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Mar 28

Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea

Posted on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in Fandom, Movies, Reviews

I recently re-watched Ponyo on the Cliff beside the Sea. It’s such a sweet movie I just had to watch it again to try and cheer myself up. When I found out it was a sort of version of The Little Mermaid, I was surprised at first, but then I could see the similarities. There are of course also details that I imagine are based on Japanese culture, but also apparently references to Richard Wagner’s series of operas about the Ring des NIbelungen.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, it’s a movie about a little boy who lives on a cliff beside the sea (his father is a sailor). The little boy finds an unusual fish down by the sea shore and wants to bring it to his daycare center. He names the fish Ponyo, not knowing that Ponyo is really the daughter of a wizard and a sea goddess and her real name is Brunhilde. The wizard used to be a human but has retreated to the sea in disgust over how humans are treating the world. Ponyo, who ended up on the shore in the first place because she’s the most adventurous of all her hundreds of siblings (sisters?), immediately becomes fond of the little boy, Sosuke. She decides she wants to stay with him and become a human. Her father doesn’t like that at all, and her escape causes a tsunami. LIke the little mermaid, Ponyo risks turning into sea foam if Sosuke (a five-year-old boy!) betrays her.

I love this movie, it’s so sweet and cheerful and I like the underlying message too (if I’ve understood it correctly?). Some things confused me though. This movie has been translated from Japanese into English and, I imagine, then from English into Swedish. Some things might have been lost on the way. Of course it is still possible someone translated directly into Swedish from the original Japanese, but I doubt it. There were too many inconsistencies. For instance, the voices and the subtitles didn’t match at all.

One thing I was wondering about was why Sosuke calls his parents by their first names. Why is a Japanese mother named Lisa? Also, no one seems particularly surprised about a five-year-old girl showing up straight out of the sea and telling them she used to be a fish and about her wizard father and sea goddess mother. Still, the overall impression is just beautiful and the movie is very skillfully done.

Oct 23

Spirited Away

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Fantasy, Movies, Reviews

Spirited Away is a Japanese movie from 2001. Chihiro is a sullen, ten-year-old girl. She and her family are moving into a new house. Her dad chooses to take a shortcut, to the new residential area, and ends up getting lost.

Quite soon Chihiro gets a bad feeling about the trip, because she catches sight of some ugly, rather scary warning figures. But naturally her parents won’t listen to her. After all, she’s just a little girl.

They arrive at what looks like an abandoned amusement park. There’s a restaurant filled with meat. Chihiro’s parents begin to eat, declaring that they will pay later. But Chihiro refuses. She thinks everything is scary and ominous.

Before long, it gets dark and faceless spirits show up. Chihiro runs back to her parents, but can only find two big pigs.

She tries to run away from the spirits and ends up hiding, but meets a mysterious boy, Haku, who promises to help her. He gets her work in a bathhouse for spirits and gods. It’s quite a scary job, and the people are odd, but Chihiro struggles on. She has to find a way of saving her parents who are due to be slaughtered and turned into food at that restaurant. In other words, they must have eaten other people in the form of pigs.

That’s quite funny, actually. As a vegan, I wouldn’t have been the least bit tempted to try that meat and besides, whatever kind of food it was, I would never have eaten anything without paying. But I don’t know what kind of customs they have in Japan. On the other hand, it’s always possible there was some kind of magic involved, so the parents might not have been able to help themselves.

In any case, it’s a funny, exciting and fascinating movie. I’m quite new at Japanese animated movies, but this one and Howl’s Moving Castle appealed to me. Don’t expect it to be anything like the usual, western type of animated movie, which seems to be almost exclusively for very young children (pre-school age). On the other hand, Spirited Away doesn’t seem to be intended for your average grown up, but it’s definitely for teenagers and young adults and anyone who’s young at heart.

This movie isn’t full of blood, violence and brain matter, but it can be frightening for younger kids. Of course, that’s not who this movie is intended for. I liked it a lot. The fantasy- or fairy tale ambiance was something I appreciate a lot. It’s well drawn and well made in every way. I can really recommend it.

Oct 23

Howl's Moving Castle

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Fantasy, Movies, Reviews

The movie Howl’s Moving Castle, by the Japanese movie maker Hayao Miyazaki, is based on the Welsh fantasy writer, Diana Wynne Jones’ book by the same name. There’s quite a bit of difference between the movie and the book. Many of the DWJ:s fans hate the movie. Some of the movie fans have never read the book, and don’t know what they’re missing. I’m among the few people who like both the movie and the book. There’s a lot missing, but at the same time, it’s fascinating to be able to see what you’ve only been able to imagine before.

Howl – who is reputed to steal young girls’ hearts – really is as vane and as metrosexual as he appears to be in the book. Really pretty. Naturally he doesn’t actually steal the girls’ hearts, he merely seduces them, make them fall in love with him and then leave them.

The main character of the movie is actually the castle from the title. Wouldn’t you love living in a castle that can move to any place you like? It can also change appearance, according to Howl’s will. The reason for that is the fire demon Calcifer. In a way, he has a sort of symbiotic relationship with Howl, or rather with the castle. Calcifer is what makes the castle live.

Perhaps I ought to begin with a brief resumé. The main character – unless you count Howl – is a girl named Sophie. She’s the daughter of a now dead hatter. Her mother died young, but her father remarried, so Sophie has a stepmother. In the book, there are also two sisters, but in the movie just one. That can make the movie a bit confusing, but I guess not everything fits into a movie.

Sophie knows that an oldest daughter never does well for herself, so she doesn’t have any high expectations. She does however have plenty of common sense and both feet on the ground.

One day she meets a very handsome young man who helps her get to her sister, who works at a pastry shop. She also meets a witch – The Witch of the Waste – who curses Sophie. Suddenly, she’s not a hat maker apprentice, but an old lady. She doesn’t want to stay on like that, so she wanders off.

In the wilderness Sophie sees the famous moving castle and meets a scarecrow, who keeps showing up wherever she goes. The scarecrow helps her get into the castle by its back door. Once there, she hires herself as Howl’s housekeeper(/cleaning lady.

She hopes to find a way to break her curse, but to do that she has to help Calcifer break his. The plot is quite complicated. It gets worse, because everything feels rather fragmented due to the film maker trying to fit everything into the movie.

Despite that, I like the movie. It’s a fascinating, exciting adventure. If you like fantasy and animated films, I’m sure you’ll like this one. You should probably read the book too.

I just want to mention something about the voices. Whiny Calcifer’s voice is done by Billy Crystal. I watched the Swedish version with a Swedish comedian as Calcifer, but I can easily imagine Billy Crystal being just right for the part.


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