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Animal Treasure Island on DVD
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 -
7:00am cst (link):

Animal Treasure Island

Available this week is the American DVD for Animal Treasure Island (Dobutsu Takarajima), the Toei Doga animation classic from 1971. This is one of the final gems from Toei's golden age, following swiftly after Horus, Prince of the Sun (1968) and Puss in Boots (1969).

If you're wondering why a Japanese animated cartoon is being released in the US in 2005, I have a simple answer: Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki not only served as a key animator in Animal Treasure Island, he also worked under the improvised title of "idea man," thanks to his many creative inputs. By this time, what we would call "the Miyazaki style" was fully emerged and on display, and his presence dominates this picture.

This movie is a triumph, full of rollicking fun and adventure, and demonstrates the creative talents of this dedicated group of artists and animators. Many of them stayed together for years or decades, migrating first to A Pro, then to Nippon Animation, Telecom, and then Studio Ghibli. Yasuji Mori and Yoichi Kotabe - part of the core creative group behind Horus, alongside Yasuo Otsuka, Isao Takahata, and Miyazaki - worked their brilliance on this picture, and if you can read the credits, you'll spot another key animator named Akemi Ota, aka Miyazaki's wife (she also worked on Horus).

Do yourself and your families a favor this holiday season. Skip Madagascar (sighh) and Cinderella (yecch) and all the noisy CGI-laden multiplex blockbusters (booo), and get the Animal Treasure Island DVD instead.


Today's Photos
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 -
7:00am cst (link):

A nighttime photo from a couple weeks ago. For this I used the underwater filter (which I often use on daytime shots to bring out more color). With a digital camera, you often don't need external lighting to take pictures.

Daniel Thomas photo of the day


Like the Clouds, Like the Wind
Saturday, November 12, 2005 -
2:00am cst (link):

Like the Clouds, Like the Wind

I finally had a chance to sit down and watch a thouroughly enjoyable, but overlooked, anime called Like the Clouds, Like the Wind (Kumo no You Ni, Kaze no You Ni). The story is set in China, and centers around a teenage girl who, almost on a whim, decides to compete for the chance to become the new Emperor's first wife. Ginga has a salty tongue and an independant disposition, much like the Miyazaki heroines; she ruffles feathers and makes impressions with everyone she encounters.

This film is often mistaken in the West for a lost Ghibli production, thanks largely to the character designs (which remind me a lot of Yoshifumi Kondo's drawing style, as well as Miyazaki's) and strong feminist bent. If that's your guess, I'll give you half-credit. Kumo Kaze (as it's also known) was the work of Studio Pierre, but the Animation Director and Character Designer was Katsuya Kondo (no relation), who's been a leading animator at Ghibli ever since its inception.

I think the 80-minbute running time is a little short, as there are so many characters, and so many different episodes; halfway through, a pair of comic theives decide to start a rebellion (again, almost on a whim), and wind up leading a successful revolution that overthrows the Chinese Emperor. It tends to clash with the first half, and the final act becomes needlessly rushed.

But perhaps I'm being picky. Kumo Kaze tries to tie together multiple anime genres - comedy, historical drama, shojo romance, coming-of-age - and for the most part, it's successful. And it still manages to stand apart in its own little space after all these years. That's not a bad achievement.

Currently, the only DVD available is the Japanese Region 2, and I'm unaware of any efforts to bring it Stateside. So for the time being, your options are to import the DVD, or track down the fansub copy on the internet.


Today's Photos
Friday, November 11, 2005 -
11:30pm cst (link):

Pretty much all the leaves are now gone. By all rights, it should be snowing in Minnesota; thanks to global warming, the winter season has been considerably shortened. Of course, folks are always happy with more warmer weather, and whine endlessly whenever it's cold (which makes you wonder why they choose to live in Minnesota in the first place). Sigh. Our grandchildren will curse the day we were born for doing nothing about this crisis when we could.

So, on that happy note, a picture of trees. Just pretend that there's snow.

Daniel Thomas photo of the day

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