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Hayao Miyazaki’s Catalog Returns to Blu-ray in Magical New Editions (Review)

Hayao Miyazaki’s Catalog Returns to Blu-ray in Magical New Editions (Review)

It’s been three years since I did my big re-watch and essay series Miyazaki Masterclass for Nerdist, in which I took an in-depth look at each of director Hayao Miyazaki‘s 11 feature films. This comprehensive look was inspired in part due to the fact that, like everyone else, including the filmmaker himself, I assumed he was done making movies. And even though we now know that’s not the case (yay!), Miyazaki’s still is a catalog worth revisiting time and time again. GKIDS now holds the license for Studio Ghibli movies, and they’re wasting no time establishing theirs as the brand for anime, releasing eight Miyazaki movies this month alone.

GKIDS had already released several newer Ghibli films on Blu-ray, including Isao Takahata‘s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s When Marnie Was There, and was instrumental in bringing Takahata’s beautiful Only Yesterday to the U.S. for the first time, commissioning a new English language dub featuring Daisy Ridley among others. GKIDS clearly cares about these movies and about animation as a legitimate storytelling art form. Once the company obtained the license for the entirety of Studio Ghibli’s back catalog, it paired with Shout Factory! for distribution. Shout! is itself getting into the anime game with the theatrical distribution of this year’s gorgeous In This Corner of the World, and it’s brought its always stellar extras game to these releases, where applicable.

As I said, GKIDS and Shout! are coming in hot right out of the gate. On October 17 alone, they’re releasing (click individual titles for full reviews) My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo. That represents half of Miyazaki’s whole output, and two weeks later, on October 31, you can get your hands on two of Miyazaki’s earliest films, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and Castle in the Sky. So if you slept on picking up the Disney editions (which are now out of print, obviously), you don’t have to fret too much.

Each of these films looks and sounds so crisp and clear in these Blu-ray editions, you’ll forget any other version of you’ve seen. You can see the individual elements used for the animation, in the backgrounds and characters, and they’re gorgeous things to behold. Naturally, I threw on Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke first, just to watch the first 15 minutes or so, and I had to force myself stop just so I could continue with the reviews. Miyazaki’s movies are instantly engrossing, no matter how many times you’ve seen them.

One of the hallmarks of Shout Factory! since the beginning has been its dogged resolve when it comes to packing their discs with extras. However, in the case of many of these movies, there just weren’t a ton of extras to begin with. So if you’re worried about double-dipping, I understand the concern. Each release comes with a specially produced booklet containing statements from Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki taken from various releases and articles. In the case of Totoro, Kiki, Mononoke, and Spirited Away, this is the only new feature, though they’re all packed with previously released material, mostly from the Disney releases.

On the flip side, Howl, Ponyo, Nausicaä, and Castle all have material that hasn’t been released in America before, in addition to the booklets. These come from Japanese Blu-ray and DVD releases, or from Japanese television in some cases. Howl has a featurettes about the film’s use of CG, one about the soundtrack, and a brief interview with the book’s author; Ponyo boasts by far the most unreleased extras, including lengthy interviews with Miyazaki and Suzuki, press conferences, and a child-aimed Japanese TV special about the movie’s production. Nausicaä has some very impressive things from Japanese releases, including a commentary track (subtitled of course) from assistant director Kazuyoshi Katayama and lead animator Hideaki Anno, who of course went on in his career to create Neon Genesis Evangelion, and a 45-minute radio interview between Anno and Suzuki about Nausicaä and Evangelion‘s use of the giant warrior.

So, obviously, the big concern is the double-dip. Disney released all of Miyazaki’s movies on Blu-ray individually, as well as in a big box set in 2015. If you have those, I can’t say any of these new releases are absolutely worth the re-buy, except maybe Nausicaä or Ponyo. That said, if you do NOT have either the box set or the original releases, the GKIDS/Shout Factory! releases are must-buys, offering you gorgeous and meticulously handled discs with more extras than you’ve ever been able to get before, even if those extras are just in the form of a cool booklet.

It’s great to know the Studio Ghibli library is in good hands, at the very least, and we can expect great things going forward.

Images: Studio Ghibli/GKIDS/Shout! Factory

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s the writer of Studio Ghibli retrospectives Miyazaki Masterclass, Takahata Textbook, and Ghibli Bits. Follow him on Twitter!

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