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I had times where I don’t understand why people praised Studio Ghibli so much and thought that it was that bit of overrated. I knew and could related to some of my friends who shared the same sentiment where they are baffled at the popularity of Totoro when it was so mundane .  However that was the past as in recent years , I started to understand and appreciate Ghibli and know where the praises all come from.

It all actually boils down to the technical side of things. Ghibli is the master of animation and can do amazing feat with anything about making animated films from techniques to screen play to well written script . All these are indisputable facts that no one can complain .It’s something objective and concrete where you can easily highlight any part of the film and provide factual support on why it was a well written film. This is why Ghibli films work well with critics and film major because they love to rationale their thoughts on a film and they look  at the more technical side of things .

For example ,when they look a string of animated frames ,they don’t like subjective thoughts on how these frames resonate well with their emotion just because . They look at how good these frames are drawn and other technical aspects to support the emotion they felt. Same goes with the plot . When they see a film ,they look for depth and decide whether it relates well with social issues and such because they are strong backups to support what they say .

However as someone who doesn’t really appreciate films with such regards , I don’t really subscribe to the complete rationale and objective ways of doing things .For one , I love what I love due to solely subjective reason , I have no objective means to justify why I love cartoons so much and why I prefer to watch Sword of Stranger than to like say ,Godfather .All I can say is that I prefer cartoon over live action film . That’s not saying I can’t tell you why I love Sword of Stranger more but all the reason I gave are really subjective and  technical side of things doesn’t factor in much .

This is why as much as I can understand and appreciate the technical facts about why Ghibli is one of the best studio out there ,I couldn’t really say that I love their films or place them as a favourite .For one , the only Ghibli film that resonate well with me was Ocean Waves , which ironically is one of the cheapest and hastily produced TV special by a bunch of young and unpolished animators from Ghibli which went over budget and hence causing it to be one of the least successful work from Ghibli that took the longest time to break even(Though please be aware that the least successful work of Ghibli still earn more than some of the top grade works from any other studio).Not to mention , even as a fan , I agreed that it was the least inspired film from Ghibli where the story is something everyone had seen before .

However , even with such facts , I can’t help but mellow when I watch Ocean Waves. It was so pure and subtle, it appears to be very realistically written even though the animators themselves know that it was too  pure to be true. Even so ,I think it resonate well with teenagers like me where it depict the non overarching realistic ideal of romance . Realistic ideal is a contradiction but it is this contradiction of half fantasy and half realism that make it so appealing because the story might really happen even when the possibility is small .

People love to make comparison of Ocean Waves and Only Yesterday due to similar style and similar fate of being the few works of Ghibli that weren’t licensed for release in America or so I heard. I haven’t watch Only Yesterday so I can’t comment on that but I will believe that Whisper of the Heart was the better choice for comparison .

If you had watch the documentary of  Ocean Waves produced in 2003,  long time Ghibli producer  ,Toshio Suzuki speculated that the reason why Hayao Miyazaki was furious after the test film of Ocean Waves was because he know he can’t produce such work .Suzuki also speculated that Ocean Waves is one of the reason why Whisper of the Heart was produced . The 5 main animators for Ocean Waves also think that the reason why Hayao Miyazaki green-lit Whisper of the Heart is to put an end to the whole realistic romance story from Ghibli and is some sort of challenge to Ocean Waves. The whole premise and feel of Whisper of the Heart also compares well with Ocean Waves too. Even before I watch the documentary , I always thought that Ocean Waves was the big sister for Whisper of the Heart because they are so similar and I guess I am sort of correct with that .

It’s widely accepted that Whisper of the Heart is better in terms of technical side of things because holy fucking god, Miyazaki helmed the scripting task and Yoshifumi Kondō [1],the promising animator revered by Miyazaki and many directed it .With such superior production value, it is normal for you to think that I should like Whisper of the Heart more right? Unfortunately , that’s not the case really.

The dialogues and personality of the characters of Whisper of the Heart just doesn’t work well with me. They don’t have the semi realism of Ocean Waves and they are just too mundane for my taste. When I watch Rikako being a bitch in Ocean Waves , I can relate to it because my image of a teenage girl fits in well with that . However on the other hand , when I watch Shizuku , I can’t think of her as a junior high girl because no realistic people act that way.  Same goes with the comparison of Taku and Seiji.  Not to mention , in Whisper of the Heart , there aren’t any memorable scenes that moved or impressed me because it just felt flat.

I will think it is my problem with Hayao Miyazaki’s script because as much as I admit that Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are well written, I felt that they are too technical and isn’t “human” or sentimental enough  . That’s still ok for Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away because they have fantastic plot and amazing action to make up for that but I felt that Whisper of the Heart is all about immersing in the sentimental side of things and enjoy the relationship of the characters so if you could not get into them , half the battle had already lost . However , all these are of course all subjective preference because others actually find Whisper of the Heart to be touching while Ocean Waves being a snore feast.

This is why as rationale as being objective with facts about production value can be , I still think that subjective views of whether a film touches you is much more important . That’s not saying production value and such aren’t important because most of the time , they are important elements that reach out to pull your heart string .

Side Notes:

[1]Unfortunately ,Yoshifumi  died at the age of 47 in 1998 before his career reach another highpoint when Miyazaki decided to let Kondo be his successor to lead Ghibli. [<-]



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