I love Studio Ghibli, the production company behind Miyazaki’s classics: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, among many more. I’d go as far to say that I prefer them to Disney/Pixar. Ghibli constantly creates original content that feels unique but still connected in a greater fictional universe. Until, now. Earwig and the Witch not only feels like a departure from that grand and magical universe, but worse like a failed imitation.
Let’s start with the obvious problem, CGI. Studio Ghibli is famous for not just maintaining the dying artform of hand illustration, but also pushing the style forward. Inked and water colored, each frame is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Earwig takes those and uses them as storyboards to base their CGI renderings of previous characters and locations. It becomes lost in the uncanny valley between Ghibli and Pixar, a scary place. And, in the process, it lost all the magic of Miyazaki’s style and produced a less immersive experience.
I tried to set aside my immediate prejudice against its animation only to be immediately confronted by its voice acting, the English in particular, which sounds like a poorly edited story book program, I want to say Franklin the Turtle. I switched over to Japanese and was immediately relieved, the voices fit the animation’s mannerisms much better and returned some magic to the film.
Boy, did It need it. Despite revolving around witches, it was lacking magic and/or sense of wonder. The story felt like a rough hodgepodge of the director’s father’s work. The story is about (spoilers), a young girl that is kidnapped by a witch that is also a rock star, then immediately abandoned at an orphanage, after being given the name of the band. She is miserable at the orphanage, and then gets adopted by another two members of the same band. Where she is forced to be an assistant making potions. So Kiki’s Delivery Service with no flying meets Howl’s Moving Castle minus the heart meets Gem the 80’s pop rock cartoon but with no band action.
It ends quite abruptly with Earwig finally planning a playdate with an old orphan pal, when he comes over we see he has been adopted by the other band member then kidnapped, named, and abandoned earwig. The End. The band does not get back together, we don’t learn why anything has happened in the last 1.5 of my life.
Finally, the worst part of this movie was the music. Ghibli has produced some truly wonderful scores in the past, I listen to them often. This music was ugly, for a film about a rock band, that should be the bare minimum.
Overall, I recommend rewatching an old Studio Ghibli classic, or one of the rarer ones you might have missed and skip Earwig and the Witch.