Toshio Suzuki’s “The Red Turtle” receives standing ovation at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival

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RocketNews 24 (by Meg Murphy):

The Red Turtle may have no dialogue, but if that hasn’t stopped viewers from saying wonderful things about it.

Produced by Toshio Suzuki, a long-time colleague of famous Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, and directed by London-based Dutch animator Michaël Dudok de Wit, the film The Red Turtle (in French La Tortue Rouge and in Japanese Reddo Taatoru: Aru Shima no Monogatari) premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival on May 18, to much excitement from the crowd. Reports state that the excitement could be felt from viewers as soon as Studio Ghibli’s well-known Totoro logo appeared on the screen, and that the film received a huge standing ovation at its end.

I’m so happy,” said Suzuki, “Of course, I would be quite sad if there was no one left at the end of the film (laughs).”

Director Dudok de Wit commented, “There were about a thousand people in this huge theatre, and they were all so focused on the film. I don’t think I’ve felt anything so amazing before.”

The film has no dialogue, and is Studio Ghibli’s first European co-production, with German film distributor Wild Bunch. It “follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds,” according to IMDb.

If you haven’t already caught it, here’s the official trailer for the film:

 

Cinematic photographs of Tokyo at night by Masashi Wakui

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This Is Collossal (by Christopher Jobson):

Tokyo is an infinitely photogenic city. And there’s no shortage of photographers capturing its vibrant landscape. But local resident and photography aficionado Masashi Wakui has a unique, surreal style of capturing Tokyo by night and making it look like an animated still from Akira or a Ghibli film.

Wakui has a penchant for the backstreets of Tokyo, specifically those with plenty of lanterns, streetlights and neon signs that only add to the surreal, cinematic quality of the scene. And those who have spent any number of nights wandering these streets will find Wakui’s photos achingly captivating.

Once the scene is captured Wakui then digitally manipulates the image, giving it a color grading effect that works perfectly with his busy nighttime cityscapes. There are tutorials that have even sprouted up, analyzing the “Masashi Wakui Look,” as its been coined. Wakui himself even points to one, admitting it’s close but not perfect.

You can see many more of Wakui’s photos on Flickr, where he constantly posts new work. (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

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Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli’s 1991 masterpiece ‘Only Yesterday’ finally set for North America release

From the talent that brought you Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle comes the archived masterpiece Only Yesterday. Originally released in Japan in 1991 under the title Omoide Poro Poro or translated as Memories Trickle Down, the story follows that of 27-year old Taeko as her travels to the countryside are interlaced with memories of booming metropolitan Tokyo.

Daisy Ridley (Rey of Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Dev Patel (Chappie and Slumdog Millionaire) voice the main characters in the Isao Takahata-directed animation with Hayao Miyazaki as general producer.

Only Yesterday hits the IFC Center theater on January 1 and select theaters nationwide on February 26.

Akiyuki Nosaka, celebrated author of Grave of the Fireflies, passes away

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Famed writer’s best-known novel served as basis for Studio Ghibli anime of the same name.

Born in the city of Kamakura in 1930, Akiyuki Nosaka didn’t have an easy childhood. His mother died two months after giving birth to him. His adoptive father was killed in an air raid on Kobe in the closing months of World War II, and growing up Nosaka would also lose an older sister to illness and a younger one to starvation after evacuating their home.

Nosaka would channel the pain of these experiences into his semi-autobiographical novel Grave of the Fireflies, which was published when the author was 37 and would be awarded the Naoki Prize for literature in 1967. While the novel has had limited exposure abroad, it was also adapted into an animated theatrical feature in 1988, which earned international acclaim for its powerful story, Studio Ghibli-produced animation, and direction by renowned anime icon Isao Takahata.

Nosaka suffered a stroke in 2003, and had been receiving convalescent care from his wife at their Tokyo home since then. On the morning of December 9, at roughly 10:30, Mrs. Nosaka discovered that her husband was not breathing. The 85-year-old author was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead by medical staff.

In addition to his wife, Nosaka is survived by his two daughters, both former members of the Takarazuka all-female stage troupe. The deeply respected writer’s passing brings great sorrow to fans of literature and animation alike, and its suddenness, like Nosaka’s signature work itself, is a solemn reminder of the preciousness of life.

Lone Wolf and Cub creator Kazuo Koike says being an otaku for life is his key to happiness in old age

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RocketNews 24:

Although he’s one of the most respected figures of all time in the manga industry, Kazuo Koike isn’t typically associated with the otaku subculture. When his most popular creation, Lone Wolf and Cub, was translated into English it attracted as many international fans from among Western comic readers as from those who favored Japanese manga, and in general his works have a gritty, somber tone to them, unlike the brightly colored daydreams and self-insert power fantasies that are often associated with otaku-pandering fare.

There’s also the fact that Koike was born in 1936, and being old enough and of the corresponding gender to fill two-thirds of a “grumpy old man” bingo card, you might expect him to have harsh words for Japan’s legions of hobby-obsessed individuals, like those that often sputter forth from Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki.

But it turns out that not only is Koike accepting of the otaku life, but he thinks that being an otaku from the cradle to the grave makes for a beautiful life.

In another twist, it turns out Koike is quite the social media master, with a massive Twitter following of over 140,000 fans. Recently he shared his thoughts on the otaku condition, and whether or not it’s something that people ever really grow out of.

“I’m 80 years old, so I’m just going to come out and tell you guys. People who are born as otaku are otaku for life. You can’t quit it! Natural Born OTAKU!!!” (Kazuo Koike)

“I’m always saying ‘I am the greatest otaku,’ but when you take a look around,senior citizens who are enjoying their lives are generally some sort of otaku. Truly, being an otaku until the end of your days is a wonderful thing. Live as an otaku, die as an otaku. It’s the greatest.” (Kazuo Koike)

Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki hard at work on first ever CG short

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RocketNews 24:

Hayao Miyazaki, the world-famous (supposedly retired) director and face of Studio Ghibli, is currently working on his first ever fully computer-generated movie, it has been revealed.

Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki announced earlier today that retired director Hayao Miyazaki is hard at work on a brand new short animation for the studio. What may come as a surprise to many of the veteran director’s fans, however, is that this time round the production will be entirely computer generated.

The short film, which is to be screened only at the Studio Ghibli Museum located in Tokyo’s Mitaka City, is expected to have a run-time of just 10 minutes, but in true Miyazaki style will take approximately three years to create.

It is apparently based on an idea for a feature-length film which Miyazaki had back in 1997, prior to the release of Princess Mononoke.

Little else is known about the production at this time, but Suzuki mentioned during his announcement of the project that, far from being intimidated by the new digital medium, Mr Miyazaki was positively “fired up for the challenge”.

Village in Taiwan has dozens of anime and children’s characters painted on its houses!

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RocketNews 24:

Don’t you agree that our surroundings influence our mood? Being in a bright, vibrant environment usually makes one feel more positive and happy, and the positive energy in us in turn has the power to influence the mood of others around us.

A small village in Tainan City of Taiwan has been attracting attention online and attracting visitors because of the cheerful vibes that emanate from its brightly colored walls. With walls covered in colorful paintings of SpongeBob, Totoro, Doraemon and other characters and motifs, there’s no doubt this village must be a happy place!

Now more famously known as Cai Hui Cun (彩繪村), which literally means “painted village,” Hujia Village, located in the Shanhua District of southern Taiwan, used to be a quiet, rundown district until about a year ago. Since then it has blossomed into a vibrant tourist spot that continues to see an increasing number of visitors each day, and it’s said that property prices have even risen, thanks to its brilliantly painted walls. What’s more impressive than the numerous wall murals is the fact that this amazing transformation started with a home project that stemmed from the filial piety of five sisters.

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According to Yahoo News Taiwan, some time last year, the Li sisters, who spent a couple of their childhood years living in Hujia Village, went back to the village to visit their grandmother. The trip back to the old village brought back fond memories of when their grandmother used to care for them, and that triggered Fan Ting Li’s inspiration to paint the outer walls of her grandmother’s house as a way to express her gratitude to her 86-year-old granny.

With no experience or training in painting wall murals, the Li sisters had a rough start. The elderly woman watched with worry as Fan Ting and her sisters, Hui Qing, Guan Yu, Qing Yan and Wei Zhen, spent long hours under the scorching sun, and asked her “silly granddaughters” to give up on the idea several times, but the sisters were determined to complete their project.

Studio Ghibli murals

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Residents of the village gazed upon them with curiosity and doubt at first, but were eventually moved by their passion, and some even volunteered to join them. Their little home project gradually spread throughout the village, and their painting team once grew to the size of 18 members coming from all walks of life, including an eight-year-old elementary school girl.

▼ Western influences

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Watching as the voluntary painting team contributed their time, effort and money to beautifying their village, the other villagers too, often contributed to their cause by bringing them snacks and beverages. There have also been private companies that donated items to aid in the decoration of the walls, but due to the residents’ limited funds, they narrowed down their mural locations to the houses of elderly residents who lived alone, hoping to brighten up their days.

▼ Japanese anime characters

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Since word of the painted village spread across cyberspace, tourists from near and far have begun visiting the village, not only bringing some liveliness to the once-sleepy place, but boosting profits for local businesses as well. The local authorities have since acknowledged the efforts put into Hujia Village, and have given their word to contribute to the beautifying and expansion of the painted village.

▼ Chinese motifs.

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The Li sisters and their team of mural maestros can still be spotted creating more wall paintings in the village on weekends. If you’re interested in stopping by, the location details are below! Although the area has pretty much turned into a tourism spot, bear in mind that these murals are painted on actual residences, so it would only be nice to show some consideration for their residents, just as you probably wouldn’t appreciate strangers littering or creating a racket outside your house.

Village information:
台南市善化區胡家里300號 (陽明國小)
Tainan City, Shanhua District, 300 Hujia Village (Yang Ming Elementary School)
*Note: The Painted Village is in the vicinity of the elementary school.

 

Look out for this school as a landmark to guide you to the Painted Village.

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The 2015 Sapporo Snow Festival

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RocketNews 24:

Every February in Hokkaido brings another amazing display of artful snow and ice carvings, and RocketNews24 brings a firsthand account of the 66th annual Sapporo Snow Festival.

This year has already brought a couple of exciting stories from the festival. Whether it was soulless snow sculptures or an imposing Sith Lord, the Sapporo Snow Festival always gives you something to talk about.

The Yubari Melon Mascot! The only terrifying mascot in Japan.

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Although the city of Sapporo is very large, the sites for the festival are not that far apart. Especially the two sites that feature most of the incredible snow and ice artwork are within minutes of each other, making a lot of the festival easily accessible.

Susukino Ice World 2015, was where the ice sculpture competition pieces were shown. With plenty of amazing entries this year, it’s a wonder how the judges were able to pick just four sculptures as winners.

Overall winner of the ice sculpture contest!

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Odori Park was home to all the major installation snow works, including the international snow carving competition. Representatives from many countries were working very hard to complete their sculpture within the three days allowed.

Indonesia

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United States (Oregon)

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New Zealand

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Darth Vader and his imperial Storm Troopers might be out to steal the show, but there were plenty of other really incredible sculptures on display in Odori Park.

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For the smaller sculptures, a quick glance at them revealed a few pretty obvious themes.

Yokai Watch

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Frozen

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Studio Ghibli

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Parasyte

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The third site of the snow festival, the Sapporo Community Dome, had its share of snow art as well, but people came here to play in and with the snow, rather than admire it. The standout winner was definitely the Nissin sponsored “tube sliding” with lengthy lines right up until closing.

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Travel between the sites was really easy, with a shuttle bus running to the sites that was cheaper than taking the subway.

Night time provided a unique opportunity to show off for the crowd, performances graced the stages in front of the huge snow sculptures until the closing of each day.  The Star Wars stage had its own light show which repeated every 15 minutes.

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The real winner of the night was the projection mapping upon the Kasuga Grand Shrine sculpture, though.

If you haven’t gotten enough of the snow festival yet, here are a few more pictures to make you wish you were able to be there yourself. Enjoy!

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This amazingly detailed theme park map is what Tokyo Ghibli Land would look like

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RocketNews 24:

At the Ghibli Museum in Mikata, Tokyo, in an enchanting building designed by Hayao Miyazaki himself, you can wander among sketches and storyboards, gaze up at the iconic Robot Soldier standing guard on the building’s roof, and learn about the history of animation.

What you can’t do is ride a Laputa roller coaster, a Sea of Decay log flume, or a monorail shaped like the Cat Bus, because a) Mr. Miyazaki would probably hate that and b) Ghibli is presumably doing pretty well out of its other endeavours and doesn’t feel the need to build an actual amusement park just yet.

So, alas, these beautiful plans for a full-blown theme park by Japanese artist and Studio Ghibli fan Takumi won’t be being realized any time soon. Which is a shame, because Takumi’s incredibly detailed Tokyo Ghibli Land is one theme park that we’d happily pay through the nose to visit.

Takumi posted his beautiful plans to Twitter on January 31, along with some pretty serious-sounding statements of intent.

And we are seriously impressed with the attention to detail in these plans.

At the centre of the imagined park is Calcifer as a Ghibli-style house with pipes and chimneys poking out all over the place. His lolling tongue rolls out onto Kingsbury Square, named after the fictional town in which Howl’s Moving Castle is set:

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Of course, guests to Takumi’s Ghibli Land park would need accommodation, and the artist has included Hotel Adriano (from Porco Rosso), and the Aburaya Bathhouse (Spirited Away) for guests to choose from. Leading up to the Aburaya Bathhouse is a beautiful homage to the street scenes from Spirited Away, the aptly named Buta-kui Food Court where you can (of course) eat like pigs:

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Elsewhere, there are other cool little details, like a Forest Animals attraction guarded over by Shishigami and occupied by a whole host of mythical creatures, and an Aviation Museum holding flying machines from a Flaptter (Castle in the Sky) to Jiro’s Birdplane from The Wind Rises. Snaking around the whole site, of course, is a Cat Monorail made up of five stuck-together Cat Buses.

▼ Shishigami (Princess Mononoke) and friends.

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▼ The Aviation Museum and Cat Monorail. We wanna go!

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Clockwise from top left: Hotel Adriano (Porco Rosso); Automobile Mountain (with a gun-toting Dora from Castle in the Sky); Laputa Labyrinth; Hatter hat shop (Howl’s Moving Castle); Uncle Pom’s Planetarium, Flying Flaptters and Tiger Moth Adventure 3D (Castle in the Sky); Therru’s Dragon (Tales from Earthsea).

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▼ Shishigami’s Animal Forest (Princess Mononoke); Zeniba’s Cake Factory, Aburaya Bathhouse, and Eat-Like-A-Pig Food Court (Spirited Away); Mei’s Acorn Hunt (My Neighbour Totoro); Jiro’s Bird-Plane (The Wind Rises); Atelier Antique Shop (Whisper of the Heart); Yakul Carousel (Princess Mononoke); Calcifer Talk (Howl’s Moving Castle). Centre: Irontown (Princess Mononoke).

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▼ Sea of Decay Cruise (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind); Koriko town and Gutiokipanja (Kiki’s Delivery Service); Cat Monorail; Aviation Museum.

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▼ Arrietty’s dollhouse; the Marsh House (When Marnie Was There); Sousuke’s Pop Pop Shop (Ponyo); Susuwatari Mansion (i.e. Mei and Satsuki’s house); Safflower Picking (Only Yesterday); Princess Kaguya’s Bamboo Grove; Fujimoto’s Twenty Thousand Leagues and the Devonian Period Aquarium (Ponyo); The Cat’s Office (The Cat Returns); Manpuku-ji Temple (Pom Poko).

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Keeping Totoro’s Forest safe: Anime legend Hayao Miyazaki volunteers in conservation event

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RocketNews 24:

When Studio Ghibli’s classic anime My Neighbor Totoro first screened in the U.S., more than a few people assumed the titular forest spirit must be a traditional figure from Japanese myth or folklore. Considering how well-realized the character is, and the reverence the film treats him with, it’s not surprising that some people would arrive at that conclusion, but the fact of the matter is Totoro sprang directly from the active and ample imagination of Hayao Miyazaki.

The acclaimed director did have a little real-world help creating the film’s settingthough, which is said to have been inspired by a patch of Japanese forestland called Fuchi no Mori. The forest helped light a creative spark in Miyazaki, and now he’s returned the favor by volunteering in an annual conservation event that helps keep the Fuchi no Mori green and healthy.

Fuchi no Mori straddles the Yanasegawa River, which serves as the borderline between Tokyo’s Higashimurayama and neighboring Saitama Prefecture’s Tokorozawa City. Literally meaning “The Abyssal Forest,” it’s also commonly referred to as Totoro’s Forest, because of its resemblance to sisters Mei and Satsuki’s country surroundings in the film.

Tokorozawa has been the 74-year-old Miyazaki’s home for the last 45 years, and in 1996 he made a donation of 300 million yen (US$2.8 million, at the time) in order to protect the forest from housing developments. The timing coincides with the production of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, the 1997 release with heavy environmental themes which was written and directed by Miyazaki, who had initially intended for the theatrical feature to be his last.

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Miyazaki has provided more than just monetary aid, though. As per the suggestion of the anime icon’s wife, Akemi, volunteers annually gather in winter to clear away underbrush and dead branches from Fuchi no Mori. Doing so allows both the indigenous sawtooth and konara oaks, as well as the maples and satinwood trees, which were introduced as part of reforestation efforts, to flourish in the coming spring.

This year, some 260 environmentally minded individuals answered the online call for participants, coming from as far away as Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. On January 18, they were joined by Miyazaki himself, who pitched in and worked side-by-side with the volunteers during the four-and-a-half-hour event.

Miyazaki’s hands-on approach has drawn praise, given that he’s both wealthy and old enough that society wouldn’t knock him for taking a pass on manual labor. But while some might have expected the famously stern animator, who is said to go for daily walks in the woods, to speak about the deep responsibility represented by the event, he downplayed the weight of what the group had set out to do. Instead, he passed it off as merely a natural and obvious course of events, saying:

Conservational activities are a function of the community’s attitude towards nature. For me, this forest is now a part of my lifestyle. I don’t think so deeply about whether or not I have an obligation to do this. Rather than hold meetings about these kinds of things, what’s important is for us to take action, with our own hands, as part of the flow of time.”

If he could talk, we’re sure Totoro would say the same.

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