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Posted by martinteller on July 4, 2014

Two shorts from Studio Ghibli, depicting various fictional employees of the anime studio.  Both are mish-mashes of ideas, with varying art styles but most often reminiscent of the lo-fi watercolor look of My Neighbors the YamadasEpisode 1 is an 11-minute piece where the most significant segments focus on one of the character designs, the love-starved Nanako, and a fish-like creature who infiltrates the studio… but whether as an enemy or friend is uncertain.  It also shows the employees getting excited about their next project, which would turn out to be Spirited Away.  Episode 2 is over twice as long and was played in front of Japanese showings of The Cat Returns.  Here we get an expansion on the Nanako story and an amusing episode where three of the employees go out for lunch at a restaurant that serves sadistically spicy curry.

Both parts are quite charming and inventive.  You can really sense a playfulness at work, as if the staff was just cutting loose and doing their own thing.  It may, of course, be a case of planned anarchy, but the loose spirit gives these shorts a warm (and sometimes touching) vibe.  The episodic structure might not hold up as well for a feature film (see: Yamadas) but in small doses like this it’s a lot of fun.  It also helps that the animation style isn’t static, and there’s even some live action and CGI in the mix.  Rating: Good (74 – ep 1), Very Good (83 – ep 2)


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