the colour palette gets better and better as it progresses. I think sometimes people forget that with animation you can create visuals that are sometimes even more affecting than live-action. They transport you to this other world easily and almost make you want to live there. There’s an immense power in animation that unfortunately many people take for granted.
It’s impossible for me to write everything I love about Monogatari, but suffice to say that it is a piece of media that must be experienced. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get bored with watching the same shows over and over again. As much as I enjoy Game of Thrones and Archer, I think it’s good to once in a while watch something totally different. But good different, not Finding Bigfoot different. If you enjoy watching TV shows then I say go watch some anime too. Whatever preconceptions you might have, I think it is best to push them aside. There is so much that we don’t get to see or experience simply because we deceive ourselves into thinking that they aren’t worth it. And perhaps they are not, but not giving them a chance is worse. Bakemonogatari will no disappoint you, this I can guarantee. Specially if you enjoy reading books, this anime will appeal to you.
In talking about anime there is, of course, a much larger discussion to be had. But that’s not really the point of this particular post. Honestly, all I want is for people to go watch Bakemonogatari and hopefully its following arcs and seasons. I do genuinely believe that it is one of those series that you have to watch before you die. It will expose you to this other world that is compelling, affecting, funny and incredibly fucked up. Oh and I didn’t mention this, but the soundtrack is amazing. Plus, every new character arc has its own opening title sequence and they are awesome.