The drooling moo of a cow came from beyond the barn. The clouds palmed ahead, July dayed itself away. All was still, hot, quiet, dumb. But what I remember most: the smell of wicker, a brown moth, my shoelaces stuck in the brambles, a swelling of strings that was heard by no one. This is what we called our ‘ramble’. We walked a mile after school, paired boy-girl and Roy chose me. I knew that Rosemary, the most attractive girl in our club was fond of Roy.I was taller, less neat, less gorgeous and Roy chose me! I linger longer over that wooden smell. You know it’s a fine day in July when you can smell each splinter in the stiles. The shadows casting lank and long over his neck, butterfly kisses all over his back. We left our packs and walked lunchless. The farmer’s barn was two miles from the youth club and we walked with balmy palms. Roy gruffed as he stumbled into the brambles and I pottered around the pansies. Dragging our heels out of the mud, we spoke of the war and my mother and his mother and how I hated growing up with three other sisters. Roy was my first boy. He sniffed away the flies and cursed schoolboy curses to the bees. I fell down on my knees several times, stalked by those brambles along the way. Then we spoke of our friends and how handsome they looked together, we wondered what the other pairs were doing. We wanted Oz’s mirror to see their first shy kisses, whiskers touching, intruded by the buzz of bees. The grass grew taller and my legs purpler as we crossed towards the barn. Between that barn and the stile, between the bright lilac sky and purple knees, between my mouth and his mouth (isthmus full of kisses): he held my hand. The balmy palm which had slept walked its way through the rushes and combed through the threads of the hay. It was all curling, stretching, sleeping in my shy little paw. It clung onto mine as we stood gazing at the barn and unclasped as I went to push open the doors to where we would rest and palm. I ran my hands along the wooden planks, half-blind from the lack of light, trying to read the shadows as though they were made of braille. The wicker, the brown moth jutting out from the light, the lines of light between the planks casting themselves onto Roy’s face. We sat and made the straw crunch, the cow’s moo spilling in from the open lines of light. We made a nest from the straw. We dove into the pool of hay and emerged spitting, untangling the strands from our hairs. Just as the hedgehog hibernates in winter, we built our den throughout the summer. We would stack the straw up in piles to make our bed. Roy shooed away the mice who were trying to rest as we slept all knotted. Sometimes I’d see him sleep-smiling. That smile, like an old sheepdog scratching off his fleas. Then, when the voices of our friends foxed through the barriers of the barn we would spring from our bed. Roy would join the boys and play cricket and I would join the girls. We spoke of our rambles as we watched the boys play. Roy was bowling, his face all stern like a soldier. He was facing John, a boy who Roy repeatedly told me was, “terrible at cricket.” When Roy hit the wicket his arms went in the air and his mouth was wide. His tongue was lolling as he ran in circles, the thin air filling his mouth. He did not look for my praise when he had won. His smile, open wide like a lion was reserved for cricket. Mine, in that barn, in our beds, in photo frames now around my nest. Mine was always closed, a fixed sternness always in his eyes as his lips wiggled. From the wick of my mouth to his, and those kisses where his whiskers pricked at me. His mouth always waggled like a tugged buoy. In all those nests we made, where breakfast would come in the form of eggs and soldiers. Where Christmases were spent with cold toes jutting out of the covers, where we made our children, where our grandchildren would clamber onto our legs. I clamber out to ramble and I pack cucumber sandwiches and eat them by the sea. And Yes. There are drooling moos. And Yes. The clouds are palming ahead. And Yes. December is daying itself away. Yes. It is all excess. Yes. Yes. And so. I see you. I have told you what I am seeing. And yet. How can anyone know what I am seeing.
I throb like a drug thinking:
Thoughts in a butterfly net
How can I return to form?
I still stall between two fools:
My love will be barbed in spite
My love will be spiked with love
Make me dumb, where life is still.
It’s been over a year now since Japan’s pre-eminent animator, Hayao Miyazaki decided to clear his desk at Studio Ghibli in Tokyo. Hayao had been there almost thirty years after he curated the animation studio in 1985 with his partner, Isao Takahata. Over this 29 year-long period, the studio managed to moil out 19 full-length feature films, including Japan’s highest-grossing film, Spirited Away. Studio Ghibli produced a perfect picture of Japan’s ethic and aesthetic to the world, and this image became Americanised, popularised and universalised. The works are gentle, bold and kind – every bit Japanese. Many will look back on the Ghibli oeuvre and remember the delicious strangeness of Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke – or whichever obscurity you happened to stumble across between skimming channels. Ghibli consistently presented vast worlds, disconnected from the safety of adulthood. Big skies, forests too deep to be untangled and seas spread too wide to riff through. As the age of Ghibli has supposedly ended, there are certain works that jut out in our memories. As the fan community recap, there seems to be a certain Ghibli cache that many have missed. As well as films, television series and video games – the studio also made music videos. Though they seem to be clouded moments amongst the studio’s opus, at their best they are small, brilliant encapsulations of the Studio Ghibli project.
The studio produced six music videos in total but the most startling is under Miyazaki’s direction, ‘On Your Mark’. The video was made in 1994 as Miyazaki wrangled with writer’s block whilst working on Princess Mononoke. Essentially, Mononke – one of the studio’s most revered films – may not have been so without the experimentation that Miyazaki exercised in the music video. He used computer animation instead of the Studio’s usual hand drawn cell animation for On Your Mark. Without these early undertakings Mononoke wouldn’t have had the change in sensibility needed for Ghibli’s romantic epic. To be sure, the use of computer animation added greater poignancy and severity to the whole of the Ghibli oeuvre and On Your Mark bears this transition. The video was made for the Japanese rock duo, Chage & Aska and still contains many of the Miyazakian staples despite the progression. The most formative of these being the wind which sweeps throughout each scene and the police aircraft reminiscent of Ghibli’s beginnings. ‘Ghibli’ of course being Italian for wind, and the inclusion of the aircraft is a nod towards Miyazaki’s father who designed and operated the A6M series of aircraft during World War II.
Despite it being a compressed Ghibli experience, the music video hits you with the same pangs that come with a full-length feature. In these films you can usually expect to find someone – usually a human girl or animal who is trapped somewhere she shouldn’t be. On Your Mark follows a similar paradigm in which a girl with exquisite wings is found on the ground, hesitant to fly. As akin to many of the films in the Ghibli canon also, the girl escapes and ostensibly returns to her homeland. In a moment of Shakespearian triumph, she ups and flies away like Prospero from Ariel and all of this happens over some of the most gloriously gaudy rock music I’ve heard in a while. Archivists, by all means reiterate again and again the importance of Miyazaki’s full-length films but there’s a lil’ bit of undiscovered magic to be found in his music video.