Castle in the Sky: Pazu’s Quest & The Mystery of the Island
Here at Moon Rabbit we’re obviously very interested in mysterious flying islands. No wonder this is part 3 of our three-part mini-series exploring the world of Tenku no Shiro Rapyuta, or as it’s known outside of Japan, Castle in the Sky. In our previous episodes, we covered the story origins of this film and then looked at the various male and female roles that Miyazaki compares and contrasts with each other. And now I’d like to turn your attention to the other main character, Pazu. The boy hero Pazu also has his origins in ancient mythology, and in true Miyazaki fashion, it has to do with the wind. We’ll explore how the film connects the mythologies of wind, earth and sky, and then look at how Pazu’s story is the classic Father Quest that Hollywood has horribly overdone but it’s so fresh and interesting when Miyazaki does it. And finally, we’ll go into the question I find most exciting: what is Laputa? Why is it important that all of these people end up there? And what are the Buddhist spiritual teachings hiding in plain sight as Miyazaki wraps up his story? Again, there’s so much to talk about, so let’s jump right back into the conversation with my returning guest, Flick Beckett. I’m your host, Adam Dobay, and let’s Follow the Moon Rabbit to the distant mythical island that our dad set off to find in his DIY retro-19th century airship. How to listen to the Moon Rabbit Podcast? Right here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episodeOn your favourite podcast app: search for “Moon Rabbit” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or your preferred podcast app. (And if you can’t find it, let me know which service is missing it!) Now it’s your turn! Congratulations, you’re through our massive Castle in the Sky series! It’s been a bumpy road getting it here (looking at you 2020) but it’s here, so I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did making it. What are your highlights? Anything we didn’t talk about? I already have some notes on things we didn’t get to cover, but I’m really interested in your take. Let me know in the comments? And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to sign up for the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide for a deep look into the storytelling and the mythologies behind the Ghibli films. Get the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide! The post Castle in the Sky: Pazu’s Quest & The Mystery of the Island appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
5 Mar 2021
Castle in the Sky: Sheeta’s Disney Princess Subversion
Welcome to Moon Rabbit, a podcast about the mythologies that inform the stories we love to watch. This is episode 2 of our three-episode mini-arc exploring the world of Tenku no Shiro Rapyuta, or Castle in the Sky, the classic Miyazaki masterpiece. In the previous episode, we covered why this film is not the simplistic, superficial adventure that some Western film critics have made it out to be, and we also covered the film’s story origins and how a childhood lens is at the core of its storytelling. And for this episode we’ll focus on Sheeta, the princess who defies the common story tropes of what a princess normally is, especially in the classic Disney sense of the word. At the very end of the episode I will unravel how this film’s Sheeta is partly based on Sita, the Hindu Goddess featured in the epic Ramayana. But before that, we will take a look at how Miyazaki portrays all the different groups of men in this film, and how this makes Muska a much more complex villain than he is often said to be. There’s a lot to cover there, so let’s hop right in to it with my returning guest, Flick Beckett. I’m your host, Adam Dobay, and let’s Follow the Moon Rabbit to a mining village, a military complex, and ancient India! How to listen to the Moon Rabbit Podcast? Right here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episodeOn your favourite podcast app: search for “Moon Rabbit” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or your preferred podcast app. (And if you can’t find it, let me know which service is missing it!) Now it’s your turn! What’s your biggest takeaway from this episode? Let me know in the comments below. And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to sign up for the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide for a deep look into the storytelling and the mythologies behind the Ghibli films. Get the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide! The post Castle in the Sky: Sheeta’s Disney Princess Subversion appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
5 Mar 2021
Castle in the Sky: Story Origins
Welcome back to the Moon Rabbit podcast, where we explore the hidden layers of film storytelling. And today we’re entering the world of Tenku no Shiro Rapyuta, or Castle in the Sky, or — in countries where the complete title is allowed to be said — Laputa: Castle in the Sky; one of the early Miyazaki masterpieces that is a huge classic in Japan but often goes under the radar in the West. In fact, Castle in the Sky is often waved away by Western film critics as simplistic and not nearly as polished as later Miyazaki films. But you know what? That’s a huge misconception. Just by picking a handful of story elements in this film to focus on, we ended up with a three episode mini-series for the Moon Rabbit podcast. So if you already love Castle in the Sky and were looking for a deeper look at how all of its individual pieces of genius fit together, this episode is a must-listen. And if you’ve seen this film but are on the fence about it, this will be a good entry point for you to see what the fuss is about. In the first bit of our conversation, we’ll start out by focusing on: the origins of the film’s storyhow the film’s scouting trip to Wales and the South of England influenced the film’s landscape and charactersand we’ll also talk about the film’s unique childhood lens — and how it changes depending on whether you’re watching with the English dub or the original Japanese voice acting. Later, in the second episode we’ll be taking a look at Sheeta’s mythology and the gender tropes that Miyazaki flips over, and in the final episode we’ll get into Pazu’s father quest and the film’s crucial final act, including what the ending really means. Needless to say there will be spoilers throughout for the film, so tread carefully. And for these episodes, I’m back with independent film aficionado Flick Beckett, who’s video content co-ordinator for Picturehouse Cinemas and also the host of film review shows Flick’s Flicks and Inside Picturehouse. Flick specialises in indie and world cinema, and is always an absolute joy to talk to as she gets as super excited about Ghibli films as I do. So it’s time to put on your goggles, secure your amulets, and fire up your engines. I’m your host, Adam Dobay, and let’s Follow the Moon Rabbit to the mystical flying island of Rapyuta. (An adult language warning if you can speak or understand Spanish: we’ll be saying one specific word a lot, that is in the film’s title as well as a named location in the film that contains a Spanish swear word. So if you don’t want anyone else around you to hear that one word, please put some headphones on for the duration of this episode.) How to listen to the Moon Rabbit Podcast? Right here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episodeOn your favourite podcast app: search for “Moon Rabbit” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or your preferred podcast app. (And if you can’t find it, let me know which service is missing it!) And if you want to read while (or instead of) listening, here’s the episode’s full transcript! Castle in the Sky’s real-world influences How Gulliver’s Travels inspired Castle in the Sky Adam Dobay: Hello, Flick! Flick Beckett: Hi, Adam! Adam: Welcome back. Flick: Thank you. It’s lovely to be back. Adam: It feels like it’s been 60 years since we last talked and not just a couple of months. But that’s the sense of time. So with that we can get into our actual topic for today, which is Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Last chance to put on headphones, because I’m going to say this word a lot. They actually change: sometimes it’s Laputa sometimes it’s Raputa. The characters call it Rapyuta in the Japanese. So if you don’t want to offend anyone in Spanish, you can just refer to it as Rapyuta. And then it’ll be a non- issue. So it’s based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels’ Laputa. Yes, I think down to the size of the floating island. I looked it up – I forgot the numbers, but it was roughly the size. The idea definitely comes from there and Pazu even opens a book and I think either mentions Gulliver or mentions Swift or mentions someone. So the the literary connection is made. And also, Swift’s tendency to use mythological spaces to explore political issues is something that is not as frequently mentioned about this film, but I think it really tracks because Swift’s original story is about these people who live up in the sky and are so — I think it was based on the Royal Society or something. So he was criticising all the eggheads. Flick: And they’re very out of touch. And they have servants, and they don’t pay any attention to them, they’re very above all, sort of any kind of what they consider demeaning jobs. You know, I mean, I thought, yeah, it’s incredibly prescient. Adam: Yeah, and both, Swift and Miyazaki, because Miyazaki then goes on to explore this subject and say, “Look, here, we have this thing. No one lives there anymore.” I was surprised I forgot that, that they don’t know that there’s no one there. Sheeta, one of Sheeta’s first sentences when they get to the island, is to say, “Where’s all the people?” And I’ve seen this film so much now that I completely forgot about this. But it’s really important that we’re expecting a society to be there, but it’s gone. And we’re going to explore what’s on the island and why is exactly the things they’re that they’re there on the island and the latter half of this. But I find that really interesting that to make his point, Miyazaki has no one on the island, and then he has Sheeta and Pazu on the island. And then the others come in. And then and then things escalate really quickly from that point. So yeah, definitely, he takes a number of cues from Swift. Miyazaki’s Welsh scouting trip Adam: Something else I found something that I could never put together was I read, it’s widely known that Miyazaki and crew went to Wales to scout for this film, which you can see in the first act, it’s literally a Welsh mining village, except for the huge drop in altitude. I’ve never been to Wales, but I don’t think you have those huge cliff edges there. And they actually had two trips, and Miyazaki went on a trip in early 80s. And then preceding the film, which came out in 1986. So we’re two, I think, two years after Nausicaa, which we last discussed and two years before Totoro. So this is the in-between film. And for the second trip, they went after the miners’ strike, which everyone in the UK will know and everyone else will have to Google because we’re definitely not going to go into the miners’ strike in this episode. And what they saw there was all these mining villages that have been either abandoned or you know just the aftermath of the the strike that the workers lost in the end. So there was a lot of depression going on, but also a lot of solidarity going on because of the the miners were fighting together for the same cause for for all those years. So apparently all that part about the the miners’ solidarity comes from this because that really struck a chord with Miyazaki, who was the leader of his union, when he worked at the TOEI animation studio. So he went in there as a young upstart and said, “Oh, this place doesn’t have a union. Well, I’m quite left leaning, so workers should have rights within the company.” And you know, he just started organising. So like, I can see how, how this really rattled his mind and went directly into the film. Flick: Yes, absolutely. And when you first meet Pazu, and he’s getting his dinner for his boss, and he says, you know, finally the mines are open again. You know, and that really stayed with me, I thought, oh, gosh, that so they’ve been they’ve had a quiet patch. And now they’re up again, you know, and, and they’re able to find dignity through work, even though it’s hard work. And he’s only a child. So there’s allusions to child labour, from the time that the film would have been based in, you know, but that’s really interesting. Now, there’s all the climate thing, you sort of go “Oh, yeah, they coal is not a great idea to be mining for.” But at the time, it was so utterly destructive to communities, across all of England, to just shut down these coal mines. Everything around these people’s lives was based around the mines, with no other options available, you know, no way of looking at it to do something else with these people. So there was a real stripping away of people’s dignity at that time, you know, and, and I just was very struck at the dignity of the mining village and the miners and Pazu himself. Adam:Yeah, in the same scene that you mentioned, I noticed how I forgot about that the men come up, Pazu operates the the levers and the men come up, and they just say, “Nothing, we got nothing. We worked all day, we got nothing.” So that’s like a tiny scene like 20 seconds. And you get that these people are not rich, these people are not, you know, they’re not going to get gold out of this. This is not a gold rush. This is not, this is something that is gruelling, physical, very hard work. And then it’s up to luck, whether you find something or not. And again, it’s a Miyazaki principle of the hard working, basically working class people to show that they just work day in and day out whether they get something out of it or not. Because that’s the life there. Flick: Yes, yes. And I think he would have witnessed that without a doubt and when he visited, and one of the things that you know, that him saying other minds open, in a way would have been such a sort of wish for that time that, you know, we can go back to the mines and also, and that there was no rich mine owner. Adam: Because. Yes, that’s true. Flick: A lot of the mines and I think most of all the mines. I don’t know if I’m absolutely right, saying this work were nationalised. So they were owned by us, the people, you know, at that time, as well. Adam: And weirdly, this whole thing is a weird film connection between this film and the 2014 film Pride. So if someone doesn’t know anything about the miners’ strike and doesn’t want to read like historical terms, but is interested, they should check out the film Pride, which is a wonderful true story. With you know, some modifications, they didn’t get into some of the nuances, but the main story is as it happened, with how during the miners’ strike, the LGBTQ communities came together in support of the miners, and they helped each other out. And it’s a lovely tale of actual solidarity that happened both ways. When I saw my first Pride in the UK, I saw the miners marching and I was like, what, that’s weird. Like, yeah, you sometimes see the the police with the flags, and you see, you know, medical professionals and so on. Miners is that that seemed weird to me. Like I haven’t seen that connection before. And then I watch the film, and oh, so that this is an actual historical thing. It’s a great film, by the way, so I recommend everyone to watch it’s not very Miyazaki, but it is of this period. Okay. So, this was the first thing we want to explore from the actual things they put in the background, because this is not yet the time which we will have in Totoro and, and from Fireflies onwards, which is “we are going to depict Japanese landscapes“. This is before that. And in Nausicaa, we had the post-apocalyptic landscape. And here we have an actual landscape, but it’s Western. So it’s exotic for the Japanese, exotic for me as well because I come from Hungary. So the English landscape is still kind of new to me even after all these years. Mysteries of the film’s landscape Flick: There is something really quite Biblical about the landscape though as well, which I I’m very struck by what an incredibly spiritual film this is. And yes, you do have your Welsh mining village, but you do have this just absolutely cavernous drop, which is unfathomably huge. Adam: And you never see the bottom of it. Flick: You never see the bottom of it, no. And the sides of the hills for a mining village, they actually had houses in the hidden sides of the hills. I don’t know if you noticed that. And that is actually very Syrian and Turkish. And yeah, it’s really, you know, I don’t even know if because I noticed that when I went to Turkey a few years ago they did they did these incredible carvings in the size of unbelievably steep cliffs. Adam: I think they do it in Tibet as well. I have a slight memory of seeing, like Tibetan, you know, monk villages up in the, in the mountains, and it’s carved in there. So yeah, if you go if you go there, you really want to go there. Flick: Yeah, yeah, there’s definitely something way more in the aesthetic he’s got going on there. Because it’s unfathomable. For me, it just feels so breathtaking and so universal, almost, that he’s got these huge, huge earthscapes for us to consider. I just think he’s touching on way more than just representing a Welsh village, even though he took his inspiration from there. Adam: There’s always a mystery element in the Miyazaki film. And I think that the first wide shot you see of the village is when Pazu does the trumpet thing in the morning, which is the, I think, one of the most cited sequences. And it’s great, because, again, they take their cues from live action cinema, what would you do, you would have your camera set down, and then follow the pigeons, which is what they do with animated pigeons, but there’s the flight of the pigeons that draws the camera, from the little cage, all the way around the valley, or we don’t know if it’s, it’s a valley, or a gorge or a canyon, we took, we don’t know, that’s where you get that amazing shot. And then later, there’s a call back to that when Pazu and Sheeta are coming back from prison, essentially, from the military complex. And then it’s still not decided if they go on with their journey. And Dola says, “Okay, this is your village, we’re gonna pop you down here, kids,” and then they convince her to, to go on. And as they fly over the village, you can see massive craters. So I just noticed this. Not now, but but a couple of watches earlier, that there’s actual craters there that you don’t see when you first see the village. And, okay, why are their craters there? And then 15 minutes later, Muska turns on the island, and shows you the nuclear-esque bombing that it can do. So I think there’s a lot of like, world-building there by saying there’s been a war here. The reason you’re seeing those holes is that they were dropped in through the sky. And that is why mining is now reopening. The timeline doesn’t match. So it wouldn’t have been a Laputan bomb. Flick: But could it be that I don’t know if you remember in the opening credits, because I found out they revealed quite a lot more about the film than I’d understood from my first viewing. And you have your main Laputa. And then you’ve got lots of like offshoot ships. Adam: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And then definitely, they would have used the technology for not just one thing. They had the main thing, and they would have used that for other stuff. Flick: And then there’s a bit that I wasn’t sure if they all had a fight with the wind, and then they all crashed to earth. And then you see all the little people coming off the credits of just beautiful, just, they’re almost like Michelangelo cartoons. They’re just stunning. And I just wondered if that could from what you’re saying, could they have caused the crisis? Adam: I don’t know if either the the villages are built around the craters, or the craters are there because there were more villages there, you know. But they do say, Muska does say that this all happened 700 years ago, when Laputa was abandoned. So it doesn’t match the timeline with the miner saying “we’ve just opened up”. When Muska says so there’s something recent, and there’s something ancient, but what I love about that credit sequence, which is a clear continuation of the Nausicaa credit sequence, which is I think it’s embroidered or not embroidered, what’s the word I’m looking for? The Nausicaa credit sequence with the… Flick: Tapestry, isn’t it? Adam: Thank you. Yeah, it’s the Michelangelo style, woodblock style. And it’s just, you know, just glimpses, like, as Sheeta says, well, who knows? Yeah, we’ve forgotten we don’t know. I know the magic words, but I have no idea what happened. And that’s kind of the whole feeling of it in it. And again, the mystery of it – that something happened long ago, and we have a myth about it. And people were up in the sky and they probably had hubris, and they all came crashing down. You know, moral of the story don’t have hubris. Muska didn’t read the story. So it kind of plays that out. And you know Miyazaki goes into this in other films like in Howl’s Moving Castle, you have the war happening as we go through the film. And sometimes like in Nausicaa, or here, there might have been a war, or there might not have been a war we don’t know, in the original draft for Laputa it was a virus topically because people were unprotected up there. And that was the original plan that they then scrapped. It didn’t go into the story. But we do see, here’s the beautiful flying culture, and people flying on the things. And then it all comes crashing down and people live on the ground again. That’s kind of one question of the film, should we be living in the sky? To which Sheeta says no, we have to live near the earth. That’s where humanity is supposed to be. And in that sense, Laputa is sort of the thing that you visit, which we will get into in the latter half of this. But it’s not somewhere to live. It’s an aspiration, but you can’t go and stay there you can visit but you have to come back down and maintain your connection to the earth. Flick: Yes, there’s a lot in that, there’s a lot of spiritual connection with all of that, without a doubt, and that’s living in the dual and the non-dual life that we have, you know, that we have our spiritual selves and ourselves that we present to the world and connect to the world with, definitely. The Apple Orchards of Sussex Adam: Yeah. One last bit of trivia before we actually get into the film that I just found today, so I wanted to mention it is I once read in an interview. I couldn’t find it, if I find it, I’ll pop it up in the blog post on followthemoonrabbit.com and reference it. I don’t know where I read it. It was next to “we went and visited Wales, to storyboard and we also went to visit ‘the apple orchards of Sussex'”. And when I first read that a couple years ago was like, I’ve been living in Sussex for quite a while and I’ve seen a number of places. I’ve never heard of ‘the apple orchards of Sussex’. Then I asked before you were one of them, about ‘the apple orchards of Sussex’, and no idea, and it’s been bugging me for years. And today, I found the Wikipedia page for a woman called Eleanor Farjeon, who was apparently a children’s author (never heard of her before today), who lived in Sussex. She was born in London, then moved to Sussex. And she set her famous Martin Pippin series of books in Sussex and the first and most famous of them is called Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard. And Miyazaki apparently quoted Eleanor Farjeon as one of his big influences on his work. So of course that if they were coming to England and Wales to scout, they would go to Sussex and just just look at stuff. And to be honest, I haven’t seen Castle in the Sky since I moved to Sussex. And now that I’m watching it, I’m like, that’s the South Downs. I know these hills. I know these exact hills. And I know the chalk cliffs. Those are the Seven Sisters cliffs that you can see in the background as they draw away from the countryside and go towards Laputa in the second half of the film, and I never I never noticed that before because I didn’t live here. And it’s so amazing. And that’s another film connection because if you watch The Snowman, the Raymond Briggs original 1982 Snowman, that’s the same landscape as the middle bit of Laputa because Raymond Briggs also lived in Sussex so the entire Snowman sequence is set. The one thing that isn’t in Laputa is the Brighton Pier, which is only not not even I think the Pier and the Pavilion are in the… they fly over them in the Snowman. Yes, we were watching Laputa with Livia today and and when they were just rolling, I mean, flying over the rolling hills. She just started singing the ‘We’re walking in the air’, Yeah, that’s true. Exact same landscape. Flick: Amazing. I’ll watch it again now. Adam: Oh, no, we have to watch it again! [obvious sarcasm] Yeah, so people in Europe or anywhere in the world can now add the Sussex Downs National Park to their list of Miyazaki inspirational landscapes to visit. It’s cheaper in Europe to visit it then all the Japanese landscapes from here. Definitely. Well, not now. But some someday, someday when we have flying again. Oh, if Miyazaki did a thing about this, that flying is unavailable, and then you can fly again. I want that story. Let’s crowdfund Ghibli. Okay, let’s do a little break. And then let’s get into the big myth-busting that we have to do about Castle in the Sky. Mythbusting Castle in the Sky’s “simplicity” Adam: Welcome back. And the big myth-busting I promised was something that’s a pet peeve for me is when people take Miyazaki films early ones, and call them simple, or even worse, simplistic, that really riles me up. And they do say that about Totoro, which I covered in my Totoro talk that’s up on YouTube and on the blog. But I’ve heard this recently about Castle in the Sky as well, that it’s a simplistic film. And that’s been just nagging at me, really. I think I found out what that is. And my theory is that when people say that a certain Miyazaki film is simplistic, they’re they’re conflating the film being simple, with a film that has a plot that is generally easy to follow. And because the general plot of Laputa is easy to follow, you can tell it to someone in 10 minutes or less. But at the same time, is it simple? Is it a simple plot, once you consider all of the subplots and character things that and the dialogue and the world building? Flick: It’s the ingenious nature of every single piece of equipment that he’s got in there. For and every frame is just a masterpiece. By looking at it with new eyes, we could spend the rest of our lives discussing this film, in a way. Adam:Yes, yes. Very, very easily. Flick: Yeah. Because there’s, I think, with all of his films, he’s so deeply connected. There’s so much philosophy, so much to uncover, you know, and, and none of it, there’s no fat on it. So there’s everything we discovered, like, everything. Adam: And it’s a two hour children’s film. So that is also, I thought it was shorter. But it’s not. There’s you know, it’s Japanese four-act structure, and it’s almost half an hour per act, really. And that’s how you get the two hours, that act four is a bit short at the end. But that’s that’s normal for Japan. But you have a very long set-up: half an hour. And you have the the second act, which normally, you know expands on the on the themes of the first act. That’s how you get to four acts in Japan. And then the third act is the twist, which is when they board the pirate airship and you get like a re-establishment of the entire film. “We live on… we live as a pirate now!” And then it all comes together at the end and the themes are resolved. But it’s a hugely… like the web of things. And I think also sometimes when people refer to it as like, “your films are simple”, what I call the same thing as raw. Because it is raw, Miyazaki always writes his scripts linearly, he always tells people never write a script, like I write a script, because that’s not a way to write the film script. And it really isn’t. But he’s a genius, so you can get away with it. And so he can do it. And in later films, it’s more refined. And there’s reasons to love that. But I also absolutely love the rawness of these early films. Flick: Yeah, I mean, I haven’t studied like you have, but I mean, for me, I don’t see a man learning his craft. You know, I just I just see the genius as you say, you know, like, and I just think there’s, there’s the pacing, the storytelling doesn’t let up for a second, you know, beyond that the messaging that’s going on with him, the revelation of everything that he believes, and I suppose one of the things that people might again, sort of think it’s simple, you know, because there is so much love and humour and children. So people think that love and humour and children are simple, sort of almost negated all things can really now that unless you’re talking about the economy or something incredibly huge and important, you know. Adam: Well, you could argue that this film talks about the economy as well. Flick: That’s very true. Yeah. Yeah. It’s like, you know, is it serious, newsworthy, and therefore complex and interesting? Or, you know, whatever, you’re worthy of being not being called simple. Are you going to explore every facet of childhood and love and compassion and justice? And call that simple? Adam: Yeah, that kind of makes sense what you’re saying in that Totoro is always said to be “Oh, it’s a simple film of children”. But that’s also a super-complicated film. And and maybe it is the children, the presence of small children that triggers it in a lot of people’s minds. Yeah. I mean, you need to just add a dog and you’re done. Flick: Yeah. Yeah, this film is just a cartoon, you know, then yeah. Adam: Oh! Yeah, ugh. Flick: I think it often says a lot about people’s attitude towards childhood, if childhood for you, personally wasn’t a particularly magical time, you know, for that’s the same for lots of people, you can often just dismiss it, I don’t want to know, I don’t want to see it. And it’s quite interesting for me to as an adult and a mother coming back and watching these films from a really different perspective, and learning so much from them, because I am a parent that wants to learn about childhood and, but also how disconnected I am from my ’70s upbringing. You know, and just thinking, gosh, yes, childhood is a part of my life that I’d really rather not go back to explore. And it’s quite easy to dismiss these things as simple when actually they are the very making of us, and possibly why we’re in the great big pickle that we’re in now. Experiencing childhood through symbolism Adam: Yeah, and that was really interesting what you just said, because Totoro, as I always say, it was designed as a therapy film for the adults that grew up during the war. And I think that the same could be said of this as well. Like, if you’re the sort of person and I, I know a lot of people, myself included, who love and adore the Ghibli films, have not had that ideal childhood, and have a lot of negative experiences with it. This kind of, you know, helps replace that a bit, it helps, you know, get in touch with elements of childhood that I might not have experienced directly. But I can experience through symbolism, which I found really fascinating Flick: It is and also, Miyazaki’s respect for children is so total. And you always knew that as a child, as well as I definitely am deserving of respect, and I’m not getting it here. So when you see, like two orphans, you know, like Pazu and Sheeta who are absolutely in charge of their own destinies, it’s enviable as it even as an adult to sort of see these two children utterly, unfettered by the adult world in some respects, but victims to it completely as well. But they are, they are able to be utterly in touch with who they are. Adam: I think there’s a great point to what you just said, with the differentiation between their agency as children, because that changes throughout the film, I noticed that we start the film with an absolute loss of agency: Sheeta is currently captured by government agents on an airship, and is basically attacked and kidnapped by pirates. And still, her first thing she does in the film is notice an opening, grab the bottle of wine, and hit the bad man in the head and climb out the window at like 10,000 feet altitude. Like she’s not taking that, right. So this kind of returns with more agency/less agency throughout the film and the bottom point when they come out of the mine, and are captured, and then Sheeta and Pazu go off to, or, well are taken off into their own or individual plotlines before they meet up again. It’s horrifying, how Pazu is completely locked down. He can’t go anywhere. He’s unable to go through the little tunnel he finds which gets its payback later when he blows up part of the wall in Laputa, with the gun that he got from Dola, and then he can go through the tunnel, he can tunnel through himself. For me, there’s a lot of like birth symbolism and birth imagery in that that I want to talk about when we get to the symbolism part. But in general, there’s this continuing change in how much these children can affect their environment. And the biggest example, in that for me is when Pazu gets out of the military complex gets his you know, pay off money. The three coins “Here you go kid”. Muska really likes to bribe people. He tries with clothing for Sheeta, and then he gives Pazu the three coins. Flick: I think that’s one of the most disturbing scenes in film that I’ve seen in a long time. It’s so utterly not destructive of his dignity, but it’s just so disgusting. That that’s what that man thinks that boy would… I mean, I don’t think he cares whether he feels what he feels about it rather but for Pazu it’s so particularly horrific to be given that money. Adam: Yeah, I think it’s a transactional relationship. I think that’s what Muska has, he doesn’t have connections to other humans in this film, which makes me wonder about his childhood. Probably not really nice. I mean, really nice in the riches and privilege sort of way, but not really nice in the human connection sort of way. Because that looks like the only way he can communicate with other people is through giving them objects when he wants something, or taking something from them when he feels that he’s above the other person, which for him is most people. Flick: Yeah. It’s everybody, I think, basically. Adam: Yeah. And and in that scene, when when Pazu comes away and is completely defeated in the middle of the film, you have a lot of shots of just very small Pazu in a huge landscape, and just the towering of all the, you know, the turrets and the military walls. And he’s just so small. And then I think he goes through the village, which a different village, he’s, again, very, very small. And then you get the mirror of that, when they go to Laputa. And they follow the nice robot I called the Zen monk robot, Shinto priest robot, the robot’s job is to take the flower and put it on the grave. And we don’t know whose grave it is. I love that. That seems so much. And then the children are there. And they remark that they do not understand what’s written on the gravestone, but it’s something is there, this is a shrine to something, there’s the huge tree there. And then again, you have the same wide shot of the very small children with the huge landscape, but it’s such a different scale, in terms of their not being dominated by a military presence, but they’re in awe of the amazing, universal spiritual symbol that is in front of them. And it’s such a different feeling to watch these two scenes next to each other. And they like really complement each other in that sense. Flick: Definitely the scale of emotion that the film reaches through this kind of like juxtaposition of almost the same image, but completely different. I mean, he reaches such emotional heights, you know, and I’d have to study him a lot more to know how he does that and how he gets there. Adam: But you know what, it’s just really simple. It’s just setup and payoff. Yes. Does it brilliantly. It’s just basic screenwriting, you set something up. And then at the, I think it’s partly intuitive how he writes the script. So he knows what the time is to reveal something. Or when to “Oh, I set that up earlier. I must pay it off now”, you know, that sort of thing. And that’s how in later films that we will get to, he does this so well, like in how he just weaves multiple plotlines, even in Mononoke he weaves multiple plot lines into each other, and has had the same payoff for them. And he “Oh, I set that up earlier, I didn’t remember how, this works”. You know, this, I think connects really well to when when we were preparing this episode, you said, you mentioned the ‘child lens’ that this film uses, and I think discussing what we just discussed is the best place to for you to elaborate on that. Character age differences in the English dub vs. the Japanese original Flick: Yeah. And it’s interesting, actually, because I watched the film a few months ago with my two children. So we watched the English language version. Which has James Van Der Beek from Dawson’s Creek. Adam: During Dawson’s Creek, it’s a ’98 dub. So he was Dawson at the time he was Pazu, which to me is… Flick: He would be about 17-18 wouldn’t he? Adam: More than that, he was 21 at the time. Flick: Oh my god. Okay. And who was the one who plays Sheeta? Adam: Anna Paquin. Flick: That’s right. Yes. Yeah, exactly. Adam: And she was, she was 16. I looked it up today. So 21 and 16. Flick: Yeah, so you get a very, I just took it that they were much more mature boy and girl, you know, that they were probably 15-16. And then in the Japanese version, they’re, obviously children, like, no more than 9-10 or 11. Adam: Yeah, and I think 11 is, 11 or 12 is the official number. But yeah, yes, pre-puberty. So they’re not they’re not into the emotional and hormonal horror that is puberty, it’s just pure childhood. Flick: Just pure childhood, even though they’ve obviously both been through an awful lot as you can get with Pazu immediately, you know, that he’s an orphan, you know that he’s a miner, you know, but you know, that he’s also incredibly proud of who he is and what he does is there’s nothing about him that’s experienced any humiliation or he may well have been through great trauma, but he’s definitely very in charge of himself. And you get that with Sheeta as well to be even though she been kidnapped, you definitely get the sense that she, she knows what’s right and wrong, she’s absolutely going to be in charge of her escape from the airship. Miyazaki’s pure childhood perspective Flick: The perspective that I just think is so beautiful that Miyazaki chooses, and not just this film, but in so many of his films, it’s just such a full of grace. And there’s nothing on the lens, there’s no flies on the lens, it’s very clear and very pure. And I think, again, possibly people think this is a simple thing to achieve. But it’s not, it’s really not, especially when you’re dealing with a story, or driving a storyline forward or whatever, to actually keep the essence of childhood incredibly clear. And the passions of childhood, which are justice, friendship, love, family, and to not confuse them. Does that make sense? And so I think I mentioned to you when I was really struck by the fact that you found out that Sheeta was a princess. But that meant nothing to her. The thing that meant something to her was her connection with her grandmother. And the comfort that the her grandmother spoke to her. And with Pazu, he might have been had a very gruff boss, but the boss trusted him, you know, for a child to experience trust and to rise to that is one of the most important things that you can give a child, you know, and, and he delivered beautifully, you know. But then when you go into Muska’s world where it is all about transactions and money, and not that money is necessarily evil, but it’s used so badly. And this cynicism of the adults that somewhere like Laputa, which is basically a weapon is what he wanted to use it for, really, to dominate the world. And it’s not well, it wasn’t built as that. But it’s, its majesty is in all things that we see through an unfettered lens as a child, I’m not explaining it very well. Adam: No, I think it’s a really good point. Flick: Oh, good. Adam: Yeah. Laputa as Utopia Flick: A child would walk onto laputa and go, “Oh, my God, butterflies, trees, grass, huge, lovely robot”, you know, whereas the the adult walks on and go “How can we sell this? What can we do with this?” Adam: Yeah, that that is an amazing sequence. And I love how it’s set up as the kids get there first. So we get this huge, uninterrupted, maybe five minutes, it feels like five minutes, of just them exploring, and to them, and I think to us, that is what Laputa is. This place of meditation and of a wondrous working together of nature and technology, which is always always always Miyazaki’s big question of nature versus technology, which is his generation’s Japanese authors are all about that because of what happened in the war and before that, how do we reconcile nature and technology and this is how. And I have a quote from Anthony Lioi, who is an associate professor of Liberal Arts at Julliard, who has a wonderful paper that’s up online. It’s called The City Ascends — Laputa Castle in the Sky As Critical Ecotopia. And it’s a wonderful paper. And he writes that “Miyazaki’s idea of harmony between first and second nature, the biosphere, and the technosphere, in the absence of Empire.” That is such a wonderful sentence. Flick: Can you say it again? Sorry! Adam: Yes. So, so, “Miyazaki’s idea of harmony between first and second nature, the biosphere, and the technosphere in the absence of Empire“. And I love it so much, because essentially what he’s saying is that utopia for Miyazaki in this film exists without human intrusion. That’s how you get utopia. Once society arrives there…. The children are okay. And I just noticed today something and I’ve seen this till 25 times at least. But today, I noticed that when the children go through the dragon’s nest, and you have the dragon who in we’re in eastern mythology, so the dragon is the protector of a sacred space. It’s gatekeeper mythology, essentially, but you have a lot of protective dragons in Buddhist temples who are there to lend their power. They’re associated with heaven, and they lend their protector power to the temple, which is what they’re doing here. They are surrounding the sacred space, and they are not letting just anyone through. But then at one point when Pazu realises “This is the path of my father,” and we get that little glimpse of that Hamletian but not tragic, Daddy-ghost, the dragons line up and show the way, like basically like landing lights for for for aircraft, “Hey kids, you can go”. And when later when the army arrives, they can only arrive because the dragon’s nest is no longer there. And the reason it’s no longer there is because Muska had the amulet. Flick: Yes. Yeah. Adam: So this is a very interesting point for me. Because this says that it’s not just “Yes, if you’re royalty, you can sort of cheat the system” and go in whoever you’re bringing. But that’s not the only way to get there. If you’re pure of heart, which these kids are, then they can get that. And I think that’s the real moral here of the island let these kids in, and they could experience what this place is. Flick: Yes. And I think that that is the lens that is the most sort of beautiful intention is that as adults, and we know that we’re completely sort of ruined in lots of ways you get to experience that you get to actually sort of think yes, this, this is what this could be, you know, in the same way that you see the mining village. There doesn’t appear to be necessarily such a big fat cat in charge of the mining village and the same with the Laputa is, you get the general idea. And also with them, Sheeta’s home, you know, with the where she’s in charge of her flock of strange animals. I’m not quite sure what they are. Adam: Yeah. They’re referred to as the yaks in the script. It’s a Miyazaki-type yak. It doesn’t have to correspond to any actual animal. Flick: I love it. It’s just got such a benevolent face, whatever it is, but yeah, but yeah, so it’s kind of like you’ve got your industrial, you’ve got your agricultural, you’ve got your spiritual realms, that when you’re perceived through, like I said, the un-empirical is the way to say it? Through lack of empire, then these are utopias, and it’s not actually that difficult, but for some reason, we’re not able to get there in our real lives in the world that we inhabit. Adam: Wow. Yeah, I love that. I love that. Flick: And this coronavirus is gonna, somehow, not sort things out, that’s a terrible way of looking at it. But it’s kind of like, you know — is this something like, for instance, in Nausicaa? You know, are we going through this incredibly toxic patch? You know, with… Adam: Oh, yes. Flick: With hope the outside at the other side, we can emerge? A little better, but who knows? Next up on ‘Castle in the Sky: Explained’ That’s it for the first in our Laputa mini-series. Keep listening to learn about: how masculinity is portrayed in the film, the real complexity behind Muska, how Miyazaki flips all the Disney princess tropes, and finally, how Sheeta’s character has her roots in the ancient Hindu epic, the Ramayana. That’s all in the next episode, so see you there, bye! Now it’s your turn! I tried to put a lot of new stuff in this episode about the film that I suspect even ardent Ghibli fans wouldn’t know. (I didn’t know a lot of them before I went off to research for this.) Did it work? Did you learn something about this film you didn’t know before? Let me know in the comments below. And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to sign up for the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide for a deep look into the storytelling and the mythologies behind the Ghibli films. Get the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide! The post Castle in the Sky: Story Origins appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
5 Mar 2021
The Landscapes of Studio Ghibli – Moon Rabbit Podcast #003
Studio Ghibli’s films exist across a wide spectrum of stories and genres, and much has been said about the characters and the storytelling – something I myself have been heavily involved with for the past ten years.But there’s one thing that connects Studio Ghibli films that I’ve felt for a long time is a more nuanced way of looking at these films, and that is the attention that the Studio’s two main writers and directors, Miyazaki and Takahata, seem to pay to the actual physical spaces that the characters move around in.Whether it’s…the slow flow of seasons through the Japanese landscape that you can track through My Neighbour Totoro,or the internal construction of the bathhouse in Spirited Away,or the ancient forests of Princess Mononoke,the landscape is as important to Studio Ghibli films as any of the main characters.But it’s not just about an artistic representation of nature and architecture – the way Ghibli approaches its landscapes is integral to how these films are able to evoke feelings of childhood, feelings of nostalgia and even reverence, but also a sort of melancholy for the things that we’re watching that we know are no longer there.Here to discuss this fascinating topic with me today is someone who is going to be a recurring guest to the Moon Rabbit podcast.Nora Selmeczi, who holds an MFA in screenwriting and dramaturgy and worked for years as a screenwriter and script doctor for film, television and web projects in her native Hungary. She’s also worked in independent arts management and film journalism, specialising in the cinema of the Far East and Central Europe.Nora was the co-editor The Wilds of Shikoku, a book about a walk through this pristine island in South-West Japan, and has recently spent 8 weeks walking through Scandinavia, and also took a smaller walking trip through parts of Japan. She has an irregularly published newsletter Enda Lettere where she writes about walking and landscapes.We sat down with Nora in late 2019 and back in those carefree days of being blissfully unaware of what was coming in 2020 we talked about the environments represented in the Ghibli films.And we’ve talked about:the vanishing landscape of My Neighbor Totoro,how Totoro’s entire storytelling is organised around the Japanese seasons,and how the film creates a feeling of childhood nostalgia for viewers who haven’t actually grown up on the now-vanished outskirts of Tokyo.Then, in the second half of the episode, we’ll be talking about:the use of real versus imaginary landscapes,how and why Yakushima forest inspired the landscapes of Princess Mononoke,the exact building that inspired the bathhouse in Spirited Away,and how Studio Ghibli’s focus on landscapes ties into Buddhist meditation practices.You can probably already tell this is going to be a jam-packed episode, and it’s also a conversation that I’m very excited about, so let’s dive right in.My name is Adam Dobay, and this is Moon Rabbit, the film analysis podcast at the intersection of mythology and the human psyche.How to listen to the Moon Rabbit Podcast?Right here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episode by clicking here!On your favourite podcast app: search for “Moon Rabbit” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or your preferred podcast app. (And if you can’t find it, let me know which service is missing it!)You can also follow Nora’s adventures on Instagram and check out the gorgeous The Wilds of Shikoku she co-edited.And now, for the full episode transcript! Table of contentsWhat makes Ghibli landscapes specialGhibli landscapes are representationalLandscapes in My Neighbor TotoroMiyazaki’s childhood memoriesSeasons in My Neighbor TotoroMagic vs. real landscapes in Ghibli filmsCastle in the Sky’s Laputa: technology vs. nature in the landscapeThe natural landscape of Princess MononokeYakushima island – the inspiration for Princess Mononoke“Drawing on Tradition”: pilgrimages to Yakushima ForestGhibli landscape inspiration roundupTotoro’s location: Sayama hills, Saitama, TokyoPom Poko’s location: Tama hills, TokyoOcean Waves location: Kochi-shiDōgo Onsen: the real bathhouse in Spirited AwayJiufen: the other inspiration for Spirited AwayWalking in Japan as a meditation‘The Wilds of Shikoku’Walking meditations in Tendai BuddhismMythbusting: Japan is not smallNow it’s your turn! What makes Ghibli landscapes special Adam Dobay: So the topic that I wanted to go into today because we just kept talking about what aspect of Studio Ghibli films and Miyazaki films, we think is the least covered. There’s a lot about the storytelling and there’s a lot about the topicality of them. And there’s a lot about the nature as a theme and nature conservation nature preservation on whatnot. But the aspect that I read the least about is the actual graphical representation of that nature or the landscape or the cities when there are cities. So what is the actual environment that all the Miyazaki characters appear in and interact with? One of the things that I hear a lot when I introduce someone to a Studio Ghibli film is “Look at those landscapes!”, like someone who’s film-minded, like someone who watches films, in a sense that they’re not just watching it for a story. They’re watching it for what’s on the screen, and what’s the visual art side of it. And one of the frequent quotes I get from those people is those massive wide shots that you get throughout the Miyazaki films and in the Takahata ones as well. This kind of spans the entire spectrum of Studio Ghibli because I think that’s a very early decision for them to have made. “These are the kinds of films we want to make where we put the environment, front and centre.” Ghibli landscapes are representational Nora Selmeczi: That was my first impression of these movies as well. Because that is so recognisable as a stylistic element to them that you have these ultrawide stills, beautiful painted, depicting some sort of landscape, most often just images of untouched nature, but also a lot of architecture. And those are not mere establishing shots so you don’t get them in order to establish the location where this plotline is going to take place. You can identify I think, a lot of the aspects of how these stories are told. Where these characters are on their journey on their personal journey. And it has a lot to do with the representation of the bigger themes of Ghibli movies. So it’s something that’s very telling that’s very characteristic for the studio. And also, it’s very representational, Adam Dobay: Representational how? Nora Selmeczi: Representational in a way that it’s not just aesthetics. It’s not just a plot device. It’s not just an establishing shot. It’s a lot more than that. Landscapes have a lot of meaning. And they do have a lot of structure. And if you pay closer attention to what you’re looking at, then you recognise a lot of intricate details about the time, about nostalgia, memories, a confrontation with nature, a lot of romanticism, how we remember nature. That’s very, very important. Because the way Miyazaki looks at our environment, whether our built environment, whether our natural environment is true to both. He looks at it through tinted glasses. And I think for the images of nature, it is a conscious decision to show nature in a way it’s never been showed before in anime. So it’s a very conscious thing to do to show relocations, real cities, real forests places that when it somehow because big cities followed them, or places where childhood memories do have sanctuary. Landscapes in My Neighbor Totoro Adam Dobay: Let’s start with Totoro because that’s the best example for what you’re saying. For me, I love Totoro to bits and I’ve seen it a million times but the sequence that I can recite anytime – and when I think of Totoro, I think of that visual sequence – is when Satsuki is running in the landscape and looking for Mei, and there’s nothing that is happening that you would find in an American film, because that’s not how American plots are constructed. And I want to go back to what you said about not being an establishing shot when you see landscapes. When you have an establishing shot in American film, it’s wide and then closing in and closing and in closing, and most of the 90s films that we grew up with, start with the huge bird’s eye view, establishing shot clouds and then coming in like that, like the Simpsons main title, that’s kind of that’s kind of a parody of that almost. And then you go in and then and then from your helicopter or plane shot, and the credits come up because you have time for the credits and you have your Alan Silvestri soundtrack or whoever is making it, and it’s just to lay down the atmosphere. And once that’s done, you don’t get those wide shots anymore. Nora Selmeczi: No it screams “Look at this guy, you’re gonna focus on this guy in the next 90 to 120 minutes. And that is our sole focus.” What Miyazaki does is very different. Because what he does is “Look at this place, look at the people and the animals and magic in this place. And let’s look at the dynamics. Let’s look at the relationships between landscape between characters between the magic there and let’s look at it through our ideological glasses and through our nostalgia laden glasses.” The optics is very different. It’s not the Western sort of, I’m signalling with the establishing shot, I’m telling you, this is where we are gonna put our focus on. This is the person in the world we are going to look at and we are going to adopt his way of seeing the world, it is quite the opposite. We are going to look at the whole ecosystem. And we are going to adopt a more universal way of looking at it. And that’s what’s the big, still quiet landscapes do tell me. And also of course there there are a lot of discrete elements like the vanishing landscape. That’s something that’s very characteristic. And that’s also very, very present in Totoro because those are that’s very rural Japan. That’s the rural Japan, around the outskirts of Tokyo, that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been swallowed by Chiba city and Tokyo. So where the little train goes, that place doesn’t exist anymore. And just thinking about this, how childhood memories and how the locations of childhood memories are swallowed by steel and concrete structures. It’s heartbreaking on the one hand. On the other hand, these are the images that underline what Miyazaki… what his tendencies are, what he wants to tell us about how we have to protect these centuries of memories. Miyazaki’s childhood memories Adam Dobay: That’s really interesting from the standpoint of… in Totoro, those are the landscapes that come directly from Miyazaki’s childhood, he was there as a kid, his mother was the mother in Totoro who was treated for tuberculosis in that clinic. So he actually gets them at the point in time where that landscape does not exist anymore because in the late 80s, that part is gone. It’s as you said, it’s part of Tokyo. So he he needs to go back into his own head to recreate those landscapes from his childhood from the late 40s and early 50s. But at the same time, he says he’s not a fan of nostalgia. He doesn’t like nostalgia, which is was a weird thing to read when I first read it from him in his proposal to make the film. But then he continues to say, I want to make something that’s living. And I love this so much. So even though it’s a memory, it’s made from a memory and it is it does go back decades – and for us, it’s 30 more years after that. So it’s it’s ridiculously far in the past. Nora Selmeczi: It’s not nostalgic in a personal way. It’s nostalgic in a very universal way. Those could be our childhood memories as well. If I think about the place I grew up in, I am constantly confronted on every single visit with how the city is growing beyond the point that makes the landscape recognisable for me. There is a forest – there is a forest disappearing at the place I was born and where I grew up. There is a forest disappearing I used to play in or go on long walks in my teenage years. And it’s frightening to look at it, to look at it this way. But then again, what music it doesn’t in tutorial, he creates a landscape that’s very universal. That is the landscape of memories, that is the landscape of nostalgia. So it’s not, he’s not nostalgic in a very personal sense of the word, but he creates those memories for everyone. It’s very accessible, and it becomes accessible through his memories. So it’s a weird contradiction that makes this thing living through something that’s gone. Seasons in My Neighbor Totoro Adam Dobay: And with that, I’m gonna move on to another thing that’s in some Miyazaki films but Totoro especially, which is seasons and depicting the seasons and depicting the seasons of Japan especially, and I want to go back to the project plan that I’m again, quoting from Starting Point, which I think this podcast is becoming an advertisement for. And so, he says, “Until a short time ago when asked, what can Japan proudly show to the world, grownups and children alike would answer the beauty in nature and the four seasons. No one says this anymore.” So, again, we both worked for 10 years in the film industry as screenwriters, we worked on a lot of projects together. We never had pitches like this. I really love how Miyazaki’s pitches or like poems, in a way. I’m not sure how to pitch a film in Japan. This is very weird for me to read, because it’s not about the plot. And it’s not about this is the character who the audiences will feel like they are or feel represented by or this is a genre that represents the movie going audience who will pay for this film. It’s about poetry and it’s about the things we have lost and the things we have to recreate. And that’s the kind of pitch that a man like Miyazaki puts in. And if you read his other pitches, they’re just like this, like he looks at the world, recognises something that’s missing, and then he just goes into the studio and says, “Let’s make a film about this feeling that I have”, which I think is very unique in Studio Ghibli, because you couldn’t walk into any other studio and say, “I have a feeling. Let’s make a film”. Nora Selmeczi: Also, it’s very unique because only Japan has four seasons, obviously. Adam Dobay: Okay, you gotta… I know the story, but you have to explain. Nora Selmeczi: I know, I know. I’ve been smirking the whole time when you read this quote from Starting Point, because this is something that reinforces a very Japanese stereotype and this is their own. This is one of the big self limiting stereotypes the most Japanese do have. And this is something that Alan Booth has written about very extensively. Alan Booth was a very popular travel writer who’s lived in Japan for decades. The timeframe for this is the 70s, 80s. He died quite young unfortunately. But once he walked the length of Japan – this was in the in the late 70s. So he was witness of the tipping point when those rural areas were being swallowed by big cities. And when this depopulation of the rural areas began, so he caught the last glimpse of this very traditional rural Japan. We don’t really like to visualise or think about this as Western people because this is not the very poetic, uplifting, aesthetic side of Japan. This is just like any other country, any other countryside with simple people leaving simple lives. But they had one thing in common. Many, many people told Alan Booth during this journey that the change of seasons is something that’s very unique to Japan. That they cannot imagine that people abroad have anything resembling the four seasons – which is in Japan, eight seasons to be precise. But this became sort of a motto, “only Japan has four seasons”. And this is something I really really like to repeat, mocking this poetic belief the Japanese state created for the Western people to revel in. So I really like to mock that but then again, the Four Seasons or the changing of seasons in general is something that you observe when you are confronted with nature. When you are becoming part of nature. This is something that you tend to forget about when you live in a city. Because the constructs in cities, they are so alien to nature, they don’t borrow forms, structures, textures, colours from nature. The structures of cities want to stand apart and not be a part of nature. And that is why city dwellers tend to distance themselves from from nature as well. Not in a conscious way. It’s something that you just forget. Adam Dobay: It’s something that happens if you if you grew up in a city where everything’s stagnant because obviously, the buildings don’t change every three months. You kind of notice that the sun dips in a different way or maybe the colour that’s reflected back from the glass windows are different and you feel the temperature changing. But if you don’t have enough green space, or if you don’t have enough natural environment, then you really don’t notice anything else changing. Nora Selmeczi: You are not exposed to fleeting moments anymore, because cities are built with this irreverent ambition of being eternal or wanting to be eternal. So the changing of seasons is something that you may remember from your childhood when you played outside, or when you’re outside walking. So the physical confrontation with fleeting moments and with a fleeting characteristic of nature and the seasons is something that Miyazaki does quite well in Totoro. Because if you know what you’re looking at, and if you observe closely, then the passing of time is done in a very, very realistic way. Because you recognise the sort of flowers, the leaves on the trees, the light, the way the sun dips below the horizon, the sunrises, again, the amount of rain, the sense of rain, snow, the melting of snow. So these sort of markers are very, very specific and very time bound. And the way he does that is so precise, that this is something I discussed when I did a project recently about a walk in Japan that this is something that you begin to pay attention to. And this is very striking in Miyazaki’s movies, especially Totoro, where you are confronted with the passing of time as well. Adam Dobay: And I think we Western viewers don’t necessarily pick up a lot on the nuances of it. There are the visual markers of… I think Totoro is the only film where you can be sure that every 10 minutes you see a calendar on one of the walls that shows you the exact date just so you know where exactly you are in the year and what corresponds to that. And of course, there’s the mythological cycle of nature being reborn from spring to summer, which everyone notices in the film because that’s kind of the crux of the plot, but the nuances of what you said the specific flowers, the specific ways that the… you said something about the clouds being drawn a bit differently based on what scene you’re in Totoro… Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, the way the clouds appear on the horizon, whether they are closer to practically your hat, because clouds tend to have very low in Japan, especially during the rainy season. So the way he positions the clouds towards the horizon, or a bit higher up in the sky, it’s very telling. It’s very telling what sort of flowers, grasses he depicts in each scene. And this is something I would stress. It’s not about watching cherry blossoms or watching autumn foliage in the forest. It’s a lot more specific than that. And this is something you realise only when you have spent sufficient time in Japan and if this time was unstructured enough so that you are confronted with nature, and with the changing of seasons. Adam Dobay: So when you go on your eventual tourist trip in Japan, do your city necessity tourist stuff, but then Japan has so much more to offer that is outside the cities and there’s still some of that non-city, something there are or at least the remnants of that natural landscape there even though a lot of times those old villages are gone, and those that are there don’t have any people in them anymore. But you can still venture outside and experience the natural part of Japan if you choose to. Right? Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, this is something that you can experience through the movies as well. And I think it’s interesting enough so that this piques your interest, and it piques your wanderlust as well, so that you do want to venture out. Or this is at least the feeling I always got from Miyazaki movies, “oh, I want to be in that landscape if possible”. But then again, modern tourism is something that’s been partially invented by the Japanese. Because if you look at how tourism is organised in Japan, it’s crazy. You have lists for everything you have the three most beautiful gardens that you have to visit, you have the hundred most beautiful mountains that you have to visit, and in a country that’s as mountainous as Japan, having a list of only a hundred mountains, most of them being in the middle part of Japan, it’s atrocious. And you have to be very afraid because you are told to be afraid of venturing outside these boundaries. So going anywhere that’s not on a specific list. And it’s not part of you know, well known tourist destinations. You are going to build that in a very funny way. “Wait, like why do you want to go there? There’s nothing there.” And then you realise there is everything there because there is nature. There is the Middle Ages, there is the remnants of time long gone by, a civilization that you can discover for yourself, and reclaim for yourself. Adam Dobay: I think what it comes down to this podcast being an examination of storytelling at its core, I can’t help but notice how in Totoro the fact that it’s organised so much around the seasons and so nuanced about what week it is in the year and I just what season it is. It’s sort of feels to me like that film feels so natural in its pacing is because it adapts the the pacing of nature and the nature pacing dictates what happens in that film as opposed to a plot that was thought up somewhere that is disconnected. Or these two are pieced together in the way that does also feel nice. Which is, I think a very Japanese way of approaching art. The wa principle of “Am I in harmony with nature at all times? Am I in harmony with what I create?” I think Totoro and a lot of other Ghibli films are so aesthetically pleasing not just in their visuals but throughout the entire experience feels so organic is because of this philosophy that goes into it Nora Selmeczi: In Totoro, Miyazaki’s answer is very poignant and very clear, because this is solely due to adopting the child’s perspective. You have to go back to how children sense time and how children perceive their environments. As a child, the passing of calendar days can be very visual through looking at an actual calendar. Apart from that, you have a very different perception of time passing and seasons changing because the whole world is sort of your playground, and the whole world suddenly becomes a huge sundial or a very colourful calendar that has nothing to do with actual calendar days or weeks. It has everything to do with how you see the world around yourself. So this organic and harmonious way of handling the passing of time and storytelling in on a bigger level in Totoro is thanks to that, thanks to going back to this unspoiled, very intuitive way of how children perceive time. Magic vs. real landscapes in Ghibli films Adam Dobay: We’ve discussed how in Totoro, and in fireflies as well, they were made at the same time with the same core concepts behind them. They made a deliberate attempt at bringing back the depiction of Japanese landscape into Japanese animation, something that wasn’t really around. Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, you always deal with sort of magical landscapes and imaginary landscapes. Never with the real and with the actual and never will rural Japan. So this was definitely a novel element in both movies, especially because those movies deal with childhood memories of actual physical places that you could go visit if they existed. Adam Dobay: Yeah. And they kind of keep this. It’s interesting how the films they make us Studio Ghibli or pre-Studio Ghibli before Totoro and fireflies or Castle in the Sky, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. nausicaa is post apocalyptic kind of Japan but who knows it’s this completely dystopian sci fi fantasy universe that has resemblance to Japan in its philosophy. And if you go read the manga, it also reflects on a lot of very Japanese things like the Buddhist church, for example, is somehow referenced in there not in the text, but in what happens at certain points. And I’m not going to say anything more. I don’t want to risk any spoilers. But Castle in the Sky also is more Western. And for that film, what they did was they went on a scouting trip to England and Wales. The landscape for that is very different from Totoro. It’s actually this amalgamation of things we’ve seen in the West and looking at it from a Japanese perspective. And that’s also a big trend in a lot of Ghibli films, isn’t it? Nora Selmeczi: Well, it is. And actually the way you can take a look at both of these films is “this is what happens when you exploit nature”. This is sort of a motto because mining and the mining industry is very exploitative we know that so Castle in the Sky and Nausicaa do resemble each other because one landscape leads into the other in a way. Nausicaa is about consequences. This is what happens to nature. If you try to exploit conquer it, subdue it. It is going to rise up against you, it is going to become this post apocalyptic, hostile environment that is going to try and kill you in every single moment you draw a breath. Whereas Laputa is a lot more peaceful, but then again, there is a lot of tinkering going on the whole time in the movie. There the landscape is a lot more functional. It underlines this. “We are resourceful people who try to make the best with the tools and with our tinkering, in order to make a living, what we try to make a living out of exploiting the earth beneath us literally.” I thought of the two films as complete juxtapositions to each other, but then again, they are not contradicting. Laputa is just a step or a period earlier on a timeline of destruction. Adam Dobay: And I think they have similar intro sequences like in Nausicaä. You have the tapestry showing the end of the world, and then the huge bugs and then the other stuff, and you have sort of a similar retelling in the beginning of Castles in the Sky, when you see “Oh, look, we all used to live in these flying cities and look at our amazing technology that we have. And then it crashed. And we now have to live on the earth again. Nora Selmeczi: On the Earth and of the Earth. Adam Dobay: Yeah. So it’s this recurring theme of, we thought we were the biggest animals on the earth, and we could manage it and we could control everything. No. And now we’re forced to live in smaller communities and make do with what we have. And the antagonists are always people – and again, this is very similar in our circle and cast on the sky – where you have the antagonists who go back to this old thinking of, no, we must have more, we must always have more and we must have the power, because when we have the power, we won’t be stressed out about other people having the power. Nora Selmeczi: Right. Also, the forces of nature and how nature is represented and both of these movies is just underlines how people behave against nature in both of the movies. So nature is a very neutral backdrop, mostly, up until the point until civilization becomes an antagonistic force that tries to to conquer nature, because that’s the point where nature is reflecting these qualities in a civilization and humanity in particular. And this is where nature also becomes hostile towards humans. Castle in the Sky’s Laputa: technology vs. nature in the landscape Adam Dobay: And it looks like Miyazaki is always teetering on the edge of what’s an acceptable level of technology use like in Castle in the Sky with the robot who can be a destructive Terminator-like dark father figure or it can be the protective nice father figure and the flying thing as well. You can have it as this kind of utopia that looks like I forget the name of the artwork that it looks like. Is it the Tower of Babel? One of the paintings of it? Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, it is. Adam Dobay: And when you get onto it, it resembles what Plato described as the ideal society with circle base layers and so on. And when you actually go there, when the characters go there, you see, here’s the little squirrel foxes from Nausicaä interacting with these robots who we saw can be hostile and deadly. And they’re just tending the garden. And that’s like the ideal balance between technology and nature. And it exists for about 10 minutes in the film. (Sorry, spoilers.) So there’s this very careful balance of “Yes, we can make technology and use technology. And technology does come out of nature because we’re using the materials that we get from nature to make technology, but we have a tendency to overdo our technology”. And then this same idea comes back in Mononoke, and it comes back in The Wind Rises very strictly about, oh, here’s the technology. Oh, I’m just making art with my aeroplanes. No, you’re not you’re making war machines. What’s the decision on that? That’s the entire thing in that film, whether you can distance yourself from what you make as technology, and then what that technology is used for. Nora Selmeczi: It seems to me that imaginary and these apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic landscapes are a reflection of human intent. And this also reflects on how humans use technology and the resources that enable this technology to to thrive and flourish in these societies. Because if the intent is a malicious one, this technology and nature is also going to reflect it back to to the human characters. The natural landscape of Princess Mononoke Adam Dobay: That reminds me of Mononoke, where when you approach nature with malicious intent when you want to conquer it when you go into kill it, of course it’s gonna behave antagonistically. And then you can say, “Oh, look at these evil wolves that want to eat us.” No, they don’t. You just ventured into their territory. They’re there. They’re fighting for their own life. So that’s very interesting how this theme keeps coming back and is reflected in the landscapes, a lot of landscapes in Mononoke, we are watching the landscapes disappear in front of our eyes, we see the city being built, and the forest being decimated. And then we see the actual symbol of the forest gone. And a very new landscape takes the place of the old landscape. So it’s very interesting balance that he does there. Yakushima island – the inspiration for Princess Mononoke Nora Selmeczi: The interesting thing about Mononoke is it’s a very cautionary tale. Because the inspiration for the landscaping Mononoke is Yakushima island. And yeah, Yakushima Island – the major part of the interior of the island – is a national park, you can just go there. Adam Dobay: Whereabouts is it in Japan? Nora Selmeczi: It’s in the Southern part of Japan, so is almost the southernmost part. It’s very subtropical. It’s hot. It’s wet mountainous with giant trees and giant firs and pines. For someone from Europe, it’s sort of a mystical, magical, unique place entirely. I think for the Japanese, it also represents this unspoiled ancient nature that they destroyed with a passion on the mainland. And it’s a very lucky coincidence almost that Yakushima Island is as it is, and it hasn’t been destroyed to the extent of other parts of this huge country. Adam Dobay: So when they go there and scout it and draw their storyboards and actually use that as the basis of the landscape in that film, what they’re saying is, “look, this is what we used to have, versus what we have now, which is not a lot of this is left”. Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, exactly. “Drawing on Tradition”: pilgrimages to Yakushima Forest Adam Dobay: And there’s a point in the book Drawing on Tradition by Jolyon Baraka Thomas. It’s a lovely book about how manga and anime feed back into the contemporary view of religion and spirituality in Japan and how these two interact. And one of the chapters in there deals with the actual pilgrimages that people are taking to Yakushima Forest before it’s because of Mononoke. So it’s a weird thing that Japan like so many other countries has desacralized and lost its religious content, not just its church dictated religious content, but it’s folkloreistic spiritual content. So some of the folklore is there in the fairy tales and nowadays in the manga and the anime, but the actual connection to the more spiritual side of society is gone. And this is something that we see in Japan take place in a really short time because of the unique history it has with first closing itself off from the West and then being forced to open to the West. And then gradually, as the West moves in losing a lot of these characteristics, but what we see in the West happened over 300-400 years, with the start of industrialization, and the politics behind getting power back from the church and so on and so forth. That is a very, very long path of losing our stories, connections with sacred elements. And in the East, depending on the country you look at, this is a much quicker thing that happens, maybe under 100 years. And and it’s really interesting how in Japan, you kind of lose this or start to lose this in the late 1800s. And then lose it definitely after World War II. And then you have these filmmakers or modern artists who go back to the still existing heritage and reinsert it into modern art. And then you end up with pilgrimages to Yakushima Forest to reconnect with what the modern artists is pointing out saying, this is your past and this is where the depth of your culture comes from. Nora Selmeczi: I’m more pessimistic about this. Because the way I see it, you end up with institutionalised replacements for something. And this is beside the point. When we look at the themes of Mononoke, you see that it is besides a point to undertake a pilgrimage on Yakushima Island. Of course, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful piece of nature. But then again, the point is this sort of beautiful nature is everywhere around you where you don’t bother nature and let it thrive, and where you are willing to coexist with nature, as opposed to owning it or conquering it. So the way Japanese popular culture and contemporary culture fills these gaps between old spirituality and the old institutionalised religion, and their empty forms, and this contemporary art of undertaking pilgrimages. It’s really just missing the point of what Miyazaki Hayao is trying to tell you with the movie. Adam Dobay: So what is he saying then? Nora Selmeczi: The thing he’s saying is: “As humans, we have to have to restraint not to over-exploit natural resources, conceding some of our civilization and some of our internal drives to expand, to build to conquer, and you know, just take a step back and just coexist with what we are given.” Adam Dobay: So the point is not to go to a physical place to try to reconnect with the past that’s no longer really there. But to realise that we could have the connection and have it as a present connection, and a life connection right now, if only we would understand the principles that would lead us to have that connection. Nora Selmeczi: Exactly. The most simple and most basic connection between the dots is: just don’t destroy your environment and everything’s gonna be fine. You are going to end up with a magical forest just around the corner if you don’t fell the trees. Adam Dobay: If only we had paid attention 40 years ago, when they first started saying these in films and then research. Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, we will be a bit better off it. Ghibli landscape inspiration roundup Totoro’s location: Sayama hills, Saitama, Tokyo Adam Dobay: Okay, so what I wanted to do before we round this off, we could possibly talk about each film for three hours at this point. So for now, I just wanted to quickly run through the list of other Ghibli films which are based on actual Japanese or non-Japanese locales, and to see what they are and what these people were inspired by when they made these films and when they purposely selected these places to make magical or almost magical environments out of. We already mentioned Totoro, which was based on then Tokyo outskirts now now Tokyo. Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, it’s approximately 30 kilometres North of Tokyo on the border of Saitama, these are the Sayama hills, the actual place where Miyazaki grew up. Pom Poko’s location: Tama hills, Tokyo Adam Dobay At the same time they make Mononoke, they make Pom Poko, which is a film we’ll have to talk about at one point. It’s not by Miyazaki, it’s by Takahata. And that’s kind of the other side of of Tokyo. So you mentioned that Totoro was the northern outskirts and Pom Poko is the other side, isn’t it? Nora Selmeczi: Exactly. That’s in the Tama hills. There’s one of the housing projects that just sprung out of nowhere. And this is a very violent expansion of the city. Very exciting times for Tokyo. Very grave times for for the tanuki and the kitsune. Adam Dobay: Yeah. Yeah. Another film, not to watch with children, small children, if you’re expecting a fun time. If you’re not expecting a fun time with your children, go watch Pom Poko. It’s kind of the other half of Totoro, isn’t it. Is the same thing of losing what we had, but we’re just watching. It’s not nostalgia. It’s “Look what we’ve done.” Nora Selmeczi: Exactly. Ocean Waves location: Kochi-shi Adam Dobay: Okay, moving on. We have the not very much known Ocean Waves, which… is it a shorter Ghibli film? Nora Selmeczi: It’s a TV movie. Adam Dobay: Yes. So that that’s also based on something, isn’t it? Nora Selmeczi: Exactly. Ocean Waves has two distribution titles. One of them is I Can Hear The Sea, that’s the title I know the movie by. So to get that straight. Ocean Waves take place in Kochi-shi. Kochi is one of the cities and one of the prefectures of Shikoku Island. It’s the smallest of the four main islands of Japan. And that’s the one that’s very rapidly depopulating, especially the mountainous interior of the island. Dōgo Onsen: the real bathhouse in Spirited Away Adam Dobay: Okay, one more honourable mention that we can’t pass by is of course, Spirited Away, which has two things that it’s based on. I didn’t actually know that the actual onset the actual bathhouse is based on an actual living, existing bathhouse. I learned that from you this afternoon. Nora Selmeczi: Spirited Away’s bathhouse is one of the most famous ones. It’s Dōgo Onsen on the opposite end of Shikoku near Matsuyama city. It’s one of the biggest and one of the greatest bathhouses because that is one of the onsens that have a pool for the Emperor himself. Adam Dobay: If he chooses to come. Nora Selmeczi: Yeah, if he chooses to come. He’s never chosen to come ever so far. It can change though we are now in a new Imperial era so who knows what this new year brings, but then again it’s never been used before. Adam Dobay: It’s like when you build a castle in England and you have the room for a Queen Victoria and when you go there and you look at the sign it says “Queen Victoria was supposed to sleep here but she ended up not coming”. Nora Selmeczi: What’s this thing about royals? I mean they have like so many options offered, you can, you know, spend the night here going to visit there Take a look at this cool location and then just go “Nah, I’m not up to it today.” Jiufen: the other inspiration for Spirited Away Adam Dobay: I think it’s just busy itineraries and just the abundance of castles to try and onsen in Japan? Yeah, who has the time. The other thing and Spirited Away that I didn’t know about his Jiufen, which is not actually in Japan. It’s in Taiwan, which at one point in history, and my history knowledge is fuzzy on this, used to be Japanese? Nora Selmeczi: It was occupied territory. Adam Dobay: It was occupied territory. Thank you. I was trying to avoid saying anything that would offend anyone. So it’s this quasi-Japanese influenced Taiwanese town that has all the entertainment in there and all the things that we associate with the Japanese hospitality sector, all crammed into this one city. And that crammedness is kind of what went into the first part of Spirited Away, before anyone turns into a pig. Nora Selmeczi: Right? Because you have to visit quaint, crammed entertainment or tourist areas in order to become a pig. Make sense. Adam Dobay: Or where they pigs all along? Nora Selmeczi: Nobody knows. Walking in Japan as a meditation ‘The Wilds of Shikoku’ Adam Dobay: There’s one more thing we have to mention, which is a book called The Wilds of Shikoku. And it’s published by you because you’re the editor at I Love Wasting Ink which is a nano-publisher and you Just came out with… is it the first book? Nora Selmeczi: The first book. Yeah, it’s the very first. Adam Dobay: This is the flagship book of this new publishing house. I’m just gonna say publishing house. I’m just projecting into the future. So tell me about what this book is. And this is actually the plot twist at the end of our Japanese story, when you finally reveal what it has been about all along. The reason we’ve been talking about landscape and environment and walking in that environment is because this is a book about walking in the Japanese environment, and a very specific one. Nora Selmeczi: Exactly. We mentioned the confrontation with nature, and the confrontation of the passing of time. And Wilds of Shikoku is exactly about these things. It takes place in Shikoku, the smallest of the four main islands, we’ve been there with Ghibli films like I Can Hear The See / Ocean Waves and Spirited Away. But those are Matsuyama and Kochi-shi are both on the seashore. So those are coastal towns on the island and Peter Orosz the author of The Wilds of Shikoku undertook a walk in the dead of winter through the mountainous interior of the island in order to immerse himself in the rapid depopulation of the towns and villages there and to observe how this affects him and how nature is sort of getting the upper hand or conquering back what humans took away generation to generation. But then again, this is a very delicate balance, and you certainly feel just like a character in Nausicaä. It can be a very hostile environment. There can be a lot of snow, it’s cold, and there’s nobody around for days on end. This is a 550-kilometre walk in January. And we did our Kickstarter campaign around the project and came up with the book in August. We nicknamed it the beach book of doom. Because you know, publishing it in the summer, is just prompts you to take it to the beach and just read about the end of human civilization in a desolate place. Just to have fun. Yeah, just to have a fun, entertaining read. Adam Dobay: What you have to know about the book is because this audio, I just have to describe it. It’s full of these wonderful images. It’s arranged very poetically, I would say. There’s a lovely removable watercolour map. And you know it’s a good book when it has a map in it. That’s that’s just the rule. It’s a map of Shikoku. It has a very, for me a very Japanese sense of this reflection on nature and also a sort of melancholy in there about the passing of things. But there’s also this reclamation, from nature, from which you learn that nature is the thing that was always there. And humans are just this glimpse in the middle of this huge history of what nature is and how it operates. And it’s always mystical. If you look at it, if you don’t build cities, around your nature, to lock nature out, then there’s all of these nuances with the visuals, you can get the feeling of being kind of transported there and going with Peter on this walk that he did, and I’m not sure a lot of people would do this walk. I mean, it takes a lot of endurance to how many days was it? Nora Selmeczi: 17 days. Adam Dobay: So it doesn’t it doesn’t sound much but it is. Nora Selmeczi: The actual thing is everyone with two legs is capable of doing this. You just have to have the resolve to do it. And then you just negotiate it with yourself. It’s all in the head. Well maybe not in the winter, because obviously in the winter, it’s more of a challenge. It pertains to the fact that in the winter, it’s a lot quieter than usual in the summer, and you can catch a glimpse of how people used to live there in these harsh conditions. That’s something that you never get a glimpse of doing this walk in the summer. But then again, everybody can just, you know, set out and just take a long walk, because that’s all you do. And if that’s all you do for an entire day, and then the next day and the next day and the next day, you adapt to that, because we as humans evolved to do that. We did that for hundreds of thousands of years. We are just not accustomed to it anymore, because what we view as civilization and this work and means of transportation, those are disconnected. So there is this joint from our modes of transportation. That was the traditional way to get from point A to point B. Adam Dobay: And when you don’t embark on a walk to go from point A to point B, where you have something to do in point A and point B, but you go on the walk to go on the walk, there is an added layer of meditation that instantly goes into there because you’re taking a walk on purpose. Walking meditations in Tendai Buddhism Nora Selmeczi: It’s not a coincidence that the Tendai Buddhist sect at Hieizan exercises, practices this sort of enlightenment. The monks at Hieizan undertake a walk every single day for long periods of time. And it’s a very structured walk, because you have to visit the same landmarks every day in the same order at the same time. And you walk around 50 kilometres for a hundred days, every day, a 50 kilometre portion, and then you do that next year, for a hundred days and then you do next year, a hundred days again, and then you do it for a thousand days. And after that when you completed years of walking, then you go into this extreme meditation for 10 days where you don’t eat and don’t drink. And where you have ritualised tests to carry out everyday, carry water from a well, but you don’t drink from it, you just carry it inside the sanctuary. And this is the proof of concept. If you did the walk in a correct way, then you are already in this mindset and you are already in an enlightened state enough to just master this last 10 day stretch. If not, then your walk was somehow done in an incorrect way. Walking as let’s say, monotonous exercise is a confrontation with who we are and where we are in the world. So it signifies the place, your place, in the world and it also signifies your connection to this place in the world. So you understand some things about yourself as well. And about the world, the passing of seasons, small changes in nature, the small changes within. But apart from that, it’s also just fun because this way you perceive the world at a slower pace. And it’s a very democratic thing, because everybody can walk who has two legs. So you don’t have to have a car. You don’t have to have a fancy suitcase, or you don’t have to fly out to exotic destinations. You just go out somewhere and you just, you know, begin walking and you will encounter people, animals, yourself on this journey. Adam Dobay: I really love this concept. And if anyone’s ever gone on a walk that was more than an hour long and you don’t have your phone on you, which is I think a requirement if you leave your gadgets and just go and just embrace your senses and that’s a very Buddhist thing. One of the basic Buddhist tenets is like the one of the basic reminders for everyday meditations is: “What do you see? What do you hear? What are you feeling right now?” That’s one of the basic centraliser Buddhist techniques. What are the first I’ve learned, and that travels from India to Japan and then it gets attached to all these sorts of activities that you find in the various Buddhist regions and denominations. And walking is one of them. I remember I’ve done a lot of meditative walks when I back when I did Zen retreats, that would have been for a couple of hours at a time. But when you are removed from your city landscape, and you’re when you’re removed from your technology, and when you go into the walk without the expectation of A.) getting somewhere, or B.) achieving a goal, then really something clicks after a time and your senses do get more honed to what’s going on around you. And as humans, we’ve been doing this for hundreds and thousands of years just spending most of our day walking. So I feel like when we do that we just sort of regress – and I use regress in a positive sense – regress into this very ancient way of being attuned to our own biology and to noticing what’s around us and noticing what our own senses are picking up because nowadays, we mostly use our visual senses and our thumbs to look at small screens and manipulate them. That’s not what our bodies I think were originally made to do. Who knows what the big plan was. It all goes back to what these films are about that we’ve been discussing about using this very modern media of you going into the cinema and watching images being projected with groundbreaking technology and Dolby Surround Sound, something that is very modern to humanity, to remind you that you already have things in you that you can connect with that are actually ancient, and which will get you to a life that is more connected to yourself and to your environment, so you don’t destroy it as much. Nora Selmeczi: Well, all it takes sometimes is just a nice, gentle nudge. So that’s why a movie is a perfect way to first experience all of this without taking a risk. Going to a movie is a ritual of our modern times and going to see a movie is also a ritual to discover something hopefully within ourselves. So if anybody is animated to go on a walk, or to take a look, take a good look at nature and well cities as well. Take a good look at our environments. Just by watching the movies we talked about, I think that the studio has achieved a big goal because the moment you open your eyes on the world and consciously begin to see it as the moment you consciously begin to think about how you are interacting with this world and what you are doing with your environment and to your environment as well. Mythbusting: Japan is not small Adam Dobay: Final thing that we do in every episode, and I haven’t told you this, because I forgot it wasn’t a deliberate surprise. With every guest I have on I have a myth busting round where I asked that they bust a simple myth that they learned from their line of work or their expertise that normal everyday people wouldn’t know or would know wrong based on things they got from the media or films or whatever. So it might come from the film industry. It might come from what you’ve learned about Japan and the past few decades, anything that is a myth to be busted. Nora Selmeczi: There is a widespread myth or a stereotype in Japan that it’s a very small country and a very weak country. And this is a myth that’s been around since the Second World War. This is one of the self-limiting myths and stereotypes. And one of the books of Alan Booth, The Roads to Sata, he mentions an encounter with an old man and he says: “The thing you’re doing like walking the length of Japan from North to South. That’s a great thing. That’s something I would love to do. But this is something nobody is able to do since we lost the war.” It’s like they perceive their country has shrunken to a miniscule size. Because most of the land in Japan is uninhabited because of the mountainous interior and a lot of volcano activity in the interior, they feel that they are on land that’s been truncated to a bite sized chunk. And since then they are just not able to function anymore. So Japan being a small land and a miniscule country is obviously a myth. You could put Great Britain almost twice into the four main islands. Or you could just walk from Frankfurt in Germany to Sub-Saharan Africa, and then you would approximately have walked the length of Japan. So this is a small country for you. Adam Dobay: Okay, myth busted. All right, Nora, thanks so much for coming on. I would love to have you back later. talk about all the other Ghibli films and talk about Utena, which is the most wondrous anime series I’ve ever seen in which you have introduced me to by sitting in a tea house with me and frantically trying to explain the first episode’s plot to me and I think it took more time than the actual episode length. And I said that is so weird and I must watch it and it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever seen. (That was an ad for Utena.) And, if you, dear listener, are interested in looking at this glimpse at a Japan that’s not in the tourist books, and that’s outside of the normal media coverage, well outside the normal media coverage of Japan, then do take a look at The Wilds of Shikoku by Peter or us, which is out now and it’s a limited edition print. There’s only 500 of them hand-numbered, softcover and you can get the book at ilovewasting.ink . It’s one of these funny new domain names like what did you say, there’s a domain that’s .horse? Nora Selmeczi: .horse. Exactly. Adam Dobay: I have to buy a dot horse domain but this is not a dot horse domain. This is ilovewasting.ink where you can pick up your copy of The Wilds of Shikoku. Thanks again Nora for coming on. See you next time. Nora Selmeczi: Thank you for having me and see you next time. Now it’s your turn! That was a real packed episode there. What’s your biggest takeaway? Let me know in the comments below. And if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to sign up for the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide for a deep look into the storytelling and the mythologies behind the Ghibli films. Get the Studio Ghibli Secrets Guide! The post The Landscapes of Studio Ghibli – Moon Rabbit Podcast #003 appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
19 Aug 2020
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The Prophecy of Nausicaä – Moon Rabbit Podcast #002
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, an 1984 film based on a 12th century Japanese folktale, is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s most important works that a lot of people in the West haven’t even heard about.In this episode we sat down with independent cinema expert Flick Beckett (who has just seen the film for the first time) to talk about:how this single film led to the creation of Studio Ghibli the specific 12th century Japanese folktale that Miyazaki adapted and flipped the interpretation ofhow the story flips the “prophecy” story trope it gets from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune in a way that mainstream Hollywood rarely does even decades laterhow the hero’s adversaries are never really evil in Miyazaki filmsand finally, how the Nausicaa story itself has prophesised the climate movement of today How to listen to the Moon Rabbit PodcastRight here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episode by clicking here!On your favourite podcast app: search for “Moon Rabbit” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or your preferred podcast app. (And if you can’t find it, let me know which service is missing it!)The post The Prophecy of Nausicaä – Moon Rabbit Podcast #002 appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
26 Nov 2019
The Ritual Origins of Cinema – Moon Rabbit Podcast #001
Going into a dark space to watch moving images on the wall seems like a recent thing, but humans have been doing it for tens of thousands of years. In this first episode of the Moon Rabbit Podcast, I sat down with independent cinema expert Flick Beckett to discuss the mythological elements of the cinema-going ritual, and we talked extensively about how writer and director Hayao Miyazaki, founder of Studio Ghibli, has used mythology and symbolism in his films to bring a revolution to animation on the big screen.How to listen to the Moon Rabbit PodcastRight here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episode by clicking here!On your favourite podcast app: search for “Moon Rabbit” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict, or your preferred podcast app. (And if you can’t find it, let me know which service is missing it!) The post The Ritual Origins of Cinema – Moon Rabbit Podcast #001 appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
22 Nov 2019
Welcome to the Moon Rabbit podcast! (intro episode #000)
How to listen to the Moon Rabbit PodcastRight here, right now: Click on the big play button above. Magic!Take it with you: Download the mp3 for this episode by clicking here!iTunes, Spotify, Podcast Addict, etc. coming soon!Read along with the episode below.This is the Moon Rabbit Podcast – full transcriptHello and welcome to Moon Rabbit, a brand new film analysis podcast on the intersection between modern mythology and the human psyche. I’m your host, Adam Dobay, and the reason I’m starting this podcast is that I love digging into what makes stories tick. When I was a little kid, my favourite book was this huge hard cover, almost twice the size of my head at the time, called A Fairy Tale for Every Day.On the front cover was a figure of a woman whose clothing was made out of all different kinds of leaves and plants, and there were rays drawn around her head in a circular pattern as if she was the sun. And when you turned the book around, you saw this drawing of the waning moon, a smiling face wearing a nightcap, looking pensively into the distance, as large as the house on the hill that it was towering above. This image of the moon and the house was etched in my young mind so deeply that I vividly remember this image even thirty years later.And inside this book were three hundred and sixty five stories, literally one for every day of the year, plus one for leap years. Some of the stories were native to my birth country, Hungary, but most were translations of tales collected from other places. But these weren’t just your run-of-the-mill Grimm and La Fontaine tales, but stories from Iceland and Norway and Poland and Greece, from several unidentified African tribal cultures, shamanic ethnic groups from various parts of what at that time was the Soviet Union (yeah, this was still back in the 80s), and finally, there were lots and lots of Japanese folktales.I was absolutely fascinated by the stories of transformations, of defying the parent figures to go and learn the mystical skills from the crone who lives in the dark forest – or from the forest itself. But my absolute favourites were the adventures that hinted at realities outside our everyday experience that don’t operate like the human world does, and which still somehow stirred something deep within me that I couldn’t yet name.*And I kept this fascination with stories as I grew up and went into film studies and filmmaking.The question that I kept applying to everything I was watching or writing was, what is this story saying on a deeper level?So while majoring in film theory at university, I also set up a mythology research group, dived into the Far Eastern spiritual traditions, and went on retreats, not the spa types with baths and cocktails, but the ones where you study the practices of things like the various forms of Zen buddhism or the non-dualistic teachers of India.It all came together when I took a single class sixteen years ago where the professor taught what he called film symbology. Before this, I enjoyed film analysis as this obscure academic exercise you could use to study what the great highbrow filmmakers were doing, but I didn’t really see the practical application.And then I saw this professor combining insights from psychology and antropology and applying it to things like zombie movies or Chinese fantasy flicks or Romanian detective B-movies.And suddenly it felt like all the sets of the Venn-diagram in my head started sliding towards each other. Transformative storytelling. And mythology. And film. And the human psyche.It was a process that actually took a long time, but at one point many years later it clicked: you can take this method of film analysis and apply it to the stories that people actually find meaningful in their lives right here and right now. Films and TV shows and anime and myths and dreams and fairy tales, and it doesn’t matter if that film is considered good or bad by some official or unofficial critic. The only thing that matters is does this story move something in you. And if it does, I can help you understand the story better and through the story you understand yourself better. *So I took this realisation and went on to write and produce stuff for film, TV and the web in Hungary, among them an 8-part series into world mythology called The Myth Within, where I not only got to meet over 30 experts but got to experiment with how to turn complex and complicated topics into accessible and approachable content.I now live on the south coast of England but I often think about all the great people I’ve met and worked with both from the academic world and the film industry, all experts in their fields whose voices I feel need hearing, especially nowadays when I feel we’re completely forgetting the power that stories have on our psyche.*So in this podcast, I want to look at films in a way that is not normally done on film podcasts. I’m going to bring in people I’ve met on this journey of the last sixteen years, and explore what drives the stories that we see on the big screen or binge on Netflix.And we’re going to begin with Japan and Studio Ghibli because I think that’s the best example of how you can fuse ancient and modern storytelling and create new mythologies that speak to us and awaken something in our soul. We’ll start from here and see where the path takes us.My name is Adam Dobay and I can’t wait to go on this journey with you.The post Welcome to the Moon Rabbit podcast! (intro episode #000) appeared first on Follow The Moon Rabbit.
22 Nov 2019