JONAR COWAN WRITES — Despite Studio Ghibli’s notable reputation for warm, whimsical stories, Goro Miyazaki’s punk and dark art-style Earwig and the Witch fails to reach the expectations for a “Studio Ghibli” animation.  Earwig and the Witch was released on Feb. 5.

The studio, which was founded by Hayao Miyazaki, is best-known for its unique art-style and strong character development, particularly with its presentation of female leads like Princess Mononoke or Nausicaa, which have entranced audiences time and time again. Unfortunately, Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, has managed to lose those distinctive components of Studio Ghibli.

The most visually notable difference is the departure from Studio Ghibli’s usual hand-drawn animation style, to CG (computer-generated) film-its first such effort.   It is worth mentioning that the excellent scenery sets an entertaining tone, and it was enjoyable to see an evolution in the studio’s art style. But the lackluster plot ruins the movie. The story barely answers any questions that relate to who Earwig is and her lineage. Besides that, the two other main characters- the mandrake and the witch -barely have personalities, especially concerning their relationship with each other. The audience is left with at most vague descriptions and lifeless interactions that lead to more questions.

This movie had so much potential, but it’s lost! The character development is almost as ineffectual as the plot itself. The characters felt unfinished. True relationships between Earwig and the cast don’t really develop and are unrelatable. For example, the female redhead in the beginning barely has any screen time but is important to Earwig’s history. It all feels incomplete.

This is not the first time that Goro Miyazaki has failed to live up to the reputation established by his dad’s studio. He has directed two other animations, Tales from Earthsea and From Up on Poppy Hill, both of which had never met the standard his father had set. Tales from Earthsea had amazing visuals but a baseless plot much like Earwig and the Witch. From Up on Poppy Hill was a promising movie but with characters of limited personality development and expressiveness..

Clearly, the saying “third time’s the charm” doesn’t apply for Goro Miyazaki. Let’s hope he reverses that trend, should he pursue another film.

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