Oh my goodness! More good news! The next Studio Ghibli movie, Arietty, will open in the U.S. in February. Ghibli the Japanese company founded by the visionary auteur Hiyao Miyazaki is responsible for the fight-fun-with-fun screen gems My Neighbor Totoro,
Princess Mononoke (not for little ones),
all of which feature spectacular, wonderful, natural female protagonists. I could not have gotten through my daughter’s childhood without him. Plus, Miyazaki totally blows out of the water the old chestnut that female protagonists can’t be universal or hold boys’ attention. His creativity puts Pixar to shame. In fact, John Lassiter idolizes Miyazaki.
According to an article in the UK Guardian:
Ghibli is often lazily dubbed Japan’s answer to Disney, but the comparison only holds true in terms of box-office sales (Spirited Away is still Japan’s all-time top-grossing film – three other Ghibli films are in the top 10) and sales of cuddly toys. In terms of content, Studio Ghibli is a world apart. Since 1984, under the auspices of its founder and chief auteur, Hayao Miyazaki, the studio has rolled out a succession of dense, ambitious fantasy adventures, almost all of them led by strong, intelligent, independent-minded girls. Miyazaki’s movies are exciting and fantastical, often involving flying machines, ecological disasters, clashing civilisations and precarious spiritual values – all rendered in clean, colourful, hand-drawn animation. His heroines also tend towards a certain type. They are adventurous and active, but also compassionate, communicative, pacifist and virtuous. Their “female” qualities and childish innocence are often what resolve the crisis at hand and bridge conflicting worlds. Miyazaki does princesses, too, but the first time we see his eponymous Princess Mononoke, she’s sucking the gunshot wound of a giant wolf and spitting blood into a river.
As Miyazaki once explained: “If it’s a story like, ‘Everything will be fine once we defeat him,’ it’s better to have a male as a lead. But, if we try to make an adventure story with a male lead, we have no choice other than doing Indiana Jones. With a Nazi, or someone else who is a villain in anyone’s eyes.”
“He thought heroism was much more complicated than that black hat/white hat stuff,” explains Helen McCarthy, a British author who has written extensively on Miyazaki and Japanese animation. “By making the hero a girl, he took all that macho stuff out of the equation and that gave him the freedom to examine heroism. His career has been a very beautiful building of an idea that the feminine doesn’t preclude the heroic.”
The new film has all the earmarks of a Ghibli classic:
Arrietty fits right into this mould. It was adapted by Miyazaki from Mary Norton’s Borrowers stories and directed by his protege, Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Arrietty herself is a miniature 14-year‑old girl, who lives with her parents in secrecy under the floorboards of a rural Japanese home, “borrowing” their possessions – a pin becomes her sword, for example. Like any little girl growing up, she’s independent-minded and eager to explore the outside world. Just as Spirited Away’s heroine bridged the world between the spirits and the living, so Arrietty bridges that between her little people and the full-sized humans, but she is also driven by her curiosity about boys.
Yeah, the boys thing, I don’t know. But in Miyazaki’s hands I imagine we’ll see something beautiful…and real. Here’s the trailer (somewhat lame, but the animation and story look great).
And–GIRL CRUSH ALERT–it stars Amy Poehler!!!
Forget Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (well, okay, don’t FORGET it, but….). I’ll be first in line for this one.