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Vol 2 Issue 7

On Your Mark
— by Charles McCarter

When the Ghibli ga Ippai box came out last August, there was much rejoicing among anime fans. Not only did it have restored and remastered versions of Miyazaki classics like NAUSICAA and LAPUTA, not only did it have a special interview with Miyazaki and Kurosawa Akira, but it also had Ghibli's latest production—the music video ON YOUR MARK, by popular singing duo Chage & Aska.
  The video was played before 1995's MIMI WO SUMASEBA in theaters; up until now, it was only available on laserdisc as part of the ¥98,000 Ghibli box set. However, it has recently been released on an individual LD.
  So why all the fuss and bother over a six-and-a-half minute music video? Well, first of all, it is Studio Ghibli. In six-and-a-half minutes, the animation manages to create a complex world, a simple but compelling story, and endearing characters.
  The story is very simple. After all, there is only approximately six minutes to tell it. The police raid a religious cult and discover a strange winged being held prisoner. The two cops who find her watch helplessly as she is taken away by a special police unit equipped with hazardous material gear. Later, as they realize what is going on, they realize that she has been delivered from one set of captors to another. They evolve a plan to free this exquisite creature.

Risking their own lives, the two protagonists stage a jail break and set the angel free.
  The attention to detail is nothing short of incredible: from the police ships flying through the sky to the walls of the cult stronghold to the spinning wheel of the getaway vehicle. The empty coke cans on the floor by the imprisoned being, the stuffed animals on the cop's computer desk, and the menu signs and counters in the favorite restaurant of the two policemen are the details that really bring this world to life, making it familiar and not that much different from our own. These are the details that make Studio Ghibli the best at what they do. And of course, overlaid over these complex backgrounds and detailed scenes are the simplified but incredibly expressive Ghibli character designs.
  The other notable detail of this video is the use of computer animation. While the CG is obvious, it does not distract from the story nor stand out as flashy and out of place. It is rumored that this video was used to test the limits of CG, especially considering how much of it was being used in the then-in production MONONOKE HIME.
  The storytelling here is also very well-executed. With no dialog at all, the story is told only with the visual action, and yet, the emotions and thoughts of the characters are always as clear as if they had been saying what was on their minds. The expressiveness of the characters is nothing short of remarkable.
  And even within such a serious story, there is room for humor. While both of the policemen are serious, one is reminiscent of LUPIN III's Jigen; he is unflappable but not without a strong sense of humor that shines through at even the darkest moments.
  Then, of course, there is the music. Chage & Aska are not idol singers; they are established singers with a long career. As a result, they can actually sing. The song itself is compelling and positive, much like the animation that accompanies it. Together, the music and animation create a very strong combination.
  There are two other tracks on this LD. The first is the "Leica Reel," which is basically the storyboards set to music. Done in the quintessential Ghibli style, with rough ink sketches and watercolor, it makes for an interesting "behind the scenes" look at how the video evolved to its final form.

The third track is another Chage & Aska video, "Something There." While not animated, this video is also interesting, as it demonstrates that the Japanese music industry is capable of producing high-quality videos . This video has the duo performing in some unnamed underground club that seems to take place in a less than reputable area of a large city.
  Fans of Studio Ghibli will easily drop the required cash to own this on laserdisc, especially if all the people who bought the LD box just for this video are any indication. For the Ghibli completist, or even the general anime fan, this is well worth having.

Pony Canyon PCLP-00652
20 minutes
Animation Copyright 1995 Nibariki Co., Ltd. & Studio Ghibli Co., Ltd.
Music Copyright 1994 Yamaha Music Foundation, Japan Broadcasting
Publishing Co., Ltd. & Real Cast Inc.

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