Saturday, 17 April 2010

Miyazaki Knows His Tea

We watched Spirited Away again tonight. Hayao Miyazaki's films are obviously known for their fantastical elements of old lady-head birds, fish that turn into little girls and forest spirits, but it is their simple, everyday, sensual details that both ground the fantasy and make it more persuasive.

Haku the dragon informs Chihiro, the heroine of Spirited Away, that she has stumbled into a world of Gods where her parents are transformed into pigs whilst she stands in front of an exquisitely realised blue hydrangea bush that the viewer can almost smell.

When she crosses the sea to visit the evil Yubaba's twin sister, Zeniba, Chihiro is served spongy cake and a cup of tea, the surface of which ripples gently as she wriggles in her seat. We can see that she takes it without milk.

We are just getting used to the idea of the title character of Kiki's Delivery Service being a witch, when she moves into a bakery packed high with warm loaves which have visible flour dustings and look delicious yet wholesome.

In Ponyo, Sousuke's mother is raging at his father's overtime whilst preparing a delicious looking stir fry full of recognizable vegetables. She later serves Ponyo and Sousuke cook-in-the-bowl noodles and we watch as the water is poured over, the lids are placed on the bowls and then the children pack their faces with the soft, stringy bundles.

The Miyazaki world is so comprehensively realised that Chihiro, clad in trainers, lime striped t-shirt and polyester shorts can travel in an ornate lift with a whiskery, man-boobed, walrus-moustached radish ghost to the damask curtained, gilt mirrored and shag pile carpeted lair of Yubaba without any of these visuals jarring.

Stylised figures painted with flat colours run through hyper-realistic foliage and it all looks so right.

Everything is exactly and completely what it is, with no compromise.

Miyazaki's ACE.


  1. I love Miyazaki too! I imported a box set of his DVDs from Japan and am slowly working my way through them. I don't want to watch them all at once as I like to know I will always have some left to watch!
    The annoying thing is that a few don't have the English subtitles. I hope they get round to adding them at some point in the future - I hate knowing I'm missing out on some.

  2. I am exactly the same! My DVD of Nausicaa is being saved until the very last possible moment.

    Apparently, Studio Ghibli are currently working on a film of the The Borrowers which just sounds so perfect: