“Earwig and the Witch” a Studio Ghibli fan review

“Earwig and the Witch” released on Feb. 3, 2021, which left some fans questioning whether it was even a Ghibli film. The original concept of the movie was based on the fiction novel “Earwig and the Witch” written by Diana Wynne Jones, the same author of the book “Howl’s Moving Castle” which was transformed into a Ghibli film in 2004. The significant difference between these movies, despite being based on books by the same author was the animation style.

The film explores the life of an orphaned girl named Earwig, with a mysterious past. Earwig ends up spending her time with a witch that needs an extra hand. Earwig’s constant mischievous behavior doesn’t always bode well with her adoptive family, but eventually, they make light of their situation. As for traditional Studio Ghibli films, “Earwig and the Witch” is drastically different, but still has the same mystical charm.

Studio Ghibli, a film company notable for its Japanese animation style specifically animated a certain way by the director, Hayao Miyazaki. The style includes pastel landscapes that resemble watercolor paintings, detail-oriented architecture and most importantly an original spin on Japanese animation style.  He has animated the infamous films, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “Totoro”, “Spirited Away”, “Ponyo” and many more. Miyazaki, however, did not direct or animate “Earwig and the Witch”, his son Gorō Miyazaki used a newer form of animation that is computer-based. 

Unfortunately, Ghibli fans were rather confused by the sudden animation style change, even though it was still in the form of Japanese animation, it was more 3D and computer-based. Miyazaki’s son also added a rather musical element to the film which left some fans puzzled due to the fact that Miyazaki never used a musical element except for alluring background melodies during solemn moments.

As for Rotten Tomatoes, it is currently listed as 34% on the Tomatometer and 68% for the audience score. Evidently, the audience wasn’t too fond of the newly 3D film and neither were the critics. Since the style is drastically different compared to the signature Studio Ghibli 2D animation style, it’s not fair to compare them

Similarly, the attention to detail in the film, as well as the general aesthetics of past films are different. In “Howl’s Moving Castle”, another film that focuses on witches, warlocks and a magical war has a different aesthetic completely, despite having similar themes. Notably, the traditional film has really beautiful watercolor tones for the background, vibrant and detailed forefronts and 2D characters with expressive personalities. “Earwig and the Witch” are not only, duller in saturation, there are no pastel backgrounds, but there are eccentric characters like Earwig. Ghibli, specifically does anything magical or fantasy really well, in traditional films the attention to details, such as Howls room, which is filled with glittery trinkets all moving independently, is not comparable to this 3D Ghibli film.

While the style is different and the animated expressions of the 3D computer-based film are slightly terrifying, the plot and the characters have the same charm as well-known Ghibli characters, such as the Witch of the Waste from “Howl’s Moving Castle” and Yubaba from “Spirited Away”. These magical beings, who are both witches, hold the same eccentric and unique tone as the witches in “Earwig and the Witch”. The film was relatively shocking, as the plot and characters progressed it started to have the same comfort as other classic Ghibli films.

Given these newer factors, the movie wasn’t bad, just different. The style took a while to get used to, specifically the over-exaggerated expressions, that are usually less terrifying in 2D. The film still holds the same characteristics in the plot as traditional Ghibli movies, it’s just slightly peculiar due to the musical element, which I found endearing but strange. Overall, this film isn’t at all the same as classic Ghibli films in style, but it has the same spirit as the other Studio Ghibli movies.