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Let’s get right to it: the second part of the grande BFI Studio Ghibli Retrospective comes in May, with the following programme:

  • May 2 and 4: 「おもひでぽろぽろ」(Omoide Poro Poro/Only Yesterday, 1991) – Dir. by Takahata Isao.

Omoide Poro Poro is a gentle, nostalgia-invoking trip down the memory lane as its heroine, now all grown up, remembers the days of her childhood. It’s a simple story and probably more suited for adults than children.

  • May 5 and 11: 「海がきこえる」 (Umi ga Kikoeru/Ocean Waves, 1993) – Dir. by Mochizuki Tomomi.

One of Ghibli’s older works, Umi ga Kikoeru was originally made as a TV film. It’s a gentle coming-of-age film about two teenage boys whose friendship is tested when they both find that they have feelings for the same girl. To be honest, I didn’t care too much for Umi ga Kikoeru, but it screens rarely and any self-respecting Ghibli fan should of course have watched it.

  • May 5 and 11: 「平成狸合戦ぽんぽこ」(Heisei Tanuki Gassen Ponpoko/Pom Poko, 2004) – Dir. by Takahata Isao.

One of the few Ghibli films I haven’t seen yet!

  • May 9 and 13: 「耳をすませば」 (Mimi o Sumaseba/Whisper of the Heart, 1995) – Dir. by Kondo Yoshifumi.

Mimi o Sumaseba has a special place in my heart. It is one of Studio Ghibli’s more light-hearted films as it tells a story about adolescence – of carefree schooldays, happy friendships, thrilling dreams of youth and innocent first love. It’s genuine and charming and you’ll leave with a smile on your face and the tune of Country Roads stuck in your head.

  • May 4, 5 and 9:「もののけ姫」(Mononoke-hime/Princess Mononoke, 1997) – Dir. by Miyazaki Hayao.

Mononoke Hime is definitely in my top-5 of Ghibli films. It surely must be the best animated film of 1997, if not of its decade. It’s just got everything: a hero and a heroine with personality and guts, all kinds other intriguing characters and lots of mythical creatures (some terrifying, others utterly delightful). Plus a story that is meaningful and complex. The film runs more than two hours and I remembered that the first time I watched it, I just couldn’t believe how layered and unpredictable the narrative was. The animation is gorgeous too – definitely one to enjoy on the big screen.

  • May 14, 16 and 19: 「ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん」(Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun/My Neighbours the Yamadas, 1999)  – Dir. by Takahata Isao.

Another Ghibli film that is still on my to-watch list!

  • May 17, 20 and 22: 「猫の恩返し」 (Neko no Ongaeshi/The Cat Returns, 2002) – Dir. by Morita Hiroyuki.

Neko no Ongaeshi is a sort of (but not really) sequel to Mimi o Sumaseba. Some characters reappear but the story is essentially not connected. With another director at the helm, I didn’t find it all that likeable, also in comparison to other Ghibli films. Although it is reasonably entertaining, it is somewhat lacking in original. I wrote a REVIEW (6/10) back in 2011.

  • May 18, 21 and 24: 「ハウルの動く城」(Hauru no Ugoku Shiro/Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004) – Dir. by Miyazaki Hayao.

The story: a young hat-maker named Sophie gets entangled in the complicated life of Howl, a wizard that loves his freedom (and his own beauty) more than anything. The reviews for Hauru no Ugoku Shiro are mixed, but I’m one of the film’s staunch defenders: I love it. Sophie is a fantastic heroine like no other, Howl wonderfully flawed and indeed utterly gorgeous (yes, there’s such a thing as animated eye-candy), Calcifer is a riot. There’s romance but also a deeper story about humanity, with a pacifist message. I even enjoyed the dubbed version of Hauru (which I watched by accident)!

  • May 25 and 30:「ゲド戦記」(Gedo senki/Tales of Earthsea, 2006) – Dir. by Miyazaki Goro.

Apologies: could not find a Japanese trailer, only one with an English voiceover.

Gedo senki was the debut film of Miyazaki Goro, the son of Ghibli founder Miyazaki Hayao. Many critics panned it and it was indeed flawed on many levels. I didn’t hate it and do think it’s worth a watch. Its soundtrack also features one of Ghibli’s most haunting songs:

  • May 22, 24 and 25:「崖の上のポニョ」(Gake no Ue no Ponyo/Ponyo, 2008) – Dir. by Miyazaki Hayao.

Ponyo is, in one way, very much an entertaining film for children as you can already tell from its trailer. However, as cute as it might seem it comes with a strong environmentalist theme. While it’s not one my favourite Ghibli films, there is plenty about Ponyo that is wonderful. I do much recommend that you plan for a meal at Shoryu or some other ramen place after watching it though!

  • May 26 and 30:  「借りぐらしのアリエッティ」 (Karigurashi no Arrietty/Arrietty, 2010) – Dir. by Yonebayashi Hiromasa.

Arrietty is adapted from Mary Norton’s novel The Borrowers. There isn’t much plot (a borrower befriends a lonely human boy), but there is so much detail in the animation that that alone makes it worth seeing. Fun fact: Kamiki Ryunosuke voices Sho! You can also read my REVIEW of the film.

  • May  25, 26 and 31: 「コクリコ坂から」 (Kokuriko-zaka Kara/From up on Poppy Hill, 2012) – Dir. by Miyazaki Goro.

Miyazaki Goro’s second film took on a coming-of-age story set in post-war Japan and was much better received than his debut. It brims with youthful enthusiasm and is good fun to watch – details in my REVIEW.

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