The Hayao Miyazaki movie that got away

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.

Hayao Miyazaki doesn’t always make movies with kids in mind. His most recent film, The Wind Rises, is full of challenging adult themes, and the intense violence of Princess Mononoke was enough for Disney to distribute the film in America through Miramax, its adult-oriented brand in the late ’90s. But even his most adult fare wouldn’t come close to a movie he almost made: Rowlf.

Rowlf is an American comic written by Richard Corben. As with some of Corben’s other work, Rowlf is an exploitation-style comic filled with over-the-top violence and nudity. The comic was originally published in a small newspaper before it made its way to the pages of Heavy Metal Magazine, where Corben gained much of his notoriety and fame.

The main character of the comic is a princess’ canine companion named Rowlf. When the princess is kidnapped by demons, an evil wizard who believes that Rowlf killed the princess tries to transform him into a man so he can admit his crimes. However, the spell fails and transforms Rowlf into a half-human half-dog hybrid. After his transformation, Rowlf sets off to find his princess and rescue her in a demon-killing spree. In 1980, Hayao Miyazaki wanted to adapt it into a movie.

The cover of the second printing of Rowlf by Richard Corben Image: Rip Off Press via

Miyazaki expressed his interest in adapting Rowlf in a proposal written to Corben himself, where he acknowledged that the subject matter might be a little strange for Japanese audiences, but that he thought it would be a hit in America. Miyazaki apparently planned to change the story slightly by making Rowlf transform into a half-man, half-dog because of his love for the princess and desire to protect her, rather than because of a spell.

Along with the new story ideas, Miyazaki also included some concept art for his version of the movie. True to Studio Ghibli’s other adaptations, rather than adapt his style to be more like Corbyn’s dark, gritty, heavily shaded work of Corben, he was going to reinterpret the original in his own tradition.

Artwork from Rowlf by Richard Corben Corben’s Voice of Comicdom cover for Rowlf Image: Richard Corben/Adventures in Comicdom

The princess is more childlike and has similar features to some of Miyazaki’s earlier work like Lupin the 3rd. Rowlf himself looks cuter, softer, and move love-able — even as he brandishes an assault rifle.

Corben rejected the proposal, but it’s clear he wasn’t against the idea of animation. A year later, Corben’s Heavy Metal Magazine comic, Den, would be adapted as one of the segments in the animated movie, Heavy Metal, which stayed much closer in style to his own original art.

Despite the rejection, Miyazaki didn’t forget about Rowlf completely. In fact, it’s easy to see how Miyazaki was inspired by Corben’s work in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which came out just four years after he wrote his proposal to the author. Rowlf’s setting is Canisland, which pushes together elements of medieval castles and fantasy with modern technology. The demons in the story use machine guns and tanks, but attack castles and kidnap princesses.

While Miyazaki’s films often involve mechanical technologies in fantasy worlds, Nausicaä feels especially informed by this lost project, with its mechanical flying machines and tanks. In Miyazaki’s concept art for Rowlf you can already see the beginnings of the vehicles that would later show up in the film.

Another piece of Miyazaki’s proposal for a Rowlf animated feature included a larger role for the princess’ father. While the king is largely absent from Corben’s original story, Miyazaki’s wanted to make him an ineffectual ruler who let his kingdom waste away due to neglect. This plot line, in its entirety, seems to make its way directly from Miyazaki’s rejected proposal to Nausicaa, where the princess’ father also fails his kingdom through poor rule.

It’s difficult to see where a story about a bipedal dog who blows up demons with a tank would fit into the stable of Miyazaki classics at this point. However, looking back, it’s hard not to feel cheated out of seeing one of the most important animators ever, work on a completely different kind of story than he’s explored before. But maybe it’s enough to know that Miyazaki’s seeming fascination with Richard Corben and Heavy Metal Magazine-style comics helped give us an underrated gem like Nausicaä, and to wonder where a Rowlf movie would have taken Miyazaki if he had made it.

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When a master makes a meh-sterpiece

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.

Hayao Miyazaki’s eighth film for Studio Ghibli debuted in Japan in 2008 and became a box-office phenomenon. When the film came stateside in 2009, reviews were full of praise — and caveats. “Even when the film feels murky, Miyazaki’s painterly eye keeps things afloat,” went the Newsday review. The Daily Telegraph noted that “storytelling is less important to [Miyazaki] than mood or texture. His films are dream waltzes, all liquid motion and mysterious turbulences.” “Ponyo isn’t Hayao Miyazaki’s greatest film,” The Washington Post observed, “but his beautiful, quirky fable has magic other children’s movies can’t touch.”

The middling praise has faded over the years. On ranked lists and in casual conversation with Ghibli diehards, Ponyo is one of Miyazaki’s lesser efforts, and never in the conversation for the best. It’s written off as “geared toward young kids” by the Common Sense Media definition, and memed for the main character’s love of ham. (And boy, she loves ham!) The legacy of Ponyo is a drop in the bucket for the master animator, even if the drop is a painstakingly hand-crafted, blobular wonder.

In theory, that’s enough to make it a must-see. Twenty years after crouching down to see the world from a small child’s perspective in My Neighbor Totoro, Miyazaki returned to the chaotic glee of pre-pre-pre-adolescence to riff on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Brunhilde, a magical goldfish who lives with her wizard scientist dad under the sea, wants nothing more than to run wild on mankind’s shores. When she sneaks away to the surface, she meets 5-year-old Sōsuke, who spends most of his time walking the cliffs and longing for his seafaring father.

After Sōsuke dubs the goldfish “Ponyo,” and watches her transform into a little girl with chicken legs, the two strike up an adventure full of tidal waves, aquatic creatures, and magic. The film is bubbly in every way, with Miyazaki prioritizing the swirling surrealism of his ocean backdrop over the emotional core that made My Neighbor Totoro an actual classic. Sized up in the filmography of a living legend, it’s “minor,” and a victim of what auteurship has become in our data-crunching, tell-me-if-it’s-good era.

a wizard with long red hair bottles up some magic while underwater in ponyo Image: Studio Ghibli

I love a movie ranking: They’re the most digestible way to examine a filmmaker’s life work, and a helpful way to plan a month-long movie marathon. But in this evolved moment of the thumbs-up/thumbs-down culture, where viewing habits are built off passing glances at Rotten Tomatoes scores, and attention-worthy failures are the ones that require $30 million extra to fully realize the director’s actual maybe-possibly-hopefully better version, a ranked compendium has the potential to scare people away from the less-than-perfect work of great filmmakers. I would rank Ponyo at the lowest end of the Miyazaki scale, and with an asterisk: the Miyazaki scale ranges from must-see to pure ham (er, gold).

The gravitational pull of animation brought Miyazaki to Ponyo. Shortly after directing Howl’s Moving Castle (a film that seems to have had the reverse path of Ponyo, earning softer critical response in 2005 and finding more admirers in the years after), Miyazaki announced his retirement, passing his long-awaited adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s series to his son Gorō to direct. He returned with Ponyo just a few years later. It’s worth noting: The Wind Rises kept him off the bench for another few years, but when the film arrived in 2013, the writer-director once again said goodbye to the world. That was it. He was done. In 2017, Studio Ghibli revealed that Miyazaki is at work on yet another film.

When Miyazaki told his longtime producer Toshio Suzuki that he was coming back to make another movie, Suzuki resisted. “I actually said that’s not a great idea because he’s achieved so much already,” he said in a recent interview. “You can’t come back and do something that you’ve already done in the past, you have to do something different.”

ponyo runs on top of fish waves Image: Studio Ghibli

What pressure. Ponyo, somewhat refreshingly, does not feel “different.” Ponyo is basically Mei from Totoro, as a fish person. Sōsuke’s mother feels like a gruffer version of Ursula, the no-BS painter who inspires Kiki in Kiki’s Delivery Service. Themes of sacrifice, environmental harmony, and growing up once again return to the forefront, and in more surface-level ways. If Miyazaki’s finding a new direction in Ponyo, it’s by throwing down the gauntlet on what the human hand is capable of illustrating in motion. The movie is “about” the lines of cresting waves and schools of gargantuan fish bursting out of the water, and the soul of the movie is the sensory experience of honey gooping into tea. Ponyo might have been a genuine masterpiece if Miyazaki had thrown out the dialogue, subbed in Wagner’s “Overture to The Flying Dutchman,” and gone full Fantasia. What we got is more of … a “meh-sterpiece.”

Meh-sterpieces require the blood, sweat, and tears of those involved, and while now making-of story can absolve a Fine movies issues, they make Fine movies discussion worthy because the one thing they aren’t is product. You will find Robert Altman’s Quintet, The Coens’’ Ladykillers remake, Wong Kar-wai’s My Blueberry Nights, Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Weight of Water, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady, and Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack at the bottom of career-spanning lists topped by some of the greatest films of all time. Any of these filmmakers could have made any film they wanted. They chose these, and every stunning or misguided choice is a thrill in that context, list position be damned.

Ponyo is unquestionably the Cars of Miyazaki’s career, a film that indulged in its creator’s obsessions while pushing technology to new heights. Both films are hyper-detailed, tap into children’s primal definitions of fun (kids: they love fish and cars, it’s just true!), and possess mind-boggling levels of detail. And the stories … get the movies from a beginning to an end. Those who entertain Miyazaki’s meh-sterpiece will find a disaster-movie setpiece with the energy of The Castle of Cagliostro. They’ll hear Yûki Amami or Cate Blanchett delivering what can now be described as a pre-Steven Universe Diamond performance. They’ll see The Great Wave of Kanagawa basically brought to life through the power of precision animation. It’s unfathomable what Ponyo accomplishes — even while at the “bottom” of Miyazaki’s career in full.


Isao Takahata’s greatest animation innovation for Studio Ghibli was … nothing

Fantastic spirits of all shapes and sizes streaming into a giant bathhouse. Hundreds of giant insects ploughing through a dark forest, eyes aglow. A young witch with a red bow and a black cat, laughing and soaring over a seascape and the clustered red-tile roofs of a port city, riding a broomstick. A giant amorphous spirit of the forest stamping across everything in its path, in a mad scramble to find its own head.

Hayao Miyazaki’s films are overflowing with stunning, memorable visuals, a cornucopian testament to the power of traditional animation to evoke wonder at what could be. Which makes the films of his fellow Studio Ghibli filmmaker, Isao Takahata, all the more marvelous in contrast: they evoke wonder at what isn’t.

Takahata was a master of realism in animation, and he knew that showing what isn’t is as important as showing what is. As a result, visual emptiness is central to three of his works: Only Yesterday, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. In parts of these films, negative space swallows the edges of the frames. The effect is one of heightening, not diminishing. The realism of the small details at center screen, and the stylistic choice to set them apart visually, keeps these films firmly rooted in a long Japanese artistic tradition.

Takahata explained his philosophy in an interview with Variety in 2016. “For many years I have wanted to improve on the simplistic flat-plane image of cel animation. But I didn’t want to solve this by going into the 3D-CG method of three-dimensionality and substantiality,” he said. “I wanted to solve this by a method of ‘reduction’ of not drawing everything on the screen, in order to stimulate people’s imagination and raise the level of artistry. My assertion was that this method is what can and should be applied in Japan, following on our long painting tradition from the 12th century Scrolls of Frolicking Animals, ink paintings, and ukiyo-e woodblock prints all the way to manga.”

The Princess Kaguya ties a bandage around a boy’s arm in a panel with only the slightest sketches of trees around them, and open sky to their right A scene from The Tale of The Princess Kaguya drops out the background Image: Studio Ghibli

Empty space is a rarity in animation in general as much as it is in the rest of Ghibli’s oeuvre. Show me the last American cartoon or mainstream anime you saw in which the screen wasn’t packed with colorful characters and imagery from edge to edge, and I will show you a lie! But while the technique may rarely be used in animation, the Buddhist concept of mu, or “without,” and the principle of ma, the “gap” or “negative space” suggesting the importance of the interval in Japanese art, are both fundamental and widely understood ideas in Japanese culture. And Takahata never shied away from representing them in his work.

In spite of the blank spaces, the scenes in these films look not incomplete, but effortlessly intimate, as if each action or frozen moment embodies its own essence more truly in isolation. In My Neighbors the Yamadas, empty space heightens the comedy of the cartoony visuals and the silly lightness of its central family’s antics in vignette. In Only Yesterday, where the technique is used only in flashbacks — also vignettes, as Takahata also knew the power of isolated moments linked — it evokes a sort of instant nostalgia. Here, the memories of Taeko, the protagonist, are faded by time, their context harder to grasp even as their focal points remain vivid, whether it’s a button lost on the front walk, or the brutal, unexpected redness of a cheek after a slap from her father’s hand. In The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, it serves a double purpose, highlighting the intimacy of small moments while also providing the tale, an adaptation of one of the oldest stories in Japan’s folklore, with a timeless, mythical, and melancholic quality.

The central family of My Neighbors The Yamadas sit huddled around and under a table, each paying attention to a different book, newspaper, or TV set, as the background elements fade into soft emptiness In My Neighbors The Yamadas, background elements fade off into blankness Image: Studio Ghibli

The technique is almost poetic in its transformation of absence to presence, and the feeling it evokes in the audience can be profound: a reminder of stillness and calm, and of what we lose in the margins of life. When employed in a full-length story, as in Kaguya, it makes the epic feel intimate. In vignettes, it somehow adds, via subtraction of image, a connectedness that’s almost reminiscent of renku, the collaborative Japanese literary form of linked verse in which a haiku written by one poet would be followed by that of another, held together not by their immediate associations, but by the absence between them. It’s not nothingness. It’s ma. Well, more or less.

As any writer worth their salt could tell you, the blank space on a page is possibility, not oblivion. No animator knew that better than Takahata. His films didn’t always need sprawling panoplies of dancing spirits to be transportative, and he knew it. For him, less really was more.


RUMOR: Fan favorite maps to be included in Call of Duty 2020

According to a new rumor from leaker LongSensation, whose original Twitter account was suspended, and he’s now on a secondary Twitter, some fan favorite maps from the Black Ops world will be included in Call of Duty 2020.

Call of Duty 2020 is currently rumored to be called Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and take place in the Black Ops universe after Black Ops 1.

The rumor from LongSensation claims that four fan favorite maps have been remastered and ready to be part of the 2020 title, alongside new maps being made for the game.

The rumor claims Nuketown, Jungle, Firing Range, and Summit are currently set to be part of the 2020 Call of Duty game.

Having another version of Nuketown is a Black Ops game would not be a surprise as every Black Ops game has had a Nuketown map.

In another tweet, he claims that the 2020 game will not have its own Battle Royale, but will have Warzone implemented into its options menu for players interested in a Battle Royale experience.

As always, this information is not officially confirmed by Activision and should be treated as rumor until it is.

Activision has not yet announced any details on the 2020 Call of Duty game. The company says that the game is “looking great” and on “track for release” later this year, but has not provided an estimate as to when to expect a reveal.

This year’s Call of Duty reveal will be the latest reveal for a Call of Duty title in over a decade. Modern Warfare’s May 30, 2019 was the latest reveal for a Call of Duty game in the last 10 years, and now this year’s title will be even later, probably due to changes with COVID-19.

The post RUMOR: Fan favorite maps to be included in Call of Duty 2020 appeared first on Charlie INTEL.


The Wind Rises remixes history to make a deeper, more personal point

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.

By 2013, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro director Hayao Miyazaki had built an identity around magic and whimsy. His films typically featured ghosts and witches, dragons and royalty. It wasn’t unusual for audiences to arrive at his films and see an anthropomorphic pig piloting an airplane, or children riding a Cat Bus. His family-friendly catalogue never fit neatly into a single genre, but his films shared a dreamy unpredictability.

So, when the elder statesman of animation announced not only that he was planning to retire, but that his final film would be a biopic, fans were understandably perplexed.

A biopic? Arguably the most formulaic, rigid, lifeless genre this side of slasher films? How could a career so creative, so combustible, so distinct, have such an anodyne coda? A biopic!

With seven years of hindsight, Miyazaki fans know the auteur didn’t produce anything like a standard biopic. Instead, he crafted arguably his grandest and most personal film. But a word of warning for newcomers watching The Wind Rises for the first time on Netflix outside America, or HBO Max in the States: the film demands attention.

Or to put it another way, if you decide to stream the movie while picking at your phone or baking some bread, you’ll mistake it for what’s on the tin: Just another biopic. But if you invest yourself (Noise-canceling headphones! Leave the phone in another room!) you’ll discover a film just as thrilling and unexpected as anything else in Miyazaki’s catalogue.

The life that never happened

The Wind Rises chronicles the life of Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, a Great Man of Historical Import. Horikoshi was the chief engineer of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane, which the Japanese military would use during World War II, including in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The story begins with Horikoshi’s childhood dream of creating the perfect airplane, and follows the incremental steps he takes to achieve that reality, in the face of bureaucratic, personal, and moral barriers. In true biopic fashion, the plot pairs Horikoshi’s artistic journey with a grand romance. He meets a young woman and they fall in love, but she’s stricken by a terminal illness. His professional success arrives alongside profound personal loss.

So far, so formulaic. Except that this tragedy never happened to Horikoshi.

That’s the twist, and it’s easy to miss. The Wind Rises isn’t merely one adaptation, it’s many. In the middle of the film, Miyazaki takes an extended break from Horikoshi’s “true” story, sending his protagonist to a rural resort to rethink his airplane designs. In the hotel, Horikoshi meets a mix of international guests, and they discuss the morality and ethics of his work within this period of turmoil. He also reunites with Miori Takimoto, a young woman recovering from tuberculosis.

The entirety of the resort sequence is a fictional cocktail combining three sources: There’s The Wind Has Risen, a short romantic fiction by the Japanese writer Hori Tatsuo; the French poet Paul Valery’s best known work, “Le Cimetière Marin”; and The Magic Mountain, a grim bildungsroman from German author Thomas Mann.

What Miyazaki borrows from each piece is obvious, even if you only know a summary of the works.

The Magic Mountain follows a shipbuilder named Castorp who visits his cousin at a sanatorium in Davos, and himself becomes ill with tuberculosis. In the sanatorium, he converses with a variety of characters with different philosophies and backgrounds, from a Dutch Dionysian to a Jesuit Marxist. The Wind Has Risen tells the tragic tale of a man (named “I”) and his fiancée, who’s overtaken by a terminal illness in a rural tuberculosis sanatorium. Tatsuo’s book was based on the author’s own loss, and further inspired by Valery’s poem. That poem provides the quote that opens Miyazaki’s film, and inspired the title of the film and Tatsuo’s book.

Even though these influences were written in three countries over two decades, they share similar elements and themes: illness, hope, the beauty of ideas while living in a time and space of immense tragedy and unpredictability, and the question of how we continue after experiencing such exceptional losses.

But why would Miyazaki stop the film for this lengthy diversion, mining a collection of works that have nothing to do with Horikoshi or even World War 2? Why let the diversion gradually become as important as Miyazaki’s actual subject in the film’s back half? Because the fictional story gets at ideas bigger than the historical truth.

The trouble with the biopic genre is that, for all its familiarity, entries are rarely universal. Most of us aren’t tortured artists. We won’t create things that will be remembered for decades, nor will we follow the biopic protagonist trajectory, overcoming our personal demons and personal sacrifices to produce some spectacular masterpiece.

Miyazaki’s film not only recognizes this limitation, it questions the validity of the Great Artist story as a whole. When Horikoshi leaves the resort, he stands at a crossroads. There’s the path of “greatness,” sacrificing his personal life for his achievements. And there’s the path of love, dedicating his time to Takimoto and other personal relationships.

Effectively, the Horikoshi in the film is given the choice between the real Horikoshi’s life within the war, and an alternate, theoretical life outside of it, one more anonymous, but less fraught.

After choosing to focus on designing his plane, Horikoshi learns one of his acquaintances from the hotel, a German expat, has likely been captured by Japan’s secret police. Takimoto’s illness worsens, forcing her to retreat to a sanatorium in the mountains, where she ultimately dies. And the plane he designed is ultimately used in a war with which he fundamentally disagrees. He loses friends and family, only for his art to be weaponized.

The film ends with Horikoshi achieving his dream, but because of his choice, that success came at profound cost. And for what? The film claims not a single Zero plane returned from combat, not because of the Zero’s design, but because they were leveraged in a war Japan would not win.

Why did a pacifist make a film about warplanes?

In 2013, Miyazaki making a film about Horikoshi seemed like an odd match not just because of the genre, but because of Miyazaki’s own beliefs.

He remains an outspoken pacifist. Ahead of The Wind Rises’ release, the director wrote a critique of Japan’s Prime Minister’s ambitions to change the nation’s constitution, making way for a revived military. Some of the nation’s conservative voices dubbed Miyazaki a traitor. Other fans questioned why a pacifist would create a film about the designer of a plane that was constructed in forced labor camps, then used in war to take thousands of lives.

The film itself is fixated on this conundrum, and the moral grey areas in which artists and creators often must navigate to survive. Miyazaki’s father ran Miyazaki Airplane, a company that created parts for Horikoshi’s Zero planes.

Like Miyazaki, the real Horikoshi criticized his nation’s part in war, believing the country’s leaders had doomed their people with their role in World War II. In his diary, Horikoshi wrote, “Japan is being destroyed. I cannot do [anything] other but to blame the military hierarchy and the blind politicians in power for dragging Japan into this hellish cauldron of defeat.”

But this internal struggle doesn’t lend itself to the sweeping, romantic visuals of a Miyazaki film. That’s the true value of Miyazaki including this parallel fictional story. It puts human faces on a set of big, abstract, messy ethical and personal dilemmas.

Horikoshi wants nothing more than to create his art, but it will literally cost him what he loves most. And Miyazaki chooses to illustrate that choice by bringing in the perspective of other artists, in the same way he adapted Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle by radically changing the story. Where most biopics try to maintain the illusion of “truth,” Miyazaki treats the genre and the “facts” as a canvas, a base layer on which he collages a variety of additional inspirations, including pieces of history, fiction, poetry and autobiography.

In interviews, Miyazaki said one particular quote from Horikoshi inspired the adaptation of the engineer’s life: “All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.” It gets at a singular focus that Miyazaki shares, about rules, expectations, and form. Everything people expect from creators and their works can be pushed aside in pursuit of the beautiful. Miyazaki unquestionably makes beautiful films.

But given what he’s pushed aside in his own life, including a relationship with his own son, he clearly relates to the questions Horikoshi asks in this movie, and the answers he finds for himself. When the credits roll at the end of The Wind Rises, I always wonder: When Miyazaki looks back on his career, does he feel like he always chose the right path when prioritizing his art above everything else?


Call of Duty: Mobile Season 7 to bring new Battle Royale locations

The Call of Duty: Mobile team is hyping the start of the next season for the game, which is set to begin on or around June 4, 2020 on both iOS and Android.

The new season will include a new Battle Pass, new weapons, new ways to earn some weapons, and more, alongside the first major map expansion to the Battle Royale mode.

The developers have teased in their latest Community Update and on social channels a first look at the new locations that are going to be added to the BR map starting with Season 7.

Here’s the new locations:

Starting today we’ll be releasing information, screenshots, and general news related to this upcoming update and all of the content coming throughout the season. We are going to start all of that today by revealing some tidbits of the Battle Royale map expansion!

Not only does this mean new areas to explore, loot, and fight over in the next update, but there are also interactive areas to utilize, new enemies to find, and new vehicles to master.

The studio has also teased the addition of the Gulag to the Battle Royale experience in Call of Duty: Mobile via their social channels.

Stay tuned for the latest news on Season 7 for Call of Duty: Mobile.

The post Call of Duty: Mobile Season 7 to bring new Battle Royale locations appeared first on Charlie INTEL.


Planes, trains, and Cat Buses: Studio Ghibli movies are obsessed with travel

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.

Studio Ghibli’s movies always look and feel like they’re on the move. Throughout the Ghibli catalog, transportation often plays a major role in storylines or character development, so much so that car trips or plane flights almost always carry some extra layer of significance. Ghibli’s movies use planes, trains, buses, boats, and cars to herald the start of an adventure, or serve as a prelude before something extraordinary happens to the heroes. Public transportation can give characters a spiritual pause, a chance to reflect on where they’ve been, and where they’re heading next. Actually flying a plane isn’t just an act of skill and courage, it can also represent a meditation on the human toll of its use as a weapon, or the opportunity to save the day before it’s too late.

Hayao Miyazaki’s movies in particular tend to have fantastical modes of transportation. The heroine of his pre-Ghibli movie Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind uses a futuristic wind glider to travel between her lush, green village and the toxic post-apocalyptic world that surrounds them. In his Little Mermaid riff Ponyo, magic turns a child’s toy boat into a full-sized one, fit for a rescue mission. The movie later uses the image of boats returning to the harbor to show the restoration of balance between man and nature. Magical transport in Miyazaki movies can also take the form of otherworldly creatures, like when Chihiro of Spirited Away rides a flying dragon, or San of Princess Mononoke uses a giant wolf to defend her forest home.

And possibly no form of magical transportation in Ghibli movies is more recognizable than the friendly Cat Bus of My Neighbor Totoro. Waiting for their father’s bus during a rainstorm, young sisters Satsuki and Mei see the bearish forest spirit Totoro board a different kind of bus than the one they were expecting. The many-legged Cat Bus has a Cheshire-sized grin, eyes like headlights illuminating whatever it’s looking at, and a stubbed fluffy tail trailing behind it.

cat bus drives totoro away Image: Studio Ghibli

Later, Totoro summons the Cat Bus so the sisters can go see their mom in the hospital. The movie perfectly captures the girls’ excited reactions to sitting inside a living, breathing bus with a furry interior. The Cat Bus moves like an animal, and runs up trees like an animal, but its design includes windows, seats, and glowing-eyed rats that serve as running lights. It’s a strange beast, but an unforgettable way to travel through the worlds of Studio Ghibli — and a reminder that even the spirit world has its fanciful equivalent of the mundane objects we take for granted.

Trains in Ghibli movies tend to be a much calmer form of transportation, unless an accident strikes, as it does in Miyazaki’s biopic The Wind Rises. Even then, the dramatic event ends up introducing its idealistic plane engineer Jiro to his future wife Naoko. More often than not, trains in Ghibli movies connect characters with their past or future, giving them a chance to reflect on where their journeys have taken them. In Isao Takahata’s Only Yesterday, Taoko’s train doesn’t just transport her from Tokyo to the countryside, it also takes her to her childhood memories of first love and growing up, setting her up to re-evaluate what she wants for her future.

These journeys can also take a spiritual turn, as they do in Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. The film has perhaps one of the bleakest openings in any Ghibli movie, starting with a scene of a train station in post-war Japan, where a forlorn boy dies in plain sight of passersby. His spirit joins his sister’s, and the two board a ghost-train that leads them into a flashback retelling of their tragic story. The train continues to appear in various portions of the film, each memory a stop marking their inevitable decline. The train is empty except for these two young souls in the spiritual realm, but we see it full of life in the past.

A spirit-train also plays a significant part in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away when the protagonist, Chihiro, has to go on a spiritual quest to make amends with her boss’ twin sister. If she fears that the new witch she’s about to meet might be scarier than her twin, or wonders how she’ll get back to the bathhouse where she works, given that the train only goes in one direction, Chihiro doesn’t show it. She bravely steps aboard the curious train, which glides along the endless waters around the bathhouse. It’s a stunning, surreal scene, and Chihiro’s wistful patience contrasts sharply with her sullenness at the start of the film, traveling in a car with her parents. On the train, she has a purpose.

howl’s moving castle from howl’s moving castle Image: Studio Ghibli

Thanks to his family connections, Miyazaki grew up around plane designs, and was fascinated with aviation. He worked different aspects of flying into many of his movies, whether by magical means in Howl’s Moving Castle and Kiki’s Delivery Service, or through more mechanical options in Porco Rosso and The Wind Rises.

The latter two films also serve as benchmarks of how Miyazaki’s views of planes have evolved from a source of fascination to a nuanced acknowledgment of what planes can do as weapons. Porco Rosso is a fantastical story of a good-hearted but cursed bounty hunter who runs afoul of scheming air pirates and the fascist Italian government after World War I. He’s a duty-bound, honorable fighter who wrestles with his feelings for a longtime flame, and his insecurity over the curse that turned him into an anthropomorphized pig. While still wildly entertaining, Porco Rosso takes aviation on its simplest terms. Flying is the gateway to a story about lost love, living like an outsider, survivor’s guilt, and other themes, but it doesn’t examine the role of the biplanes and seaplanes populating this make-believe Europe.

Miyazaki’s most recent film, The Wind Rises, takes a more nuanced approach to avionics and their role in Japanese history. Jiro, the movie’s main character, embodies Miyazaki’s longstanding fascination with airplanes, but the film also acknowledges that these wondrous contraptions that help everyday people defy gravity on a daily basis also claimed a lot of lives in war. Over the course of the film, Jiro starts out so enamored with flying that he makes an imaginary friend out of a historical pilot. But he comes to regret his dedication to creating planes when his earnest passion is weaponized by the government, as his plane design becomes a major part of the war effort. Jiro is caught in a Catch-22 situation — his creations possibly only became possible because of wartime funding, but many people died because of his idealistic engineering zeal. It’s a troubled legacy, one we’re still dealing with decades after the events in the film.

So whether by air, sea, road, or magic, travel in Studio Ghibli movies is just as important as the destination ahead. Any time someone’s on the move, it’s generally either the most action-packed scene in a movie, or among the quietest moments. These trips develop characters and extend the plot even in movies that aren’t expressly about the ability to fly, or the know-how to summon a Cat Bus. However these moments play out in Ghibli films, they’re kind reminders that we should give ourselves a little more time to look out the windows on our next trip, and watch the scenery zip by before it becomes only a memory.


The latest details on the Studio Ghibli theme park

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.

Ever wanted to follow Totoro deeper into the forest?

In the near future, a Studio Ghibli theme park opening its doors in Japan will recreate the worlds of the studio’s movies. After years of vague hints and whispers — with a rumored opening date of early 2020, at one point —the park is set to begin construction this year, pending our current pandemic situation.

Where is it located? What’s going to be in it? Will [insert your personal favorite Ghibli movie] have a themed location? Will there be roller coasters?

Here’s everything we know about the Studio Ghibli theme park:

a map of the proposed ghibli park Image: Studio Ghibli

Where is the Studio Ghibli theme park?

Ghibli’s park will be located in Aichi Commemorative Park, a location near Nagoya in central Japan. The park was the site of the 2005 World’s Fair, in which Studio Ghibli helped build a recreation of Satsuki and Mei’s house from My Neighbor Totoro.

What’s in the Studio Ghibli park?

According to reports, the Ghibli park will be divided into five lands, some based on specific movies with others drawing from multiple sources of Ghibli-based influence. The park is on a 200-hectare plot of land, which lends itself easily to the various sprawling, pastoral inspirations of Ghibli films (for context, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is around 50-hectares, while Animal Kingdom sits around 230). The park will have a focus on recreating the movie’s scenes and nature trails instead of thrills and rides.

concept art of a steampunk elevator Image: Studio Ghibli

Springtime of Life Hill (or Youth Hill): This area will be based on Howl’s Moving Castle and host a giant steampunk elevator, which will allow guests a view of the whole land. This area will allegedly be around the entrance of the park and contain lots of 19th century-inspired accents. It will also feature some inspiration from Whisper of the Heart, specifically the buildings inspired by the antique shop featured in the movie.

Dondoko Forest Area: The My Neighbor Totoro-inspired area will feature a replica of Mei and Satsuki’s house from the movie, in a lush rural landscape from the movie. There will be walking tours and paths planned in this area, which is designed to take a lot of the existing infrastructure of the area into account.

concept art of the warehouse area Image: Studio Ghibli concept art of the spirited away dining area Image: Studio Ghibli

Ghibli Large Warehouse Area: Designed to be accessible any time of year, regardless of weather, this large indoor area featuring Japanese and Western-style buildings will host the dining locations, shops, playing areas, and exhibition spaces. There will be a dining area here inspired by Spirited Away.

Mononoke’s Village Area: Dedicated to Princess Mononoke, this area will house a replica of Irontown and evoke the Muromachi period (1336-1573) that inspired the film. It’s also going to house giant sculptures of the movie’s spirits and creatures. This is one of the locations opening in 2023.

concept art of the kiki’s delivery service area amusement park Image: Studio Ghibli

Witches’ Valley Area: Inspired by both Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle, this area will include a small amusement park, as well as a replica of Kiki’s parents’ house and Howl’s castle. This is the other location opening in 2023.

When will the Ghibli park open?

The park is still slated for a 2022 opening, though word’s out on whether that has been delayed due to coronavirus-related lockdowns. Three of the five areas (Springtime of Life Hill, Ghibli Warehouse, and Dondoko Forest) are supposed to begin construction in 2020 and open in 2022, with the remaining two areas beginning construction in 2021 and opening in 2023.


Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath Review – Friendship Never Ends

When the credits roll at the end of Mortal Kombat 11‘s excellent story mode, the slate has been wiped clean. After a variety of entertaining time-travelling hijinks, everyone’s second-favourite Shaolin monk, Liu Kang, has ascended into godhood and is ready to begin writing an all-new chapter in Mortal Kombat history. It’s as close to a perfect ending as you can get to the almost 30 years of convoluted lore this series has. But now, there’s Aftermath, Mortal Kombat 11’s optional expansion that tacks on a handful of new chapters to that narrative. And while the idea of a story-focussed add-on to this fighting game is an exciting prospect–and it certainly has its high moments–when the credits roll for the second time there isn’t that same sense of gratification.

At the beginning of Aftermath, which immediately follows the end of Mortal Kombat 11, Liu Kang is interrupted by the nefarious sorcerer Shang Tsung. Along with the righteous wind god Fujin and badass indigenous shaman Nightwolf, the trio stops Liu Kang from proceeding with his rebuilding plans with the warning that they need to go back in time, again, to retrieve a MacGuffin in order to stop the process from going to shit. Over five chapters and a cinema-appropriate two-and-a-half-hour running time, the five Mortal Kombat characters that have now been introduced to MK11 as post-release content get to make their mark in the story. The chapters cover the hijinks of Shang Tsung, Nightwolf, and the banshee queen Sindel from the Fighters Pack 1 DLC, as well as two characters newly introduced in Aftermath: Fujin and the four-armed Sheeva.

The relatively brief running time of the whole thing allows it to be mostly filled with great moments. The blockbuster flair present in the original story mode is again in full force, as is the excellent fight choreography that makes you want to leap out of your chair. There’s still that weird disconnect when an extravagant fight cinematic transitions into the more rigid nature of the game’s actual one-on-one fights, but there are some good moments that lie in the gameplay portions too, like the handful of battles where you have an assist character to call on.

Continue Reading at GameSpot

Studio Ghibli’s Porco Rosso is a fairy tale without a fairy-tale ending

May 25-30 is Studio Ghibli Week at Polygon. To celebrate the arrival of the Japanese animation house’s library on digital and streaming services, we’re surveying the studio’s history, impact, and biggest themes. Follow along via our Ghibli Week page.

The world of Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso strikes a delicate balance between reality and fiction. The story, which takes place in the aftermath of World War I, heavily features airplanes rendered in loving detail, and a setting where the time and place are so clear that the unfolding events can clearly be pinpointed in history. The main character, a, Italian bounty hunter named Porco Rosso, even quips that he’d rather be a pig than a fascist, referring to the rise of fascism in Italy at the time. That historical faithfulness is juxtaposed with a curse that turned Porco into an anthropomorphic pig, and a brush with the afterlife.

With the addition of sky-pirates and a star-crossed love story, Porco Rosso feels more like a fairy tale than historical fiction, in spite of its realistic trappings. But as Porco Rosso reaches its conclusion, the scales tip in a more bittersweet direction. The film’s denouement is happy but uncertain, forgoing the usual happily-ever-after in favor of something more subdued and realistic. It’s a fairy tale without a fairy-tale ending.

a woman in a white dress and hat The glamorous Gina. Image: Studio Ghibli

One of the big questions hovering over the film is whether the curse that turned Porco (formerly “Marco”) into a pig will ever be undone. It’s implied that his new visage is what keeps him from expressing his love for Madame Gina, who he’s known since childhood. When Curtis, an American pilot recruited by the sea pirates, attempts to woo Gina, she rebuffs his advances by telling him she only has eyes for Porco, and that she waits every day in her garden for him to come take her away. The easy conclusion to that love story would be for Porco to vanquish Curtis, regain his human form, and visit Gina in her garden. The Beauty and the Beast-esque structure is perfectly in place, but Miyazaki veers away from that seemingly inevitable finale.

The “happily ever after” he offers instead is one that treats the characters as though they were real people: Their lives are their own business, and the audience has pried enough already. Viewers aren’t owed a clear answer as to whether Porco and Gina end up together. Though the sight of an empty garden suggests that Porco finally confessed his feelings to Gina, there’s no explicit confirmation. Rather, the closing narration tantalizingly refers to the outcome of Porco and Gina’s back-and-forth as “their secret,” and leaves it at that.

Rather than lessening the power of their romance, Miyazaki’s resistance to fairy-tale storytelling conventions actually strengthens the film’s ending. The horror-movie principle that an unseen monster is scarier than one clearly depicted onscreen has its romantic corollary in Porco Rosso, as the romance of Porco and Gina’s story no longer stems from whether they did or didn’t get together, but from the imagined love affair that stems from speculation.

many battered planes flying together Thousands of planes flying together. Image: Studio Ghibli

The same goes for whether Porco manages to return to his human form. Fio, Porco’s frequent air-mechanic, catches a glimpse of his real face after he tells her a story about his experience in the war. It’s a moment of honesty from Porco, who spends much of the rest of the film adopting a roguish, carefree attitude and willfully ignoring the fact that the people around him care about him. But the change is temporary, which raises the question of whether it will be more permanent when a shocked Curtis briefly seems to catch sight of Porco’s human face in the film’s final moments. Viewers are left to guess Porco’s fate for themselves. But Gina clearly loves Porco, pig snout or no, so what matters isn’t the cosmetic change, so much as the attempt to overcome the survivor’s guilt at the root of Porco’s curse.

Porco Rosso emphasizes personal change: We don’t need to see a physical change so much as recognize that there’s been an internal one. It’s not so much a fable about inherent goodness (like Cinderella) or learning a moral (like The Tortoise and the Hare). It’s about these characters’ specific journeys. For the most part, Porco Rosso is rendered with such loving detail that it would be easy to mistake it for an animated version of a true story. Even though it stars an anthropomorphic pig, it ends in a realistic way, at least when it comes to emotions. Miyazaki forgoes easy answers, focusing instead on internal changes that can’t be so easily shown, and inviting the audience to draw their own conclusions rather than handing them easy solutions. It’s a bold approach to a story that seems like a fairy tale on the surface, but ultimately becomes a stronger, more affecting story.

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