One of the biggest questions of both Japanese and international animation fans regards the future of Studio Ghibli, after Hayao Miyazaki actually retire. This co-production, which features the combined talent of Japanese and French animators, shows one of the paths the Studio could follow in the future, although “The Red Turtle” differs much than the style established by Miyazaki.

A man shipwrecks on a tropical island, inhabited only by turtles, crabs, and birds. As soon as he explores it and “settles in,” he decides to build a raft in order to escape. However, as soon as he distances himself from the beach, he has his raft hit to the point of destruction by an unidentified force. He does not give up, building rafts again and again, and eventually discovers that what obstructs him from leaving is a huge red turtle. Frustrated to the point of rage, he unleashesd his anger on the creature as soon as he finds it on solid ground, hitting it in the head with a piece of wood and turning it upside down, leaving it to die. However, after sometime, to his surprise, he witnesses the turtle transforming into an actual, red-haired woman. Filled with remorse, he starts to take care of her, and soon the two of them form a relationship, that even results to a child.

Dudok de Wit strayed away quite far from the usual style of Studio Ghibli, both in style and aesthetics. In that fashion, the film is almost completely void of dialogue, and features very little sound, while it is permeated by a distinct minimalism that extends to both the drawing and the animation, as it filled with a plethora of stills, in contrast to the perpetual motion witnessed in Miyazaki’s works. This however, does not mean that it lacks in artistry, to the contrary, the quality of the images is of the highest level, with a number of them easily passing as actual paintings, while the motion, of both living creatures and the environment, flows in a fashion that combines realism with beauty. This trait finds its apogee in the movement of the sea, and particularly the destructive waves, with the sequences featuring them being the most impressive in the production.

Furthermore, Dudok de Wit uses the setting of the deserted island as a metaphor for the various stages of a man’s life. A man is alone, meets a woman, they fall in love, have children, share the happy and the sad moments together, then the children eventually leave, leaving the two of them alone, until one of them dies. Add to the aforementioned, a permeating naturalism that highlights the nature’s beauties, but also its blights, some minor humor presented mainly by the adorable crabs, and you have the backbone of a film that combines meaningfulness with artistry, through an art-house setting.

Evidently, “The Red Turtle” has little to do with the productions that made Studio Ghibli famous. However, if one was to alter his expectations on that aspect, he will discover a great animation and a very rewarding film, which could provide a worthy alternative for the future of the company.

“The Red Turtle” will be available on Digital Download on 18 September and on DVD and Double Play (Blu-ray and DVD) from 25 September. Pre-order now: 

My name is Panos Kotzathanasis and I am Greek. Being a fan of Asian cinema and especially of Chinese kung fu and Japanese samurai movies since I was a little kid, I cultivated that love during my adolescence, to extend to the whole of SE Asia. Starting from my own blog in Greek, I then moved on to write for some of the major publications in Greece, and in a number of websites dealing with (Asian) cinema, such as Taste of Cinema, Hancinema, EasternKicks, Chinese Policy Institute, and of course, Asian Movie Pulse. in which I still continue to contribute. In the beginning of 2017, I launched my own website, Asian Film Vault, which I merged in 2018 with Asian Movie Pulse, creating the most complete website about the Asian movie industry, as it deals with the almost every country from East and South Asia, and definitely all genres. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.