An Ocean Wave is not what you want if you're on a wall like that...

Optimum have had a great 2006 anime-wise, and any catalogue that includes pretty much all of Studio Ghibli's output is very strong.  2007 is going to be a very interesting year - with all the Studio Ghibli titles (bar one) available, where will they go next?  We hope they look to the past and add some other great films to their catalogue, and we're ever hopeful for more Miyazaki or Takahata titles.  We're really looking forward to Tales From Earthsea, and also to seeing what else will come from Optimum next year!

They Say:  'No definite plans as yet. (that we can tell you about!)' (nb. this comment was made prior to Tales From Earthsea being announced)

We Say:  'Tales From Earthsea most definitely.  We saw it in Japan in October and it is far better than some reviews have suggested'

Unfortunately there's only one new title to cover, so we've provided overviews for a couple of other Ghibli related works...


Future Boy Conan

Ok, so it's very unlikely that this will get a release, but we're allowed to hope!  Future Boy Conan was Hayao Miyazaki's directorial debut, a 26 episode anime series set in a post-apocalyptic future where the young boy Conan lives on a remote island with his grandfather.  They think they are the only survivors of the cataclysm that destroyed civilisation but soon find they're not when the girl Lana washes up on the beach.  She has escaped from the island of Industria, where the nefarious Lepka wishes to resurrect the vast energies that led to the disaster, supposedly for the benefit of humanity.  Lana is the key to unlocking the secrets of solar energy and Lepka and his assistant Monsley will stop at nothing to get her back.  However, Conan isn't about to let her get kidnapped again and so he sets off to Industria to save her.  Fans of Miyazaki's films will see many elements that he brought from this series to the likes of Laputa, Castle in the Sky, and like that film Future Boy Conan is absolutely superb.

Ocean Waves

Ocean Waves is usually overlooked by everyone when talking about Studio Ghibli films, mainly because it's their only TV movie.  Ocean Waves was made by Studio Ghibli's younger staff members to be shown on TV during a Japanese bank holiday, and is generally not considered to be one of Ghibli's feature films.  The story follows a young man called Taku as he reminisces about his youth on the way to a school reunion.  His memories in particular focus on Rikako, a rather aloof transfer student who had trouble fitting in at the school but ended up coming between him and his best friend Matsuno.  As rumours and stories spread Taku and Matsuno's friendship is stretched, but does Rikako really feel anything for either of them, or is she just looking for companionship in an unfriendly environment?  Despite its TV origins, Ocean Waves is an accomplished drama that remains the only feature length Studio Ghibli anime that hasn't been announced for release outside of Japan.  Will this change in 2007? 



Sherlock Hound

Some people with very long memories may remember this series from 1980s, which sees all the characters, including the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful assistant Doctor Watson, reimagined as dogs!  The series is great fun and follows Holmes, Watson and feisty housekeeper Mrs Hudson as they try to thwart the nefarious schemes of their arch enemy Professor Moriarty and his army of minions.  The series features tonnes of imaginative steam-powered machinery and gadgets, as well as plenty of great car chases and madcap schemes which made it pretty popular when it used to show on TV.  Early parts of the series featured input from later Ghibli heavyweights Hayao Miyazaki and Yoshifumi Kondo, and the six episodes that were directed by Miyazaki are undoubted highlights.  Sherlock Hound comes from a time when European/Japanese co-productions were commonplace and was part funded by an Italian TV company.  We think this would do well if it was re-released in the UK, so here's hoping!

Tales From Earthsea

Studio Ghibli's latest film has led a troubled life so far.  The decision of producer Toshio Suzuki to give Goro Miyazaki the directors chair for the film caused a lot of tension between Goro and his illustrious father Hayao for starters.  Then there was disquiet from Ursula Le Guin, the author of the books the film is based on, about the directorial choice and the use of violence.  On top of this, reviews were mixed and a US release is held up for around three years by licensing issues.  However, despite all this the film is actually pretty good and has been a box office success in Japan.  The story is based on chapters from throughout Le Guin's epic Earthsea series, mainly from the third book - The Farthest Shore.  In the film the runaway Prince Arren is found by Ged, a wandering wizard who takes the disturbed young man with him as he looks in to strange dragon sightings.  However, Arren has a dark side to him that could cause Ged untold danger, especially if the witch Kumo has her way.  Tales From Earthsea is worth waiting for.