Seven Anime That Require Your Viewership in 2017

I’m just going to say it: 2016 was a good year for anime. New titles like Re:Zero and Mob Psycho 100, and sequels such as Haikyuu and Assassination Classroom were everything that we could have asked for and more. Yes, there were a few disappointments (we’re looking at you, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress), but 2017 offers restitution for every show that made you feel like you wasted your time putting it through the three-episode test. Big names like Attack on Titan and One Punch Man are putting out a second season, but there are other shows that deserve your attention too. They’re great. They’re fantastic. Trust me.

Welcome to the Ballroom – Premiere: July 2017

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Image from animenewsnetwork.com

Welcome to the Ballroom (Japanese title: Ballroom e Youkoso) promises to be a powerhouse of its own. The show will be based on Tomo Takeuchi’s manga of the same name and will be produced by Production I.G. Their involvement with the show is the most promising evidence of its quality. I.G has been responsible for some of the best sports anime shows in recent memory, such as Kuroko no Basuke and Haikyuu. The studio’s best work comes into play in scenes requiring fluidity and attention to detail, both of which will be put to the test in the intense dance competitions that Welcome to the Ballroom promises to offer.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Premiere: TBA 2017

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Image of the original Legend of the Galactic Heroes from animeblob.wordpress.com

Although advertised as a remake of the 1988 original space opera, the forthcoming Legend of the Galactic Heroes is supposedly a new take on Yoshiki Tanaka’s lauded story. Legend of the Galactic Heroes has the reputation of a cult classic in the anime community. Though I have not seen the original and cannot speak from personal experience, many have called the show the absolute zenith of Japanese storytelling. Others can’t bear the animation style of the late 1980s, which has continued to be the show’s greatest obstacle in reaching viewers. However, just as hope faded away, in swooped the hero of the hour: Production I.G. Their mastery of dynamic action sequences will surely spread the renowned tale to a larger audience.

Berserk – Premiered: April 7th, 2017

berserk
Image from reddit.com/r/Berserk/

Have you ever found yourself playing a fantasy RPG with a severely overpowered character? Has their total badassery and inability to die made you ponder how awesome a show based around them could be? If so, you’re in luck! Berserk is a fantasy juggernaut that takes place in the war-torn country of Midland. It is based on Kentaro Miura’s original manga, which plays out more like a collection of Hieronymus Bosch’s best works than a manga series. The one downside of the show is that Miura’s incredible attention to detail is lost on the 3D animation and cel shading used in the show’s production. Nonetheless, Berserk‘s story and character roster are reasons enough to give this show a chance. The 2017 season will be the second of the most recent series, the first season of which came out last year. Although the latest series does not provide viewers with the earlier portions of the story, anime-film adaptations of the manga’s prologue arc are available in a trilogy titled Berserk Golden Age. These movies are: The Egg of the King, The Battle for Doldrey, and The Advent.

Gintama Season 4 – Premiered: January 9th, 2017

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Image from showprobe.wordpress.com

We are talking indestructible wooden swords that are made from alien trees and dispense soy sauce. We are talking some of the most out-of-the-box penial humour ever. We are talking Gintama. I know that I said I’d be talking about anime that weren’t big name sequels, but I’m breaking the rules, and for good reason too. Gintama simply does not get the love that it deserves, at least not from Western audiences. Furthermore, good shonen anime have been few and far between recently. Bleach has been discontinued, Naruto Shippuden has ended, and One Piece also threatens to end prematurely as it approaches the most recent source material. Though Attack on Titan season two and Boruto: Next Generation are within our sights, some of us just need more shonen sooner. Gintama is the answer.

Yami Shibai Season 4 – Premiered: January 16th, 2017

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Image from moesucks.com

Ever miss that creepy feeling of being watched just beyond your field of vision? Then Yami Shibai is the anime for you. However, calling Yami Shibai an anime the same way you might call Sword Art Online an anime is odd, as its production bears no resemblance to the glossy, computer-generated animation of today’s market. Yami Shibai is an anthology of Japan’s most spine-tingling folk-stories, and boy, does it tingle some spines. What this show offers is freshness, especially as Hollywood’s adventures into the horror genre have been lackluster and repetitive in recent years. So throw on the show, pop some popcorn, and break out the vacuum for the eventual jump-scare spillage.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection – Premiere: TBA 2017

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Image from ukiyaseed.weebly.com

Who was asking for this? Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion had the perfect ending, which I will not be spoiling for those who haven’t seen Code Geass and most likely live in a cave somewhere. Many have considered the two-season series as one of the greatest anime of all time and an effective gateway show into the vast medium. Although it does not currently have a concrete release date, Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection has been promised as a 2017 release. Sunrise Incorporated will be returning to produce another (hopefully great) season of this classic.

Black Clover – Premiered: May 2nd, 2017

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Image from snapthirty.com

If last year’s Boku no Hero Academia and Shokugeki no Soma: Ni no Sara weren’t enough to whet your appetite, then Black Clover is an event to look forward to. With the stampede of incoming sequels and the hype surrounding Boruto: Next Generation, Black Clover simply isn’t receiving the recognition that an original shonen deserves. The story follows Asta, a boy born into a fantastical world of magic lacking any form of magical power. He chases his dreams of being the Wizard King nonetheless, and if that isn’t the premise for a great shonen saga then I don’t know what is. The potential of this anime is heightened by Studio Pierrot’s involvement, the animation giant that brought us crowd favourites like Naruto, Bleach, and Tokyo Ghoul.

-Contributed by Giordano Labrecque

No Ghost, Just Shell

Scarlett Johanson
image source: imgur.com

The speculative community has been nurturing a climate of social equity in the past few years. From the removal of statuettes depicting the openly racist H.P. Lovecraft from the World Fantasy Awards, to Cixin Liu winning the Best Novel Award at the 2015 Hugo Awards (the first Asian novelist to do so),  it is clear that mind-sets are changing.

However, with each step forward, there is always a step back.

Major Motoko
image source: myanimelist.com

When I heard that Hollywood was casting Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi in the upcoming adaptation of the manga Ghost in the Shell, I knew there was going to be trouble. Ever since the news was released, many fans have criticized the studio’s decision to cast Johansson in the role of an Asian character. Hollywood’s casting decision goes against the speculative community’s goal of social equity by perpetuating misrepresentation, while also revealing an integral flaw within their understanding of the manga.

Whitewashing is still commonplace among Hollywood films—just think The Last Airbender and Gods of Egypt. Moreover, Paramount and Dreamworks studios’ choices to whitewash their major characters reveals a very common and deep-seated fear: almost every big studio is afraid of losing money on film projects. According to Max Landis, a Hollywood screenwriter who defended the Ghost in the Shell casting decision in a YouTube video, there simply aren’t any A-list Asian actors that would ensure the film’s financial success. Not only is this assumption wrong (fans were hoping that Rinko Kikuchi would get the role), it is offensive, and indicates the industry’s financial motivations for the film above all else. Apparently, offering break-out opportunities for the many Asian-American actors struggling to find work in the industry just doesn’t seem to be an option. While this decision affects the social aspect of the film, it also affects its merit as an adaptation.

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image source: nerdreactor.com

The studios’ selection of the film’s lead, screenwriters, and director indicates an important misunderstanding of the concepts established by its Japanese predecessors. Scarlett Johansson is most well-known for her action-oriented roles in The Avengers films, while screenwriters Jamie Moss (Street Kings) and Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton) have only ever written action-thrillers. To top it all off, the film’s director is Rupert Sanders, whose only movie is Snow White and The Huntsman. The fact that the director and screenwriters are all inexperienced new members of the industry who have only ever done action films, with action-star Scarlett Johansson in the lead role, definitely points to a focus on action over thought.

However, gunfights and action scenes were never the focus of Ghost in the Shell. Of course violence is present, but its use is minimalistic and often only as a last resort. The point of the series has always been about asking questions that challenge the concept of the human condition. What does it mean to be human if your body is entirely prosthetic? Is artificial intelligence humanity’s next evolutionary step? What defines individuality if memories and thoughts can be hacked, deleted, and replaced? These are all questions that the original manga and its anime adaptations successfully tackle, with the cyborg Major Kusanagi being the embodiment of those themes as she is literally a ‘ghost’, or collection of her original memories, within a prosthetic body or ‘shell’. Ghost in the Shell is about questioning the human condition. It is quiet, introspective, and delicate—never loud.

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image source: rogerebert.com

While I have no doubt that a successful live-action adaptation of the manga can be pulled off, Hollywood’s decisions should serve as a warning for most fans to prepare for disappointment. Ghost in the Shell would’ve been a perfect opportunity for an Asian actor to play an intriguing character and to potentially break out into the mainstream. Instead, Hollywood is content to stick to its routine of whitewashing roles, perpetuating cycles of misrepresentation, and creating adaptations which fail to convey the themes of the source material. This film may have the title Ghost in the Shell, but I doubt it will have the heart of its predecessors.

The only good thing that has come out of this controversy has been the response from fans and the wider speculative community as a whole. By forcing Hollywood to recognize that their actions are outdated and harmful, hopefully the industry will be forced to change its behavior in the future. While the outlook of this film may seem bleak, as it is scheduled to be released in 2017, with not enough time for any major changes, perhaps enough time for its studios to at least consider the community’s response.

-Contributed by Lawrence Stewen

I Am the Devil, How Can I Help You?

Devil is a Part Timer
Illustration by Sonia Urlando

The devil as typically presented in literature and the arts strikes a red, bloody figure. Often with horns and pitchfork included.

But as a fast-food franchise employee?

I’ll bet you’ve never seen the devil like this.

The premise for the light novel turned anime series The Devil is a Part Timer! is as quirky as it is bizarre. It follows the adventure of Maou Sadao, the titular devil from the realm of Ente Isla. In the midst of a battle to determine the fate of his world, Sadao and one of his generals, Alciel, are transported to modern day Japan and forced to assume human form. Also unceremoniously hurtled through the void is the hero of Ente Isla, Emilia Justina, whose mission to stop Sadao extends beyond worldly borders.

The three must then settle on Earth until they fulfill their purpose: whether to return to Ente Isla (Sadao and Alciel) or to stop the devil (Emi). Sadao, Alciel, and Emi were all equipped with magic in Ente Isla but their magic is ineffective on Earth, making their respective missions very difficult to fulfill.

Surprisingly, the first of the group to recognize the necessity of blending in as well as the means to do so is Sadao. He finds a job at MgRonalds (McDonalds much?) as a part-timer, hence the title.

Here’s where the humour kicks in.

Sadao approaches his job in the same way he approaches his plan to conquer the world. He has ambition and drive, which makes him the perfect employee. When a KFC opens across the street from MgRonalds, Sadao approaches the situation with the gravitas of a war: spies are sent out, tactics observed, and a counter-attack prepared. Meanwhile, Emi takes up a cubicle job and plans to watch over Sadao.

I’m not someone that usually laughs out loud over movies or TV shows, but specific scenes of this anime had me laughing until I cried. The anime thrives on moments such as when Sadao tirelessly promotes the various specials of the day or when he learns how to use a fryer for the first time.

Up to this point the anime appears to be a typical fish-out-of-water comedy. Don’t misunderstand, it adopts those elements very well. But what makes this anime special is its balance of action and humor.

Underneath the glossy veneer of humour and incongruity, the characters of the anime break free of conventional tropes and engage in complex moral dilemmas.

Emi is presented as the classic hero. She is a powerful general who seeks to defeat Sadao, who she has always viewed as the personification of evil. She prepares to destroy him in Japan as soon as her powers allow.

However, Sadao behaves differently in the human world and his actions are kind, generous, and, dare I say, a little heroic. Sadao’s changed nature forces Emi to question her entire purpose. It makes her doubt her role as a hero and forces her to reconsider her desire to finish him off.

In the beginning, Sadao occupies the traditional role of a villain. After all, he is the Demon King who led an army that killed thousands of people, civilians included.

Sadao’s human form is deceiving.  It allows the viewer to condemn his actions and furthers the belief in an evil Satan. However, as the anime progresses, it becomes apparent that Sadao never saw his actions as being good or bad. For him, morality was not apparent in the furthering of his goals;  his actions were simply a means to an end.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Sadao should simply be forgiven, and the anime makes no attempt to fully exonerate him. It simply juxtaposes his past evil with his present goodness and leaves the viewer and Emito decide his fate.

I’m not going to deceive any of you. The second arc of this thirteen-episode series appears weaker than the first. Jokes are more worn-out and the absurdity of Sadao’s situation becomes wearying. The second half is more character-packed and loses the perfect balance of humour and action championed by the first arc. There are plot details left unexplained which heightens desire for a second season.

I must confess that prior to this, I had exclusively invested my time in the Shoujo genre (a guilty pleasure of mine). The Devil is a Part Timer! is my first venture into an anime with action fantasy and it took me for an amazing ride.

While it is not perfect, The Devil is a Part Timer! is humorous and relatable, and with empathy and compassion it addresses the problems of simply being human—such as working a part-time job, struggling with living expenses, and dealing with your own convictions in life. Go watch it if you like day jobs, epic battles in the sky, and the devil, of course.

-Contributed by Molly Cong

The Giants Made Me Eat My Spinach: From Then to Now

Giants.  From the English fairytale “Jack and the Beanstalk” to the most recent iteration in the anime and manga Attack on Titan, giants are a well-established element of fantastical stories. However, as with all story elements, they are subject to evolution. Giants in some form or another had existed in folktales and stories well before Jack and his beans were conceptualized in the late 1790s. Greek folklore is thought to contain the first of the giants in its stories of Kronos and his cohort, who both gave birth to and terrorized the gods. Legends continued to spring up around the world, culminating in Ireland with the story of Fingal (or Fionn mac Cumhaill), who is the vertically-enhanced being responsible for the Giant’s Causeway. By then, giants were an integral part of European folklore, eventually coming to England with the well-known tale of Jack and the Beanstalk.

In Jack’s story, the giants are a thinly-veiled metaphor that essentially admonishes people not to be little brats or else they’ll be stepped on. It is a cautionary tale used to remind children that the world is not a forgiving place. What better way to scare them than to tell them of huge humans, with human desires and emotions, but with devastating strength and a penchant for vendettas? This metaphor has been reused constantly across almost every tale involving giants since then, from Roald Dahl’s BFG to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. In both, the giants are, for all intents and purposes, just tremendously big people. Though perhaps not as lucid as Jack’s giants, they still demonstrate extremely human traits. These giants also have rather blatant similarities in the messages that they are attempting to convey. The world (giants) is big and scary, and if you aren’t nice to it, it won’t be nice to you. And it may even squash you anyway.

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Image from fanshare.com

 

Along comes the twenty-first century, and, apparently, a new set of rules. The anime and manga, Attack on Titan, takes the giant and gives it an entirely new spin. The giant is still big. Still bad. Still very much set on stomping. However, any human emotion, desire, or purpose has been utterly erased. These giants exist for one purpose: slaughter.

This complete reversal of everything giants had been, stylistically, up to that point, brings with it an entirely new metaphor. “Jack and the Beanstalk”, BFG, Harry Potter, and Fingal’s stories had all been written with nineteenth and twentieth century criteria. The giants in those stories were created to underline the age-old ideas of what it means to be good. Thus, it was important to see some part of ourselves in the creatures intended to be the externalizations of our punishments should we fail to be good. Attack on Titan departs from this line of thought. Its giants are pure and animalistic. Gone is “eat your vegetables, dearies, or you’ll be pulverized”. These giants seem to have a much deeper, much darker purpose—one that would take volumes to analyze, but seems to boil down to this: climate change, wonky political systems, and “don’t nuke your neighbours”.

from animediet.net
Image from animediet.net

 

Every part of a story exists for a reason, and all parts are subject to revision as society and media changes. Whether it be to inspire kids to go to bed on time or to highlight the various fallacies of modern society, giants are one such part.

-contributed by Rej Ford

 

Remembering the Mighty Monty Oum: A Review of RWBY

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Illustration by Yamandú Sztainbok

 

This review contains spoilers.

On February 1, 2015, the world lost a great animator, director, and creative genius. Monty Oum suffered a severe allergic reaction during a routine check-up, causing him to become comatose before passing away. The lead animator for hit series Red vs. Blue, Oum quickly gained a large fan base in the Rooster Teeth community and decided to create his own series. RWBY is the product of his grand imagination and extravagant animating skills. Hyped up with various character trailers and critiques applauding its amazing animation and soundtrack, RWBY launched with a bang, filling the auditoriums during its premiere screening.

Each episode spans around ten minutes (with two volumes out so far) filled with action-packed fight scenes and intense plots. Monty’s animation style features design elements of Japanese anime mixed with Western animation, creating a unique combination that stunned audiences. The flawless visuals and excellent presentation have rightfully given this series the reputation of being one of the best North American-based anime in recent years .

The series follows the adventures of Ruby Rose, a young, energetic girl who wields a sniper-scythe (yes, it is a scythe that can shoot people). Ruby enrolls in Beacon Academy to become one of the Huntsmen and fight against evil monsters known as the Grimm. The story focuses primarily on her interactions with the other main characters, but also incorporates the stories of supporting characters in order to progress the storyline. There is no such thing as a filler episode as there is always some movement in the plot that flows perfectly with each episode’s mini-story.

Ruby is faced with problems ranging from teenage drama with schoolmates to battles with expert assassins. Monty is able to balance effectively a slice of life style premise with an action/adventure storyline. He also presents endless opportunities for development by keeping an open end to the adventure as the story branches off into various missions while continuing Ruby’s original goal of becoming a Huntress.

Image from i.imgr.com
Image from i.imgr.com

The weapons. The end.

Seriously though, the weapon list in this show borders on insanity: a sniper rifle combined with a scythe, a spear that can transform into a sword, brass knuckle gloves that shoot out bullets? These are ideas we all had as children but were too ridiculous to even be considered to be possible in real life. But Monty made it happen. His fantastical designs are the type of creativity no one knew they needed.

Combined with his animating genius, the minute-long fight scenes seem to last a lifetime as hordes of monsters are slain in matters of seconds. Pausing at each frame, you can see the immaculate animation. Lines are clean and colours are vibrant. Anatomy and proportions stay correct and movement is natural. Everything about this show’s visuals is perfect. Considering the small size of the animation team, the amount of detail that went into each scene is jaw-dropping.

The amount of detail used for each character is often overlooked. The main characters’ names correspond with their colour palettes (e.g., r for Ruby and Rose, which are red), and the supporting characters’ names allude to historic and mythical beings while also relating to their personalities (e.g., Sun Wukong is a half-human half-monkey character in the series and was based off of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King in Journey to the West).

The pairings are also well-thought-out. Ruby’s childish persona contrasts with the serious demeanour of her partner, Weiss Schnee. However, their true natures are shown through conversations that reveal their childhoods, providing reasons for their actions and outward attitude. A great example is how everyone thinks that the queen of combat, Pyrrha Nikos, is noble and free of worries at first, but then one episode focuses on her inner loneliness and disconnect from the rest of the world.

This series is relatable to the audience in this regard: every character has empowering traits that people exhibit, but they also have realistic flaws that make them more human. The attention given to the characters really paid off, resulting in heroes who wield impossible weapons but are also down-to-earth and familiar to the audience.

The music and character songs feature the voice actors of the show and are excellently composed. I’m sure  every RWBY fan went through a phase where they listened to the soundtrack on replay for a few weeks. (Or months.) The upbeat and battle-themed songs were not only catchy but also strongly connected to the corresponding characters and story. Listening to each song at face value was just as good as analyzing the meanings of their lyrics. The voice acting in this series was of great quality as well. The actors were able to capture the personality of each character and display it properly with each line. The best part was that Monty himself voiced one of the characters, Lie Ren, showcasing his vast arsenal of talents.

Image from youtube.com
Image from youtube.com

A downside to this series is the fact that its production team is so small (relative to other anime and animation franchises). The simple lack of manpower limits the animators’ resources, meaning that there isn’t enough time or a large enough budget to perfect the series. The only characters that were really individuated were the main characters. Unimportant background or side characters were mere silhouettes in the first volume, and only a few that interacted with main characters or monsters were generically drawn (e.g., with a white shirt and one-colour pants). The bustling city of Vale seemed very empty with only a handful of walking silhouettes. This was also a reason for the short length of each episode. There were simply not enough team members to be able to produce longer episodes at the rate at which they released the episodes.

The result of an experimental web series has proven to be more than the Internet could handle. Monty Oum’s animation child has grown to its third volume with a proposed video game and DVD release of the series in the works. Hopefully, the series will continue to grow as a monument of Monty’s greatness and will reach the hearts of viewers around the world.

 -contributed by Elizabeth Lau

Fantastic Love in The World of Makoto Shinkai

Although Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has long been representative of the quality of the Japanese animation film industry, a rising star has been making waves around the world. Makoto Shinkai has been hailed as the “new Miyazaki”, with the depth of his cinematography garnering critical acclaim and millions of fans worldwide. Besides his dogged work ethic and stunning animation, Shinkai is known for his focus on the theme of love. His two films, Voices of a Distant Star and The Place Promised in Our Early Days, share the theme of long-distance love in a cosmic setting.

In his first major work, the short film Voices of a Distant Star (2002), Shinkai explores love through a relationship that literally transcends space and time. The two main characters, middle-school student Nagamine Mikako and her friend Noboru, share a bond verging on romantic love in a world plagued by an intergalactic war between humanity and an alien force known as the Tarsians.

 

Image from beneaththetangles.files.wordpress.com
Image from beneaththetangles.files.wordpress.com

When Mikako decides to join the UN Space Army to serve as a Tracer pilot for the spaceship Lysithea, she grapples with the pain of losing Noboru in the depths of time and space. While the fleet has FTL (Faster-Than-Light) travel, its vessels lack FTL communications and so it takes an increasingly long amount of time for Mikako’s messages to reach Noboru as she travels farther from Earth. Time also moves slower the farther Mikako gets from Earth. Mikako is still physically seventeen years old by the time Noboru turns twenty-eight.

Shinkai scripted, drew, animated, and produced the entire movie by himself, and the quality of his work shows in the complex emotions that the film brings to life despite its short length. Shinkai brings viewers a thoughtfully-created and captivating universe with relatable and well-developed characters and a simple, bittersweet romance that tugs at the heartstrings. Shinkai’s use of mournful piano music in the film was a fitting addition that highlighted the complex pain and grief experienced by separated lovers.

Shinkai’s other work, his first feature-length film, The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004), is also set in the midst of a looming war between northern Japan, occupied by the Soviet Union, and southern Japan, controlled by the United States.

Image from wallpoper.com
Image from wallpoper.com

The film makes use of sci-fi elements such as parallel universes and futuristic transportation and architecture (e.g., gyrocopter planes and the Hokkaido Tower). Despite these sci-fi elements, the film maintains a sense of reality through its depiction of Fujisawa Hiroki and Sawatari Sayuri’s love for each other.

Sayuri and Hiroki, middle-school students living in Aomori on the northern end of southern Japan, find themselves unwillingly entangled in the war. Sayuri is induced into a coma in order to become a human link for the Hokkaido Tower, a project created by the Soviet Union that replaces the matter around the tower within a two kilometre radius with matter from other universes.

In Sayuri’s mind, she is in an unpopulated parallel universe where she is all alone. The only thing tying her to reality is her unconditional love for Hiroki, whom she was forced to leave behind after she was hospitalized. The film defines love as a source of hope for oneself and as the hope to be reunited with one’s lover. In the case of Hiroki and Sayuri, the two are fighting to be reunited with each other—Hiroki fights to get Sayuri out of the hospital and Sayuri fights to find her way out of her parallel universe.

Although the plot of The Place Promised in Our Early Days is not as coherent or linear as the plot of Voices of a Distant Star, its characters are likeable and earnest, and their relationships with one another are well-developed and realistic. The Place Promised in Our Early Days is a touching work of art that succeeds in connecting emotionally with the audience despite its many fantastical elements.

Although the theme of distant love can be seen within all of his films, Shinkai’s use of sci-fi as a major element within these two particular works adds a refreshing vitality to his stories. They intensify the love that is lost or strained between his characters and allow viewers to immerse themselves within his created universes. He gives viewers the space to empathize with the pain of being a star-crossed lover while ultimately reminding us that the time spent with our loved ones is precious and transient.

-contributed by Diandra Ismiranti

The Magic of Dual Art Forms in Howl’s Moving Castle

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Cover image from epicreads.com
Howls-moving-castleposter
Poster image from Wikipedia.org

 

This piece contains spoilers.

Whether it’s character depth or stylistic choices, the book most often surpasses the movie. Naturally, this is because there is so much that can slip by during the conversion between the two mediums. This is why I tend to not involve myself with two  forms of the same content. If I watch the movie, then I will not read the book.

And yet, when a fellow editor recommended the book version of Howl’s Moving Castle to me, insisting it was very different—in a good way—and also quite British, it was more than enough to hook me in.

However, during my first read-through I kept imagining the characters in their Miyazaki-animated form, with their English dubbings (and Christian Bale as Howl!), against my will. I wanted to experience the story and see the characters as Dianna Wynne Jones, not Miyazaki, weaved them to be. But that was impossible. I had re-watched the movie to the extent that even the subtlest movements of the characters were engrained in my mind. So I accepted the pain and finished the novel.

As expected, the book was quite interesting. Definitely a “page-turning, sorry-I-can’t-eat-dinner-until-I-finish-this” kind of experience, because it was so different.

The only commonality between the book and the movie was the basic premise of the story. The characters’ personalities were much more vivid and extreme in Jones’ work, making Miyazaki’s version seem much more “Japanese” than it did before.

Here are some key differences I noted:

Difference 1: Sophie’s Family

 After reading the book, I finally understood who that blonde girl in the bakery was – she was Sophie’s sister, Martha. In the novel, Martha tells Sophie that her stepmother is taking advantage of her hat-making abilities. Sophie thenleaves the shop and confronts her stepmother.

A large portion of the novel actually focuses on Sophie’s familial relationships, which was pretty much dropped from the entire movie. (The only scene in the movie that features Sophie’s family is when Lettie says “Do something for yourself once in a while, okay?” as Sophie is leaving).

Another big change: Sophie’s family, though human, is magical. There is no strict divide between wizard/witch and the average human in the novel because humans –  can be trained to harness their magical abilities by learning spells and such. Sophie has talent for fashion, but also magic, which makes her infinitesimally cooler.

D2: Sophie’s character change

The young Sophie in the movie is quite mild-mannered and considerate, which makes me want to describe her as “nice” and nothing more. I wouldn’t have felt anything for her character if she had not been cursed. As the old granny Sophie, she is much quirkier and rougher with the people around her, alike to the book version of herself.

In the book Sophie is blunt, stubborn, nosy, and she protects herself by creating a wall of anger around her if anyone tries to get too close. She’s a more exciting protagonist.

D3: Howl’s Eccentricity

This is best captured during Howl’s green slime/ tantrum scene in the movie, when Sophie messes up his beautification potions and he accidentally dyes his hair black. Although it’s a funny scene where Howl looks pretty pathetic, it didn’t really fit with the previous images of Howl that Miyazaki presented in the movie. He always seemed so blasé and charismatic before this particular scene, I didn’t realize that he was the type to overreact about such a small mistake.

Basically, he is not the dramatic, narcissistic player that we meet in the novel. In the book, Howl is constantly grooming himself and playing his guitar to woo girls all over the country. He slips out of any situation that requires him to make decisions or take on responsibilities (seen in the movie when he makes Sophie act like his mom). But in the movie, he’s out of the castle most of the time because he’s busy with war, not girls. Which makes him seem more serious and responsible than he actually is in the book.

I guess he’s less interesting to some people in the movie version, but I think I’d prefer movie Howl over narcissistic Howl. Just a personal preference.

D4: The Witch of the Waste

In the movie she is reduced to a sad, fat granny who we all sympathize with (except for the scene when she grabs Howl’s heart—SO irritating).

On the other hand, in the book, she’s an elegant lady who is evil, twisted, and obsessed with Howl. Her master plan is to kidnap Wizard Sulliman (whose existence is downplayed in the movie), the King’s son Justin, and Howl, to combine their body parts to make a perfect mate for herself. After picking out her favorite parts, she leaves the rest to become a scarecrow, a skull, and a man who can change into a dog.

D6: The ending

In both the novel and the movie the ending is quite rushed. The movie ends quite romantically; it’s almost a bit too cheesy for my taste. Everyone’s suddenly good, the world becomes a happier place, and love is in the air. On the other hand, in the book Howl is still a narcissist. Less so, but still.

Overall, yes, the movie does lack essential character and plot points in the novel. But it does have its own merits, like the visual metaphors that aren’t present in the novel.

In the movie, Howl finds it more and more difficult to revert back from being a black bird into his original form and this portrays his descent into heartlessness. Also, Sophie in the movie temporarily changes back into her normal young self when she is happy, or in love. Both of these elements do not occur in the novel, and it’s an interesting way for Miyazaki to show us the characters’ internal struggles against their respective curses.

The greatest asset of the movie is undoubtedly the impact of the astounding visuals and the music of the movie. These are beautiful, detailed, and subtle.

The book and movie versions of Howl’s Moving Castle are vastly different, yet compelling in their own, unique ways.   Jones’ book and Miyazaki’s movie appeal to both the mind and the heart – and that is how you know that Howl’s Moving Castle is a moving and incredible speculative piece.

 -contributed by Ariana Youm