Anime Book Review: Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata

Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata is a book written by Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc, and it was published in 2009. The book contains an introduction, the pre-Ghibli works of Takahata and Miyazaki, the films of Studio Ghibli, other projects, a bibliography, and an index. Around the middle of the book is a section of pictures that features stills from some of the works featured in the book.

Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata
Written by: Colin Odell and Michelle Le Blanc
Publisher: Kamera Books
Release Date: September 1, 2009

The introduction goes into the backgrounds of both Takahata and Miyazaki, the founding of Studio Ghibli, the themes and motifs that are present in both directors’ work, and some explanatory notes. The pre-Ghibli works section talks about the Toei years, post-Toei, the Nippon Animation years, and post-Nippon Animation.

Starting in this final section, the authors discuss works made by the directors; each write up includes the title, the year of release, who directed it, a plot synopsis (which includes spoilers), and an analysis of the work. Included in this section are: The Little Norse Prince, Panda Kopanda and its sequel film, The Castle of Cagliostro, Downtown Story, Goshu the Cellist, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. There were several works included in this section that I have never seen before, so these write-ups helped to give me a glimpse into the works that I wasn’t already familiar with.

The section about the films of Studio Ghibli goes straight into the write ups for each piece, and the write ups are done in the same style as the pre-Ghibli works. The films covered in this section are: Castle in the Sky, The Story of the Yanagawa Canals, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbors the Yamadas, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales From Earthsea, and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.

I appreciated that the authors covered the live-action documentary The Story of the Yanagawa Canals, since this is a Studio Ghibli work that tends to not be talked about much; in fact, it wasn’t until I read this book that I even realized that this live-action documentary existed.. And this is the first publication that I’ve read which really goes into detail about the Ocean Waves television film.

The final section of the book talks about some of the other projects produced by Studio Ghibli. The works that are featured are: Ghiblies, Ghiblies Episode 2, television spots produced by the studio, the “On Your Mark” music video, the shorts produced for the Studio Ghibli museum, and the collaborative work the studio has done with other companies.

Not only was this book comprehensive in covering the works of Takahata and Miyazaki, but the authors wrote it in such a way that the reader isn’t bogged down while reading the book. Personally, I thought this was a rather quick and easy read for the kind of book that it is. I appreciated that the authors understood that they were primarily writing an overview book; while commentary is included for many of the works, the authors don’t spend pages upon pages analyzing everything.

Personally, I think this book is a worthwhile addition to the book and reference library of an anime fan, especially if they have an interest in the Studio Ghibli productions and the works of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of Studio Ghibli: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Additional posts about Studio Ghibli:

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