Why the train scene in Spirited Away is my favorite work by Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki’s decisively strongest quality as a filmmaker has for me always been one very specific thing: immersion. As cliché as it sounds, the sentiment of “being sucked into the movie screen and the world that it presents” is the most accurate description of my viewing experience of his films. Through the fantastical and elaborate settings, the detailed designs and consistently high-quality animation, the unique tones of Hisaishi’s scores, and the dynamic sense of pacing, they present other worlds that are at once exotic and inviting. And no other of his films captures this otherworldliness quite as exemplarily as Spirited Away. Why? Because of its embodiment of isekai.Read More »

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Ghost in the Shell: Merging identities

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Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror

– 1 Corinthians 13

Introduction

In the climactic scene of Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 cyberpunk classic Ghost in the Shell, there occurs a narratively and thematically pivotal confrontation between the film’s two central opposing characters. On one side, we have protagonist Motoko Kusanagi – a female cyborg police commander working for Public Security Section 9 – and on the other we have antagonist the Puppet Master – a criminal super hacker and sentient artificial life form. The Puppet Master, having wanted to meet Motoko for a long time, explains to her that he seeks to obtain the one thing that, as he sees it, separates him from organic life: reproduction. In order to do so, he wants the two of them to “merge” and create a new life form, one that is comprised of information from both parties but is at the same time its own entity. As this act of merging both representationally and literally erases the line between organic and artificial life, it marks the culmination of the film’s and by extension the franchise’s philosophical topics regarding life and human evolution in the age of artificial intelligence and trans-humanism. But what it also constitutes is an answer to the issues of identity that particularly the film explores; issues that are comprised of various dualist conflicts within a high-tech-modernized, trans-humanist urban environment. That is what this study is going to focus on.

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The Tale of Princess Kaguya: Challenging the norms of visual representation

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Isao Takahata’s 2013 feature film The Tale of Princess Kaguya has been extensively praised by critics and audiences alike for its visual beauty. Whether it’s seen as a celebration of hand-drawn animation, a smorgasbord of colorful imagery, or a soothing exercise in simplicity, the consensus is that this film presents an incredible feast for the eyes. What hasn’t so much been touched upon though is the arguably main reason behind this wide acknowledgement of the film’s visual aspect, namely the unique approach to the animated medium that it displays. There is no doubt that Princess Kaguya doesn’t look like your typical anime, or your typical animated work in general for that matter – but what elements does this deviation actually consist of, and what can they say about the work as a whole?Read More »

Descriptive storytelling – When world building and narrative collide

In her book The Art of Describing, art historian Svetlana Alpers explains an essential distinction between Dutch painting in the 17th century and its Italian counterpart. The so-called history paintings that out of all categories occupied the highest status within Italian renaissance art had their purpose in depicting historic – either biblical or mythological – scenes filled with grandiosity and drama. Because of it, history paintings were as much pictures as they were told stories, thus having the essential character of being narrative. As seen in any work of this kind, the showcasing of specific and centralized motifs is inherently prominent, with all of the paintings’ visual information actively and purposefully working in favor of the depicted scene in question; the poses of the characters all form a direction towards the main focus, which is most often placed at the centre of the scene, while the less important aspects are given less attention.Read More »

Retrospective 2015

The annual celebratory extravaganza known as Christmas has just reached its conclusion and New Year’s is only a few days away, as I’m in the midst of an ironically stressful school break. In order to prevent my blog from complete inactivity during this hectic holiday season, I’ve decided to lazily put together some of my highlights in various mediums from the past year. But since I’m not one to actively follow seasonal stuff to any greater extent, this is not going to necessarily focus on things that have come out this year, but instead things that I personally have consumed.Read More »

The expressionistic goth horror of Suspiria

As the end of October steadily is closing in, so is the unholiest of holidays, with pumpkins, costumes and stacks of candy lurking around every corner. I personally have never really been the most engaged person in the celebration of halloween; beside some occasionally fun and impressive costume outfits and the excuse of stuffing myself with more candy than normally, I’ve never really had any reason for getting excited about it. It’s always just kind of happened, and then I’ve moved on with my life. For this year though, I figured I’d for a change partake in this fine yearly tradition of spookiness, and what better way to do that than by looking at my personal favorite horror film?Read More »

Time in media

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how time plays out in the different forms of media in which it’s prominent, and how it’s changed throughout history. Why do we have the standard time lengths that we have in our modern culture? Why is the average length for a pop song 3-5 minutes, or for a movie 1 1/2 to 2 hours? How has our technological, social and cultural evolution shaped these time lengths over the years, and how will they be shaped in the future? These are all very interesting questions, but to answer them in a somewhat organized way, let’s focus on one medium at a time.Read More »