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Studio Ghibli Makes Short from World’s Oldest Manga

Last week I watched the final feature film by Studio Ghibli that I had yet to see. It was 2010’s The Secret World of Arrietty directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. I really enjoyed it, but was immediately saddened. That might be the last Studio Ghibli movie I’ll get to see for a good long while. Producer Toshio Suzuki has been hinting at the fact that, since Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, the creative co-founders of the studio, have retired from feature animation, there might be a lengthy break before the next fully in-house production. So, we have to take what we can get, even if it’s only 32 seconds long.

The above short is based on Choju Jinbutsu Giga, or Scrolls of Frolicking Animals, a set of scrolls from the 12th and 13th centuries which are widely considered the first examples of manga in Japanese history. These scrolls were obviously never meant to be turned into animation, but the Ghibli designers and animators are able to make it realistic — the characters all have weight and heft like real living creatures — without losing the sparse expressionism of the original work. It’s pretty damn cool. We just wish there was more of it.

Now they didn’t create this short just for the love of history; this was a commissioned work for the energy company Marubeni Shin Denryoku, which is ushering in brand new efficient, low-pollution, means of creating energy. They also give a portion of their revenue to conservation efforts. This kind of environmentalism is perfectly attuned to Studio Ghibli’s ethos, all which touts a peaceful cohesion between nature and humanity, as evidenced in several films including Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Takahata’s Pom Poko.

The next Studio Ghibli production that we know of is a collaboration with a European animation company and director Michael Dudok de Wit, the dialogue-free film The Red Turtle. Ghibli will handle the lion’s share of the animation and Takahata will act as artistic producer. It’ll be released in Japan in September. Who knows when the next one will be? I do hope we get more shorts, maybe a bit more substantial than this one, in the interim. The world needs as much Ghibli as it can get.

What do you think of this short? Would you watch a longer film based on these scrolls? Let us know in the comments below!


HT: Rocket News 24
Image: Studio Ghibli

Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!

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