This is where the design and animation of “Earwig and the Witch” becomes a real turning point: it’s easy to admire the character designs of Katsuya Kondo and the artistic direction of Yuhki Takeuchi (especially his great-back). shot), but it’s harder to find much emotional resonance from the film’s stiff computer-generated animation, which is overseen by Yukinori Nakamura (computer graphics) and Tan Se Ri (general animation). The characters’ emotions are often reduced to expressionless, but largely over-emphasized gestures or strokes, like Earwig’s oversized pencil eyebrows or Bella Yaga’s jellyfish-like curls. These details suggest a lot without ever being truly expressive, perhaps due to the limitations of the film’s television budget.
The most striking images and scenes in “Earwig and the Witch” are where the characters are portrayed as part of their surroundings. From children hiding under sheets jumping down a spiral staircase, dizzying adults leaning over groups of excited orphans, or Earwig’s occasional musings of Mangrove (who is often depicted hiding behind a newspaper or the walls of her bedroom. ), that sort of thing. Problems inevitably arise when the facial expressions and physical movements of the characters have to convey their respective characteristics. Which is unfortunately not surprising since all three of Goro’s features are visually flat, including “From Up On Poppy Hill,” a project originally planned and scripted by Papa Hayao.
Goro’s films all seem to lack his father’s personal touch, perhaps because they are truly molded into the fantasy mold that Hayao has spent decades perfecting. Goro’s feelings of comparative inadequacy are also no secret – he says the LA Times that there is a “huge gap in sheer ability” between him and his father, which makes it easy to read “Earwig and the Witch” as semi-autobiographical, especially given how often Mangrove sequestered behind the walls of his cottage bedroom. (“For Goro, Hayao Miyazaki is not a father but rather a big wall,” says “Earwig” producer Toshio Suzuki in the 2013 cited above. LA Times room)
Still, in-depth readings of “Earwig and the Witch” are only useful if the film is often inert. This is perhaps Goro Miyazaki’s most eccentric feature to date, but it’s also his least engaging. “Earwig and the Witch” doesn’t move as it should, and it’s deadly when your last name is Miyazaki.
In select theaters today on February 3, and on HBO Max on February 5.