EARWIG AND THE WITCH Review

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When I was growing up animation to our generation was known as the ‘magical world of Disney’. As I grew older though the magical side of animation came from a very different studio. As i wanted something more to my animation that funny mice and ducks that didn’t want pants I soon found myself lost in the world of Studio Ghibli and I was falling in love with movies like Castle In The Sky and Princess Monoke.

But then suddenly something strange happened. This little secret that a few of us in Australia knew about suddenly became massive and films like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo became international successes and suddenly we didn’t have to file into crampy stores in small arcades across Melbourne to get our Ghibli fix.

With Studio Ghibli now one of the big players in the world of animation most people seemed to think there was very little the studio could do these days to change, however the arrival of their new film – Earwig And The Witch shows that wasn’t completely true. This is now the first film that has seen Ghibli go from their world-renowned 2D animation to full CGI. And yes the purists are going to have multiple heart-attacks but once you get engulfed in the fabulous story the film tells you are soon going to completely forget about the Dreamworks like CGI.

Based on a novel by Dianna Wynne Jones Earwig And The Witch follows the story of Earwig (Kokoro Hirasawa – Mozu) who is abandoned at her orphange by her rock-star mother (Sherina Munaf – 212 Warrior) whose life is danger when the other witches in her coven turn on her.

Growing up in the orphanage Earwig soon learns how she can gets whatever she wants from her superiors and her best friend Custar and unlike the other orphans she does whatever she can not to be adopted out to the many visitors to the orphanage.

But her life changes forever when one day a witch named Bera Yaga (Shinobu Terajima – Caterpillar) turns up with all powerful Mandoreku (Etsushi Toyokawa – Midway) and they take her back to their mysterious house in order to be Bera Yaga’s ‘extra hands.’ There Earwig is determined to find out how to make them do her bidding but in order to do that she has to get past Bera Yaga’s cruelty and win the trust of the magical cat Tomasu (Gaku Hamada – Fish Story).

The beauty of Earwig And The Witch lies in its stories, if you are a fan of the Harry Potter franchise than you are quickly going to fall in love here as well. I know a few others who found this film light on for plot but I found myself engrossed it. I loved the mystery of Mandoreku and wanted to know more about him from the very start while the mystery of what happened to Earwig’s mother and the fact that the audience knows that the singer she listens to is in fact her mother only adds to the suspense of the story.

The big question with this film is I guess what will fans think of the animation. If the film shared qualities of other Studio Ghibli films I would say that the CGI could be an issue. But this is a big step for Ghibli and the fact that the film is set in England in the 1990s with a majority of the characters being Caucasian I believe helps the studio take a step away from their Japanese heritage and embrace the type of animation that Pixar and Dreamworks use today.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about the film is the fact that it ends so abruptly. Something big happens and then BANG the credits hit and all I can say is that I really hope there is a follow-up or I am going to feel very ripped off.

While I don’t believe that Earwig And The Witch captures the same magic as some of Ghibli’s earlier films I had fallen in love with the film before it had finished and I think I have already given Satoshi Takebe’s amazing soundtrack a hundred listens on Spotify… especially the track Don’t Disturb Me. Yes, I love the film enough for a second viewing.

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