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A Tribute to Japan’s Animated Culture

A diverse look at the animation created by the people of Japan, and the dichotomies present in their cartoon culture. Sunny mornings turn to full moon evenings here at “My Life at the Movies.”

Yesterday, was another landmark day for MLatM. My movie-going adventures continued with another hand-crafted event: JAPANime Saturday. John and I each selected a favorite 80′s Anime with the express purpose of honoring Japan. I purchased “Nausicaa” for the afternoon, and John went with “Wicked City” for the evening.

What started out as another edition of “Rewind to the 80′s” quickly turned into a bi-focal look at Japanese spirituality. From dawn to dusk and into the midnite hour JAPANime Saturday was a truly enlightening affair. Now, with this pithy preface over let the show(s) begin.

~ Nausicaa: Of The Valley of the Wind ~

My initial introduction to the brilliant mind of Hayao Miyazaki came in 1999 when Disney released his epic “Princess Mononoke.” It wasn’t until my first year at Western that I discovered my favorite film of his, Nausicaa: Of the Valley of the Wind. Originally released in 1984 it was presented by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, because of its environmentalist undertones.

Years later, thanks to Studio Ghibli’s partnership with Disney, Nausicaa was blessed with a star-studded English translation. Now, it’s an expertly transferred Blu-Ray with great behind-the-scenes interviews.

As the sun stood at it’s apex we popped the disc into the PS3 to start things off. Instantly the music of Joe Hisaishi became apparent. This binary score exists as a combination of piano led orchestral music and psychodelic organ-laced Funk. Important moments, moments integral to Nausicaa’s spiritual growth, are highlighted by symphonic ballads. On the other hand, moments of tension and anger are pronounced via fast-paced melodies. Combine these cyclical sounds with high-flying visuals and you have one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema to date.

~ Wicked City ~

An ongoing and important part of MLatM is sharing. So after the sun settled and the moon rose, John brought us our second selection: Wicked City. Released in 1987 and based upon an acclaimed novel, Wicked City is another anime crafted by the creator of Vampire Hunter D.

The animation team that birthed this neo-noir masterpiece also made the classic supernatural flick “Ninja Scoll.” Like Ninja Scoll it is an after-hours x-rated adventure. Therein the darker side of life is brought to light and love is explained as its true conquerer.

Like Nausicaa it is a tale of conflict, of two-opposing worlds forced to live in harmony. Both films exist as evidence that spiritual dichotomies are not only the invention of modern Judeo-Christianity. Instead, these movies act as more abstract examples of the two-fold nature of the soul. The first accomplished this via the flight of a young goddess, and the second did so thanks to its star-crossed lovers. Both were artistic displays of Japan’s beautifully complex spirituality.

God Bless


My Life at the Movies


  • Chris Elliott

    Cool post man. Obviously Anime is not my thing. Not even close, but thanks to your description of the score, and other strong concepts, I’m much more intrigued. Great job dude. And good lookin’ on the timely post :)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for recognizing the beauty that lies within an art form still foreign to Western culture. Anyone with time on their hands should check these two films out, those I’ve covered before, and the many more pieces of extraordinary cinema crafted by Japanese artists. In the near future I will be returning to Evangelion, ass well as discussing two recent Japanese Blu Rays I just bought for another Double Feature.

      God Bless Japan :)

  • Anonymous

    For Nausicaa what struck me most was the score and the emotional depth. I was thoroughly impressed and plan on watching more of this creators legacy.
    For Wicked City it was just as visceral as I remember it. Having LITERALLY watched it over lets say, 10 times, I’m always struck by how I feel during and after it. Both emotions are so different!

    It was a great day/night!

    • Anonymous

      It was an amazing movie experience. To think of how long we have been creating these concepts. To think of how long we have worked on making “going to the movies” something more than just a phrase. We have seen so many classics in so many classic ways. Love ya big bro!

  • user99

    I’ve pretty much associated everything studio ghibli releases with amazingness, and this futher emphasizes to me why I like you so much.
    Keep at it bro.

    • Anonymous

      I’m in the same boat when it comes to Studio Ghibli. It is hard for me to consider any of their work anything less than stellar. Although some people don’t like Hayao’s son’s work, I loved Earthsea and the books that it was based upon.

      Furthermore, the Nausicaa Blu-Ray is a great buy. It didn’t matter that it was 30 bucks, I didn’t blink at the price, I knew it would be worth it and it was.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.bonsu Joe Osei Bonsu

    Awesome post dude!! I’m actually rediscovering anime myself. I’ve been watching episodes of Tekkaman Blade on my iPad as of late. As far as 80s anime is concerned, my fav has to be FIST OF THE NORTH STAR! CLASSIC!

    • Anonymous

      @jay-oh Real talk? I gotta get me some Tekkaman Blade ASAP! I recently regained childhood memories with the character via a Wii game he is in. As for “Fist of the North Star” stay tuned to the blog. I plan to have a piece about that classic in the next month.

      Thanks for reading as always. HEROES OF THE WORLD!!!

      • Joebonsu

        I have the entire series of Tekkaman Blade. Lemme know when you want them. Its such a sick show!!

      • Anonymous

        For sure… we gotta link up. Message me about Anime North. If you are going give me the skinny because me and my big bro wanna def stop in.

  • http://twitter.com/g_gryffyn 그웬 (Gwen)

    For me, Nausicaa and Mononoke are two of Miyazaki’s most mature stories. There’s not much cutesy in either and, though I love each and every thing Miyazaki has made, I appreciate these two the most. I like your focus on the music of Nausicaa – the music is what resonated with me long after my first viewing.

    I haven’t seen Wicked City, but speaking of anime, I’m going to give Trigun a revisit soon. I’d also recommend the series Death Note for a watch sometime.

    • Anonymous

      Trigun! Nicholas Wolfwood is by boy!!! My biggest anime geek it is endlessly Eva :)

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