Āya and the Witch / Earwig and the Witch (2020)

dir. Gorō Miyazaki

Studio Ghibli has undeniably had its ups and downs. For every heart-rending masterpiece like Grave of the Fireflies, there’s also a mediocre foray into sheer silliness like The Cat Returns. There are amazing spectacles like Laputa: Castle in the Sky or The Tale of Princess Kaguya; there are also more underwhelming tales like From Up on Poppy Hill or the slog that is Tales from Earthsea. But thus far, every single Ghibli feature has had the redeeming feature of stellar animation, which works to accentuate a fantastical and immersive sense of place. Enter Earwig and the Witch, ready to annihilate everything Ghibli stands for. Not only is the story a confusing joke, with random twists and turns of magic that make no sense and culminate in a conclusion that asks so, so, so many more questions than it answers. Not only does the main character – Earwig, a supposedly precocious young girl adopted by a mysterious supernatural couple – manage to be so annoying that every moment with her on screen (i.e. most of the film) is a pain to sit through. Not only is the music, allegedly one of the key focuses of the film with Earwig’s estranged mother singing in a band, so utterly awful that it dares to defy the very conception of music itself. No, beyond all of this, Earwig‘s “innovative” 3D CG anime is so grotesque, flat, colourless and lifeless that, besides the occasional impressively detailed background, it feels less like Studio Ghibli and more like Video Brinquedo. One can only hope and pray that this rare misstep from Ghibli is the only one of its kind we’ll ever see.

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