Ironically, this handsomely packaged box set, an Amazon Exclusive from Buena
Vista Home Video recalls the old gray bootleg set of Ghibli features that was
once the only version available of some the Studio’s films in the US.
As Hayao Miyazaki is the most admired director working in animation
today, this collection of his work is bound to delight viewers. The
colorful transfers of his 11 features
look identical to the ones Disney offers individually. Less than 2 inches wide,
the box takes up remarkably little room on a shelf.
The booklet offers a thoughtful essay on Miyazaki’s work by
Tomohiro Machiyama, and quotes from the director about each film. Miyazaki describes
Porco Rosso as “A work that will even
be enjoyable for businessmen who are exhausted from international flights and
whose minds have become dulled by lack of oxygen.”
The disc of extras includes the pilot for Yuki’s Sun (Yuki no Taiyo, 1972), which marked Miyazaki’s debut as a solo
director. Based on a manga by Tetsuya Chiba than began running in Shonen (Girls’) Friend magazine in 1963,
Yuki centers on an energetic orphan who’s adopted by a prominent and wealthy
family. When her adopted parents are ruined, Yuki is forced fend for herself
and protect her adopted sister. The audience can sense the young director
struggling to present a needlessly complex and often confusing story. It’s not
surprising that the pilot was never made into a series.
Three episodes from the TV series Akado Suzunosuke (variously translated as Redbreast Suzunosuke, Red-Armored
Suzunosuke and The Little Samurai,
1972) feel livelier and more coherent. (The original manga by Eiichi Fukui had
already been adapted as radio series and would later be filmed in live action.)
The title character has become a familiar anime type: The pint-sized warrior
who’s determined to become a master swordsman. Suzunosuke uses his ability to
create the whirlwind-like Vacuum Tornado to defeat the Blue Armor Devil, who looks
a bit like the title robot in Tetsujin-28
go (a.k.a Gigantor, 1963).
The crude movements and very limited expressions in these
early examples of Japanese animation may surprise viewers accustomed to the
more sophisticated films and programs of recent decades.
Although both examples have a curiosity value, they by no
means constitute a through survey of Miyzaki’s early television work. Among the
missing are the post-apocalyptic Future
Boy Conan (1978), based on “The Incredible Tide” by
Alexander Key (who also wrote “Escape to Witch Mountain”) and Sherlock Hound (Meitantei Holmes, literally Famous Detective Holmes, 1984) an Italian-Japanese
children’s series that both evoked and spoofed the work of Sir Arthur Conan
Like all of Miyazaki’s early work, Yuki’s Sun and Akado
Suzunosuke invite the viewer to try to tease out the first hints of
elements the personal style the director would develop in his features. The
relentlessly energetic Yuki might be seen as anticipating the independent
heroines of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Spirited Away. When Yuki rests amid
flowers and butterflies, the moment seems to prefigure the opening scenes of Kiki’s Delivery Service. The
bat-airplane the Ogre Mask Gang uses to kidnap a princess in Akado Suzunosuke foreshadows Moriarity’s
Pterodactyl plane in Sherlock Hound–and
the many flying sequences in Miyazaki’s later work.
The new set doesn’t include the many extras available on the
individual DVD’s and Blu-rays released by Disney, which range from the original
trailers and introductions by John Lasseter, to interviews with producer Toshio
Suzuki and some of Miyazaki’s other collaborators. A few of these brief
documentaries were standard-issue, like the mini-interviews with the English
voice actors. But audiences can’t help missing the original storyboards, which had
been cut to the finished soundtracks. The storyboards truly revealed Miyazaki
at work, not only the artistry of his drawings, but his consummate skill as a
filmmaker. When Miyazaki boarded a film he essentially made it; many sequences
only needed inbetweening.
The disc of extras closes with the 2013 press conference at
which Miyazaki announced his retirement. Since then, he’s pursued what might
termed semi-retirement. He continues to draw manga and make short films for the
Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, and is at work on a nature retreat for children in a virgin
forest on Kume Island (Kumejima), about 55 miles from Okinawa.
And viewers all over the world who watch this set—or the
individual discs—fervently hope that
amid these efforts, Hayao Miyazaki will get an idea for a film that will compel him to return to feature production.