I suspect it’s hard to follow your fathers work when he’s Hayao Miyazaki.
But Studio Ghibli and Goro Miyazaki will persist, even when Hayao moves on. Or ends up returning from retirement because it’s boring. So it makes sense Goro takes the reins, and tries to innovate in his own way.
This innovation has led to Ghibli’s first 3D animated feature, in Earwig And The Witch. The work is another adaptation from Diana Wynne Jones catalogue, which you may have already seen. You’ll know these titles as Howl’s Moving Castle or Castle In The Sky. Yes, while Ghibli innovate, they also continue to produce stories that have proven successful for them in the past. Very smart.
Earwig And The Witch continues this, with the chaotic story of one Erica Wigg, or Aya if you’re watching the sub. Left at an orphanage, and raised there for 10 years, she runs this world with her friend Custard in tow. Confident her life will be hers to rule, this is flipped on its head as Bella Yaga and Mandrake adopt her on a whim. Accepting this new challenge, Aya discovers a new world of magic and people to twist to her rule. Precocious in nature, and absolutely chaotic, Earwig And The Witch feels like Dennis The Menace on speed. Speed being the key word here, as the runtime and abrupt ending fall under this very same measurement. While not a bad thing, it definitely hits you with a “WE’LL BE BACK” vibe, which I’ve yet to decide is a good thing or not.
Voice acting is on-point, as one expects from Ghibli. But the thing to note, is the aforementioned change in animation. The 3D isn’t bad, and at points brings a vibrancy that 2D may not hit. Colors as hyper as Aya’s journey bounce off the screen, searing your retina. But then it can feel flat, unable to emulate the over the top mannerisms or facial features that 2D can produce and has produced for years.
Overall, it’s a worthy attempt, and shows Ghibli has the chops to keep moving forward without Hayao. But they should settle in for what they want to be recognised for. In a world where the US Studios are jumping fully on 3D, Ghibli has the opportunity to become the leader in 2D animation. With other Japanese animated features, such as Your Name and Demon Slayer: The Movie: Mugen Train, proving 2D (and 2.5D) can still fill cinemas, maybe it’s the path they should stay.
I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how Hayao’s comeback film, How Do You Live?, ends up performing to see where Ghibli will head in future.
While it might not reach the heights of his father's work, there's an endearing nature to Earwig And The Witch which provides an easy watch. Filled with all the spooky things kids love, and enough chaos to tide over parents, it's a fun romp to kill some time with!
Apologies for lack of macrons. My site breaks the characters 🙁