Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
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- Yamaha TRS-7850 Atmos Receiver
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- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
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- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
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- Sony 85 inch X950H FALD TV
Son of famed director Hayao Miyazaki, Goro Miyazaki has made a definitive impression with his contributions to Studio Ghibli over the last 36 years. He’s best known for his fantasy and war efforts in From Up on Poppy Hill and Tales From Earthsea, but the man has also decided to take the studio in a new direction for this outing. Using the source book of the same name by Dianna Wynne Jones (a prolific author in her own right, but is most famous in regards to Studio Ghibli by authoring the book that Howl’s Moving Castle is based off of), he goes pell mell into the studio’s first completely CGI effort. Supposedly this is not a permanent change of pace for the studio according to the disc’s special features, but rather a creative outlet that Miyazaki wanted to use for this particular venture. A way to give new opportunities and outlets over the years, instead of being limited to typical hand drawn art that the studio is famous for.
Earwig and the Witch is is a strange film that shows heavy influences of the studio’s love of magic and fantasy, but blending it with some western influences that creates a strange hybrid that carries with it a rather frustrating story. The film opens up with a red headed witch narrowly escaping a magic yellow car as she takes her newborn child to be dropped off at an orphanage. Said abandonment is followed with a note that states that she will return for the child when she is no longer pursued by the “12 witches” (a note that seriously confuses the normie Matron of the orphanage). Fast forward to about 10 years later, and “Earwig” (renamed Erica Wigg by the Matron) is a rambunctious young girl who has mastered the art of manipulating those around her into doing what she wants. She’s got the matron and everyone around her doting on her hand and foot until a mysterious woman name Bella Yaga (very obviously taking inspiration form the Russian myth of Baba Yaga) and her silent cohort “Mandrake” take an interest in her.
Turns out that Bella Yaga wanted Erica (now back to Earwig) as a witches apprentice. A second pair of hands, so to speak, to help her out with her spells for hire that she uses as a means of employment. Earwig’s situation is pretty grim at first, with nothing but worms to eat and a mountain of work to get done. However, the conniving little girl soon starts to find the weaknesses (and secrets) of the magic house and it’s owners. The Mandrake (a vaguely demonic character) is the tortured artist at heart who doesn’t want to be disturbed, as he finishes up his novels in the back of the house and pines over the glory of the past when he used to be in a band called Earwig with Bella. Bella herself is about as foul as can be, but she has her own angers at the past and what happened with the red haired witch (who obviously was at the crux of their situation), but soon falls prey to the wiles of the tenacious Earwig.
The film itself works in many ways, but also falls apart in others. Earwig is charming and tenacious, but she’s also a rather manipulative thing who has very little redeeming qualities. I’m sure it was an effort to make Earwig more than just the demure and meek hero of typical Studio Ghibli movies, but the audience just views her as a bit unredeeming in her actions. It’s not a massive thing, but the more you study her character, the more you start to like little Earwig less and less. The best characters in the movie start out as the worst. Both The Mandrake and Bella Yaga start out as twisted and damaged characters, but the more the movie progresses the more you realize that they’re just trying to heal from the past in their own ways, and the outcome has made them a bit more twisted than they would have liked. You get to see Earwig soften their edges and heal just a bit, but sadly leave out a big portion of what COULD have been by wrapping up the story WAY too soon (that ending is an exercise in frustration).
Rated PG by the MPAA
• Creating Earwig and the Witch
• Interviews with Japanese Voice Cast
• Trailers & Teasers
The film isn’t the best of the Studio Ghibli lineup, but neither is it the worst. It’s an interesting diversion from typical Ghibli fare by one of it’s more unique directors, but sadly falls far short of what we have come accustomed to from the prolific studio. Especially when it’s one that was helmed by one of it’s bigger directors. The flick is fun, but never overly revealing with the story line, leaving it feeling stilted and left hanging at the end. The Blu-ray is well done, but never OVERLY awesome (due in part due to the simplistic animation style of the CGI used). All in all, a fun enough flick, but one that will appeal mainly to Ghibli die hards rather than a more broad audience.
Starring: JB Blanc, Thomas Bromhead, Alex Cartana, Pandora Colin, Richard E. Grant, Gaku Hamada, Taylor Henderson
Directed by: Goro Miyazaki
Written by: Keiko Niwa, Emi Gunji, Diana Wynne Jones (Based on the Novel By)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DVS
Subtitles: English SDH, English
Studio: Shout Factory
Runtime: 83 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 6th 2021
Recommendation: Decent Watch.