Does Castle in the Sky's Dub Hold Up?

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest anime films by one of the greatest directors alive. It’s a hallmark from a well-known animation house that was starting to get its footing. It’s the epitome of the 80’s, and it’s still watchable because of its timelessness. And no, I’m not talking about Akira, but rather 1986’s Castle in the Sky.


Hard to believe it’s almost 30 years, huh? After all, we don’t think about age with classics, as it shouldn’t matter if they’re that good. But it’s true: Castle in the Sky is celebrating its 30th anniversary on August 2nd, 2016. Since that’s a year away, we might as well discuss it now that it’s passed its 29th anniversary. More specifically, we’ll zero-in on its most-controversial element, its 1999 dub, and see if it holds up too. However, since context is necessary, there’ll also be comparisons drawn with its lesser-known, 1989 dub and the original Japanese track.

Anyway, enough chit-chat.


The first point is that Disney dubbed this movie in the late-90’s. It seems strange to reiterate said point, but context is context. The 80’s and 90’s anime scene, as far as dubs go, was drastically different than now. These days, the worst you can usually say about a dub is that it’s mediocre, as most high-profile dubs are given the utmost care and respect and supply real talent. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, however, that wasn’t the case, so a good dub, let-alone a decent one, was a novelty.

I mention this because Castle in the Sky, for good or bad, is a product of the 90’s. Not that it’s awful, Disney dubs are never flat-out awful, but its 90’s-ness needs to be factored in. Why? Because everything about it, right down to casting, only makes sense if you consider what kind of dub it was relative to other dubs, or even prior Studio Ghibli dubs, of the time.

Let’s begin with its ADR director. I’m a firm believer that a director can make or break something, as well as leave the lasting impression on the audience, in the end result. To that end, we have Jack Fletcher. Fletcher’s credentials, save the three Studio Ghibli dubs he was responsible for, are select and insignificant, but his style is undeniable: he was notorious for added jokes and dialogue. The end result was quite mixed, as Princess Mononoke wasn’t hurt at all and Kiki’s Delivery Service suffered quite a bit, and Castle in the Sky is the epitome of “love it or hate it” because of that.

Take the scene where Pazu’s boss and Charles of The Dola Gang fight in the open: in the Japanese, and possibly even the 1989 dub, the scene was mostly a silent brawl. In the 1999 dub, however, you hear Henri egging him on, even narrating the previously silent moment where Charles’s shirt explodes. Moments like these are peppered throughout the dub and give off a lighthearted, hokey vibe for a lighthearted, hokey film, but they’ve also received backlash for being distracting and disrespectful. It’s gotten to the point where Disney was accused of disrespecting the material, resulting in subsequent re-releases removing this extra banter. So where do I stand?

Honestly, I don’t mind the banter. I grew up on the Digimon franchise, which had dubs littered with one-liners and added dialogue. Those still hold up somewhat, so I can live with this. But even outside of that, the corny dialogue was only included in comedic scenes. The serious moments were mostly unaltered, and even then the additional dialogue, like the conversation between General Muoro and Colonel Muska in the armed fortress, added to the movie. It gave life to otherwise lacking scenes, and the axing from the 2010 re-release was a turn-off for me. Besides, I think it fit the tone of the dub quite well.

It doesn’t help that the 2010 re-release’s axing of said lines didn’t feel genuine. Half of the time a conversation is abrupt or unfinished in an attempt to match the original’s intent, which is distracting. It’s noticeably apparent when Dola spots Sheeta and Pazu running away, as her mouth moves…but there’s a split second delay with no dialogue. It’s empty, vapid lip-service to whiney purists, making it feel lifeless. So while it might please them this way, I prefer the chatter.

If there’s one area I’d like to praise Disney’s script for, and this is something they’ve done for all of Studio Ghibli’s dubs (even their outsourced ones,) it’s that there's no profanity. Not that I’m against swearing, I do it in real life, but I often find it lazy to constantly use four-letter words when you clearly don’t need to. It’s a problem I have with Quentin Tarantino’s films, but it’s especially a problem with kid’s movies because you’re missing out on an opportunity to appeal to a broader audience. Yes, children shouldn’t be talked down to…but they also shouldn’t be swearing when unnecessary, and hearing a dub of a kid’s film without cursing is refreshing. It’s a sharp contrast to the Japanese script, which, to my recollection, had plenty of profanity.

Next there’s the casting, which is where the biggest hubbub lies. Fletcher, like future Disney dubbers, had a tendency to mix major celebrities of the time with unknowns and traditional voice actors. And since this was the 90’s, the casting reflected that. Disney wanted to make this movie appeal to the mainstream in the West, so they chose Dawson’s Creek actor James Van Der Beek and then-recent Oscar winner/upcoming talent Anna Paquin as the protagonists Pazu and Sheeta respectively. And how did that turn out? Well, like the additional dialogue, I don’t mind them; true, they’re not well-matched to their characters, there’s no denying that. But, like I said in my dub article, acting is more than casting, and a talented actor or actress can overcome miscasting with a solid performance. This is something that, I think, is done here too.

Let’s look at Pazu: James Van Der Beek was in his mid-20’s at the time, and yet, like the voice actors in Digimon, he was given a role clearly much younger than him. Anyone with working eyes can look at Pazu’s character design and say “pre-teen”, and he’d have probably gone to a pre-teen actor today, but since that didn’t happen Van Der Beek had to improvise. How? By imitating a boy going through puberty, or cracking his voice every other line. It’s a decision leading many to, again, think he was being disrespectful, but, like JesuOtaku said in her currently-inaccessible video on the film, he was clearly having fun. There isn’t a single flat line-read to be had, so I’ll forgive it.

Of course, this is in contrast to the other performances of Pazu, namely Mayumi Tanaka in the Japanese and Barbara Goodson in the 1989 dub. For the latter, it’s no comparison: Goodson is a better actress, but she pales in comparison to Van Der Beek. I mean no disrespect to Goodson, I love a lot of her other roles, but she wasn’t well-directed. Her line reads are flat and way too gravely, and they suffer from a bad case of “Literal Translation Disorder”. It’s a problem that plagues everyone in the 1989 dub, but it especially hurts Goodson’s performance because Pazu’s such an important character.

Mayumi Tanaka, on the other hand, is a different story. I’m not too familiar with how Japanese voice acting works, but from what I’ve gathered she’s fine. My only issue's that you can tell she’s voicing a young boy, as opposed to it being authentic. It’s especially apparent during her screams, as they sound shrill. That’s not to say her performance isn’t on-par with Van Der Beek’s, or even better, but that only further proves my point that Japanese voice acting isn’t necessarily always flawless. I don’t think Pazu is a matter of “who fits his character best?” as it is “who does a decent enough job?”, as no one nails him 100%.

Then we arrive at Sheeta, voiced by Anna Paquin. Paquin is extremely talented, and I like her a lot as an actress. But while she, too, was too old for Sheeta (she was in her late-teens,) there was the additional problem of accentual fluctuations. Many people don’t know this, but Paquin moved to New Zealand from Canada at a young age, and this reflects in her performance. She constantly sounds like she’s struggling with whether or not she should sound foreign or American, with every other line an awkward hybrid of the two. Factor in that she wasn’t as well-directed as her co-star, and you have what many consider the worst performance in the dub, let-alone any Disney dub.

Here’s where I come and defend her. For one, her performance sounds like she’s trying. There are genuine moments of passion behind her line reads, and some, especially in the second-half, are fantastic. She’s particularly good in her screaming and crying moments, the latter of which she does often, and really sells me. And two, her direct competition, Lara Cody, is downright awful, despite, like Goodson, being far more experienced. She's not really the best choice for the role, and doesn’t hold a candle to her seiyuu counterpart, but I think she's fine.

As for everyone else, it’s easier to determine quality. I can’t say anything about the Japanese, but the original dub, for all its talented actors and actresses, is awful. The late-Jeff Winkless is cold and unenthusiastic, Mike Reynolds sounds like a goofier version of Gennai from Digimon Adventure, Rachel Vanowen is bored as Dola and Charles, Louie and Henri’s VAs are really hard to take seriously. In contrast, the Disney dub has Mark Hamill as a brilliantly-cast Colonel Muska, Cloris Leachman as a show-stealing Dola, Jim Cummings as a wonderfully-performed General Muoro and Mike McShane, Mandy Patinkin and Andy Dick as some of their best respective works on Dola’s kids. Dick even impresses enough that his constant misdemeanours can be ignored, which isn’t easy! It’s absolutely no contest: Disney wins. If you still need proof, listen to the Castle in the Sky voice comparisons on Behind the Voice Actors.

Finally, and this is the most under-appreciated part, the re-score is fantastic, easily one of Joe Hisaishi’s best for a Miyazaki film. Which isn’t to say the original soundtrack is awful, but it’s not filmic. It comes off as a high-end, low-budget TV soundtrack, which’d be fine if Castle in the Sky weren’t a movie. But it is, and even juxtaposed to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, which came out two years prior, it’s not that special. Rumour has it that Joe Hisaishi had been wanting to redo the film’s score for years, and when Disney approached Miyazaki to do so, which he approved, Hisaishi jumped on the opportunity.

Perhaps the best way to understand is by using a few examples. “Robot Tsuwamono”, which plays when the robot destroys the fortress, was originally a string of electronic chimes and ominous notes. It worked, but-again-it lacked pinnace. The re-score made it a symphonic horror tune, one that gets the blood pumping instantly:


Robot Tsuwamono/Rescue

Another example of a slight improvement is in the opening cue. Initially, the sequence where Sheeta’s necklace breaks her fall runs without break. However, it’s a moment of dramatic tension, so Hisaishi’s re-scoring was a little more artsy and slowed the track for those few seconds:


The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

And finally, the scene where Pazu plays his trumpet; initially, only his trumpet could be heard. In the re-scoring, however, a lyre and full orchestra were added for ambience:


Pazu’s Fanfare

There are other examples of notable improvements, but the fact remains: this is superior to the original, so much so that the Japanese Blu-Ray release, apparently, used it too. It’s only the dub’s re-release that axed it, making the movie feel, once again, hollow. Because, let’s face it, the original score is kinda dated. The re-orchestration, on the other hand, I can listen to in any decade and still appreciate, so it wins by a long shot!

Do I consider the 1999 Disney dub worthwhile even now? Yes. Is it a good dub? Yes. Is it a great dub, or even Disney’s best? No, it’s too hokey. But that shouldn’t matter, as a lot of heart and soul went into it. You can nitpick it forever, but why’s this so hard for people to accept? I'm not sure, but I know what I’m coming back to again and again!

Comments

  1. "why’s this so hard for people to accept?"
    There are a lot of whiney purists out there, aren't there? I wouldn't use that fact as an excuse to dismiss and any all understandable frustrations with the dub as originally offered, however [not saying that's what you're doing, but I have seen defenders of the dub's original cut doing exactly that]. For my part, I don't mind the existence of the dub with the added chatter and the rescore so long as an edit of the dub without either of those things exists for someone like me to enjoy, as I've never found the film to be the least bit hollow without them. Now that such an edit exists, I'm content-

    -or nearly so. This might surprise you, but I'm actually kind of bothered that the 2010 release didn't include both cuts of the dub. There *are* people out there who prefer the dub with the rescore and the added chatter, and I think its only fair that they get the chance to enjoy what they like just as people like me should be able to enjoy what we like. Their preferred version of the film might not *entirely* be "Laputa" as far as I'm concerned, but it would be arrogant presumption on my part to deny that their enjoyment of it was/is real.

    As regards my thoughts on the rescore, see my relevant comments on your editorial for the upcoming dub of "Only Yesterday". The only stuff I'll add here is regarding the original score- namely, that I find its use of synths rather oddly charming, which is an admittedly subjective thing. Also, I find that its more sparing nature provides a level of ambiance and meaningful silence that, for me at least, enhances the experience. For all that its one of Ghibli's least subtle efforts, "Laputa" still contains many lengthy quiet moments not typically found in western action-adventure movies. For all its grandeur, it still has an intimate, homely aspect to it, like a charming little children's tale. For something like that, I prefer a more subdued score.

    I guess what I'm trying to get at is that its perfectly possible for someone to acknowledge the excellence of the rescore whilst legitimately preferring the film without it. As long as you can accept my greater enjoyment of the film in such a manner as equally valid, then I honestly don't think we have any quarrel.

    I've already addressed my thoughts on Disney's casting choices, so I won't reiterate my comments here.


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    1. I can accept that line of reasoning because you're not being an a**hole about it like so many others. Putting it the way you did just now is definitely something worth considering.

      And don't worry about whether or not I'm coming off as too harsh. Most of this is directed in the direction of purists in general, since they're so closed-minded that they'd think reading cue cards would sound more authentic than quality English VA work "because it's in Japanese"...

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    2. I admit that it does pain me a little to come down so hard on aspects of any of the Disney Ghibli dubs, as I support their existence in principle and enjoy many of them, and my frustrations can sometimes bely that. Sometimes, I enjoy them more than the in the original language: "Porco Rosso", "Howl's Moving Castle", and "Kiki's Delivery Service" are all films that I actually *prefer* in English. But if somebody's only experience with my thoughts on them is my griping about the casting of James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin [still not buying your defense of the latter, sorry], they might assume I'm part of the "dubbing is of the devil" crowd.

      I guess I will comment briefly on Miss Tanaka's performance. While I admit that she's not completely perfect, I prefer her to Van Der Beek because she doesn't sound like a boy who's well past the age of eleven or twelve. Also, she sounds more overtly hyperactive, which strikes me as a much better fit for Pazu's extremely exuberant nature [as exemplified by the way he is animated]. James Van Der Beek, for all his enthusiasm, simply sounds too mature for the part, and that's something that not amount of good acting on his part can fix. The way I see it, the fact that his performance is largely good doesn't really matter because its the wrong performance for the part in the first place.


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    3. Again, you're not being a jerk about it, so it's fine.

      As for Paquin? I guess I can't sway you either way, even though she's far better than Lara Cody was in the same role (seriously, whoever was in charge of that original dub really screwed up!) And for Van Der Beek, again, it's all preference. I guess Tanaka is better, but her screaming scenes still bother me regardless...

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  2. I've always found Disney's dub of LAPUTA to be a great dub in spite of its differences. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's nowhere near terrible. And honestly, I was never bothered by Paquin; the worst performance in a Disney dub? No. I consider that to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiro in THE WIND RISES. He just sounded too unenthused. Paquin is livelier and while there are places where she does falter, it's not bad enough to take me out of the film.

    I've never even considered the CASTLE IN THE SKY dub hokey at all. To me, it just matches the film well. The older 80s dub, on the other hand, DOES sound hokey.

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    1. Uh, Gordon-Levitt has a long way to go before matching or topping Blaire Restaneo's awful performance in Tales from Earthsea. At worst, he's meh. But even I liked it.

      As for being hokey, I'm sorry, but I think it is. Much like Trigun, it feels like a 90's dub to a teat. It's better than that one by miles, but hokeyness comes with the territory for those old dubs, effort or not...

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    2. Eh, whatever. I think it fits the tone of the movie fine and I've never really had a problem with it. To me the older '80s dub had far more clunkier sounding lines, such as "did you hear me, we go straight forward. We're sure to find an entrance." and "This place is where the throne room is, isn't that appropriate? Now say bye-bye." in addition to "I'm as hard as a brick moppet, if moppets were made out of bricks!" I don't know who wrote the script for that '80s dub, but they clearly didn't have a very good idea of how to make the dialogue flow!

      John Semper and Jack Fletcher did, I think, a far better job with the flow of the dialogue. Although the last part of Sheeta's speech would have been better off if it was kept as is, at least their script doesn't have any clunky or laughable lines. The goofiness of the pirates' dialogue matches their personalities, and I always liked Dola's attempt to coach Sheeta to talk like a pirate.

      The only parts of the extra lines that I would have taken out were when Pazu and Sheeta comment on things that the audience can clearly see, like the clouds in the sky and when they explore Laputa.

      Otherwise I'm with you in terms of deleting the lines. It's one thing to get rid of some of the more gratuitous ones, but not to the point that it takes away most of the flow of what Fletcher and Semper created.

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    3. Granted, I've only seen the dub of "The Wind Rises" once, so I might feel differently upon rewatching it, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance didn't especially bother me, given the calm and analytical nature of the character he was playing. Jiro [as portrayed in Miyazaki's script] is not character who lends himself to the sort of colorful and/or exuberant voicework that many of the characters in Hayao Miyazaki's other films -which are generally more fantastical and/or whimsical- tend to call for. My impressions from first viewing of the dub is that Gordon-Levitt attempted to play the part in the manner it called for. Was he perfect? No, perhaps not. I don't know that I'd call his performance one of the best in a Disney Ghibli dub. But I don't know that I'd call it one of the worst, either. I certainly wouldn't call it worse than Paquin's performance as Sheeta, which I've already made clear that I'm not fond of. If nothing else, Gordon-Levitt was extremely gung-ho about playing the part [I challenge anyone who's seen the "Behind the Microphone" segment on the movie to say otherwise]. I'm not entirely sure whether Paquin's level of enthusiasm reached his.

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    4. For the record, I actually like how well the translation in the Disney dub flows in terms of its diction- its the extra dialogue I wasn't interested in having, and the 2010 re-edit eliminated most of it. Personally, I'm just fine with experiencing their translation without the added lines, to the point where, whenever I watch the film in Japanese, I tend to watch it dubtitled. If I remember correctly, the only other official English subtitle translations that tend to float around for "Laputa" are for the Streamline dub, and those are indeed very ungainly and awkward. I'll gladly sacrifice Sheeta's line about "not living apart from the earth" in exchange for a better translation overall. Besides, the message comes through loud and clear anyway even without that line.

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    5. I actually asked John Semper why they altered the last part of Sheeta's speech at the end. I don't want to reprint every single line he said to me because that would be disrespectful. But from what he told me, it was a case of him and Disney interpreting the movie as a case of Pazu and Sheeta's relationship meant love for each other and the world around them. Or at least something along those lines. I'm not particularly fond of the "world cannot live without love" line, but I can tolerate it because at least nothing else about Sheeta's speech is drastically altered.

      Besides, I think that while Paquin may not be the strongest performance in the dub, she does do a better job delivering that speech than Cody. Cody just sounded all over the place and that she was just shouting it without any real direction. Paquin was more low-key at that point, but there was a tenderness to her performance I really liked, and while I did detect her occasional missed lines, it wasn't that bad to me.

      The reason I disliked Joseph Gordon-Levitt partially has to do with the fact that I had high expectations for The Wind Rises, and so I was disappointed with the film as a whole. Jiro's character didn't really engage me at all, and sorry, but whatever it was that Joseph was trying to put into the role, it just didn't work for me. To me it just sounded detached. However enthusiastic he may have sounded about doing the part in the interview, it just didn't come through to me. It also really took a toll on his chemistry with Emily Blunt IMO. When Blunt is giving her all and he is reading every line monotonously, then the love story just doesn't work. The only voices I genuinely enjoyed in The Wind Rises dub were Martin Short, Mae Whitman, Wener Hertzog, and Stanley Tucci. Those guys were good. But otherwise I'm just not a fan of The Wind Rises, either as a film or a dub. Castle is my favorite, and even though I may be in the minority I prefer the Disney version. But don't mistake me as saying that I don't like the Japanese version also; I do think it's interesting. But I'm not so fond of the Japanese VAs for Pazu OR Sheeta; while I don't consider James or Anna the strongest in the dub (but certainly not awful to me), I found their Japanese counterparts too shrill for my ears. Plus I just can't connect well with these movies in Japanese. For the record I DID see the Japanese version of Laputa once. I liked it then, but I just like the dub more because despite my issues with the last part of Sheeta's speech, there was very little else about it that grated on me. Then again that's just my opinion.

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    6. I guess it's really all preference, really. I see where both of you are coming from and respect it, but I still am more inclined to agree with Jon Turner on this dub. The Wind Rises I'm with crankyman7 on, even though I had to get used to the awkward lip flaps not always the words, but for this, a much more light-hearted kid's movie, I think futzing around with the dialogue a bit (so long as the spirit of the material is kept intact) is fine...

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    7. I think they did a good job keeping the spirit of CASTLE's atmosphere intact as well. Other than the last part of Sheeta's speech, I didn't notice anything else about the Disney dialogue that struck me as out of place with the tone of the story. Hokey or not, I still think it matches this movie.

      As for The Wind Rises, hey, if you enjoyed that dub, good for you. I'm not particularly crazy about it, but I'm not going to go around trying to insult people for thinking otherwise and telling them they shouldn't be ALLOWED to like it. That's just borderline disrespectful.

      Yeah, prefereces are preferences. That's what makes opinions unique.

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  3. I'm really enjoying the civility of this discussion. Thanks, guys!

    While they didn't bother me in the least, I can easily see how Pazu and Sheeta's Japanese VAs might come across as too shrill to somebody. So, Jon Turner, I get where you're coming from totally. As regards your having an easier time connecting with the English voice-actors- well, that's related to one of the reasons I support dubbing. In my experiences with anime thus far, I find I'm often able to connect to the characters either way so long as the movie/show in question is actually good. But I know some people have difficulty connecting with a voice that's not speaking in their native language.

    Its probably going to take a couple more viewings for me to sort out how I feel about "The Wind Rises" as a film. At this point in time, I don't dislike it, I like it alright, but I don't consider it to be the masterpiece most of its fans make it out to be. Of Ghibli's latest efforts, I'm personally more partial to "Kaguya" and "Marnie"- especially the latter, which I seem to be in the minority on in considering both misunderstood and one of the company's finest efforts [Whitly have already had that discussion ;-) ]. I'm kind of used to having controversial opinions where Ghibli is concerned, though [eg. "Ponyo" is overrated, "Porco Rosso" is excellent, "Spirited Away" is not Hayao Miyazaki's best film (although I do really like it), etc.]

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    1. I won't cover my full thoughts on dubbing, I've already done that in a different article, but yeah...familiarity does help.

      As for Miyazaki in general, I find Ponyo is too frequently maligned to consider it overrated, especially when most of its criticism can be easily rebutted (not that it's perfect, because it's not.) It's certainly far from what I'd consider Miyazaki's worst, which I've also discussed before too.

      As for The Wind Rises? I've seen it twice now. To paraphrase a well-known YouTuber, it sits in the category of "three-star (out of four) movies from Miyazaki". It's good, but nothing special like some of his best...

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    2. You must hang out in different circles than I do. I usually see little besides praise being lavished upon "Ponyo".

      I don't hate the film by any means. Nevertheless, I do consider it to be below average on the story, character, and thematic fronts, and I do consider it to be Hayao Miyazaki's weakest film. Please hear me out:

      One of my two main problems with the film is that its desire to be lighthearted and whimsical, and its natural disaster and "save the world" elements, cause excessive tonal dissonance, and just don't gel with each other. I like "Ponyo" best in its opening third, where it was nothing more than a simple little tale of a goldfish who wanted to be human and be friends with a little boy. Once the film introduced Fujimoto's potions and unleashed the tsunami, it began to go downhill. Ponyo and Sosuke are simply not substantial enough as characters for me to care once the weight of the world descends upon their shoulders, especially when they seem so blissfully ignorant of what's riding on their actions in the first place, at least until the rather confusing climax [which I'll get to shortly]. "Totoro" and "Kiki" introduced conflict in a much more convincing and less contrived way, by making trebly sure their main characters [who, I should add, were much better crafted than the leads in "Ponyo"] were personally invested in, and fully aware of, exactly what was going on and how it was affecting/might affect themselves personally. I cared because the characters, whom I had become invested in, cared. With one or two exceptions, virtually everyone in "Ponyo" treats the tsunami and the encroaching moon rather like a country picnic. We're talking about an impending global catastrophe here, a high potential casualty rate, and very extensive property damage, and almost nobody seems to care. I'm tempted to call it irresponsible, the way Miyazaki treats these events in the story. Certainly, its less respectful of young people's intelligence than his handling of conflict in "Totoro" or "Kiki". And because its so intimately bound up with the resolution of Ponyo and Sosuke's goals, its impossible for me to ignore it in order to enjoy the film's initial whimsical premise.

      My other major issue is Fujimoto, who's so inscrutable as to be borderline incomprehensible. Does this guy want all humans to be destroyed or doesn't he? The film's dialogue provides evidence for both theories, yet they can't both be correct, can they? He might have changed his mind, perhaps- but if he did, where, when, how, and why did he do so? And then there's his behavior in the climax, which I still can't understand after my second viewing. Was he trying to actively dissuade Sosuke from doing...something? Was he trying to play the role of devil's advocate for...something? What is the precise nature of his role in Sosuke's test? Fujimoto isn't dynamic- he's just underdeveloped and confusing.

      "Howl's Moving Castle" might have turned into a narrative mess in its back half, but its characters were still interesting and quirky enough for me to hang my hat on *them*, even if I'm kind of disappointed with the end result of the plot they inhabit. Not only were the characters in "Ponyo" less memorable to me, but the film seemed so much less invested in the conflicts it created for its character; where "Howl" tried to do too much, "Ponyo" tried to do both too much and too little. Its honestly the only Hayao Miyazaki film where I actually started to get bored watching it. I've no problem with people enjoying it; I can easily see how they would. And it does have things I enjoy, namely the animation, the opening half-hour, the soundtrack, and the well-chosen English voice cast. But much as I'd like to, I just can't shake my belief that its quality of execution is fairly lacklustre.

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    3. Okay, I guess. I actually hear plenty of crap about the movie, and given how horribly-written and flustered Howl's Moving Castle really is (not even its anti-war message is well-executed,) it was nice to watch a movie that didn't give me a headache while trying to watching it.

      But I guess your reasoning is a lot more sound than most, even if I still don't agree with it. At least it's not the whole "PONYO IS ANNOYING!" bullsh*t I keep hearing from people, or even that the movie looks bad when its animation style is that way on purpose. Because, like I've said before, people really do find dumb reasons to rag on it, actual flaws aside...

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