Miyazaki to take on Disney, Universal and DreamWorks at Oscars

The Wind Rises

The day has finally arrived – the Academy has announced the slate of films that have received nominations for this year’s 86th Academy Awards. A total of three anime works were submitted for consideration for the Animated Feature Film category: A Letter to Momo, Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion and The Wind Rises. Out of the nineteen films submitted for consideration, only five of them would be receiving a nomination and we finally know which five they are:

  • Despicable Me 2 (Universal Pictures)
  • Ernest & Celestine (Cinéart)
  • Frozen (Disney)
  • The Croods (DreamWorks Studios)
  • The Wind Rises (Toho)

Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature film is a fictionalised biography about Jiro Horikoshi, the inventor of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter plane and his romance with Naoko, a woman suffering from tuberculosis. The movie has courted critical acclaim, having picked up Best Animated Feature awards from a number of awarding bodies including the New York Critics Circle, Toronto Film Critics Association as well as nominations for the Golden Globes and New York Film Festival among others. However, it has also attracted controversy due to the film’s focus on the creator of what would become one of Japan’s most effective killing machines in World War 2.

The film will no doubt face some fierce competition, particularly from Disney’s Frozen (which is most likely a favourite to win) and Despicable Me 2.

Previously, Miyazaki’s Spirited Away became the first foreign feature to win the Animated Feature Film category in the 76th Academy Awards in 2003 and Howl’s Moving Castle received a nomination in 2005.

Sunrise’s short film Possessions, which was directed by Shuhei Morita has also earned a nomination for the Animated Short Film Category.

What being on the Oscar consideration list could mean for Madoka Magica

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences have revealed the names of 19 films that will be going head to head for 5 nominations for the Best Animated Feature category of the 86th Academy Awards (or 3, depending on any disqualifications). The list does contain some stiff competition from the likes of Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University and some oddities (I’m pretty sure The Smurfs 2 was significantly live-action) but it does contain three anime movies – The Wind RisesA Letter to Momo and Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie – Rebellion.  A quick Google search shows that a lot of people believe that it will come down to The Wind Rises (which would be very suitable considering that it is Hayao Miyazaki’s final feature length film) or Despicable Me 2 (which admittedly, was a very good movie).

2013-11-05The_Rebellion_Story_Key_Visual_02

Now, I am a huge, hugeHUGE fan of Puella Magi Madoka Magica – to be honest, I have no hesitation in calling it one of the greatest works of art ever written and I am someone who has had to study the works of Shakespeare, has read numerous classic novels and seen many cult films. Unfortunately though, the series simply has not received the attention I feel it deserves. Even if I Google for news on the consideration list, many only include it among the overall list (although to be fair, The Wind Rises has attracted a significant amount of attention). This is obviously because of the obvious – anime is niche and unless your name is Hayao Miyazaki, you won’t get recognised (I’ve seen about the same buzz for A Letter to Momo as I have for Madoka).

While I would absolutely love it for Madoka to win an Oscar, I highly doubt it will happen – in fact, with the competition it has, I would say it will have a hard time fighting for one of the five nominations (or three, is more than three of the considerations get disqualified). There is a positive though – various movie websites and blogs will be covering the list and some will be better than the lazy people who just copy and paste the Academy’s article (I’ve seen quite a few of them – that’s not journalism, that’s laziness!) and they will either post a trailer or a brief description of the movie. That might get people interested, or if they just see a title and want to act like they’re uber movie-buffs when the Oscar season comes around, they’ll research all of the films on the list and then might think “Actually, that sounds pretty cool” and watch it. So for those of you unfamiliar with Madoka, sort that out and I’ll help you:

Puella Magi Madoka Magica started out as a 12-episode long television anime that aired in 2011. The series takes the usually happy, bright and fluffy Magical Girl genre (such as Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura) and completely flips it on its head, becoming a tragic dark fantasy known for the incredibly powerful emotional impact it has had on its fans. The series centres around Madoka Kaname, a 13 year old middle school student. Madoka’s life is fairly normal until one day when a student transfers into her class – Homura Akemi instantly shows a mysterious and keen interest in Madoka. While Madoka is shopping after school with her friend Sayaka, she encounters a mysterious cat-like creature, who is being pursued by Homura. This creature is Kyubey, a being who promises young girls any single wish they desire, as long as they promise to dedicate their lives to fighting witches – creatures born from the despair inside people’s hearts. Things aren’t as black and white as that though, as soon Madoka and the people around her begin to discover the truths about what it really means to be a Magical Girl and about the balance between the hope they bring and the despair witches are born from. Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the story of hope, despair and the Faustian pacts that lie on the thin line between them.

The series has been an absolute success in Japan, spawning numerous manga spin-offs, games, merchandising and even a jump to the big screen. Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie Part 1: Beginnings and Part 2: Eternal, two recaps of the original series with improved animation, re-recorded dialogue and a new soundtrack were released theatrically in Japan last year (and released on blu-ray in North America by AniplexUSA earlier this year).  The anime won the Grand Prize for animation in the 2011 Japan Media Arts awards, three Tokyo Anime Awards (Television, Director and Screenplay) and even the Seiun Award for “Best Media” at the 2012 Japan Science Fiction Convention.

The movie which has been submitted for the consideration list, Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion is a sequel to the series (and the recap movies) that focuses on Homura, who after witnessing the rewriting of a the universe during the emotionally heavy finale of the TV series and being the only person to remember such changes, is suffering from severe loneliness. However, this new world order and God itself are placed under a new threat when people who should have moved on from the mortal plane start to return. The movie opened in Japanese theatres on 26th October and topped the weekend box office – earning over 570m yen (around £3.6m) in just 5 days. The movie will be receiving its US premiere in Los Angeles on 3rd December in an already sold out premiere, before being shown at various locations across North America and Canada throughout the month.

Also, hopefully the hype of being on the list could lead to more international showings of the movie. Living in the United Kingdom, I was heartbroken when the recap movies didn’t receive a screening and am even more-so considering that this film has yet to have one announced either. While in recent years, numerous anime titles have been submitted for the consideration list, none barring  Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away have made the cut (which later became the first Japanese feature length animation to win an Oscar). Imagine, if by some miracle Madoka gets a nomination, how much a “Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 86th Academy Awards” notice on the front cover of a home media release would do for the franchise – I’m sure even being placed on the consideration list would be huge.

Honestly though, if the soundtrack of this latest movie is anything like that of the TV series and first two movies, Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack should be nominated for Best Original Score. If that happened, I would bet serious money on Madoka.

If you have yet to experience the sheer artistic brilliance that is Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the series is available on both DVD and Blu-Ray from AniplexUSA (America) and MangaUK (United Kingdom), while the first two movies are available from AniplexUSA (and sold to nearly every major country).

What will the future hold? Who knows – we’ll find out the nominations in January 2014, then we’ll have to wait another two months to find out the winner. To quote Madoka Kaname:

If someone ever tells me it’s a mistake to have hope, well then, I’ll just tell them they’re wrong and I’ll keep telling them until they believe, no matter how many times it takes.”