By Junelie Anthony Velonta | February 27, 2021
The Ghibli label carries a reputation. It is, after all, a name known all over the world, attached to high-quality animation and heart-warming stories. As such, having the Ghibli label is both a blessing and a challenge—an insurmountable one sometimes.
Sadly, “Earwig and the Witch” does not manage to scale this wall. It falls flat on its back and is only redeemed by its music. OH GOD THE MUSIC! You would not expect to hear such in any other Ghibli film, and in this aspect, director Goro Miyazaki made the right choice. However, some things do not manage to catch up.
Goro, the son of the legendary Hayao, has said in interviews before that he intends to follow his own path. While his style is not directly against the established Ghibli formula, it is noticeably different. Because of this, his works are hit-or-miss. “Tales from EarthSea,” his directorial debut, was riddled with controversy culminating in Hayao walking out of the theater on the movie’s first screening. However, his following works “From Up on Poppy Hill” and “Ronja: the Robber’s Daughter” are notable, albeit distinctly not Hayao-esque.
It would seem that Earwig, his fourth directorial credit, is another miss. Like “Tales from EarthSea” before it, Earwig deals with parental absence and magic, and sadly, both flopped. However, Earwig fails in ways the former did not. For a movie about witchcraft, it holds little magic. Its short run time forces the climax to be part of the last ten minutes of the film, making it stunted and emotionally shallow. The titular character, Earwig (Kokoro Hirasawa/Taylor Paige Henderson) is also overshadowed by the supporting cast who, while interesting, have such flat emotional ranges and characterizations. Both stand in contrast to the subtle but varied characterizations of other Ghibli films.
However, while Goro’s movies may be hit-or-miss, his music choice has been top-notch since the very beginning, and Earwig’s soundtrack is no exception. Much of the lost character of the cast can be found in the music, which is so un-Ghibli-like but oh so appropriate for the film. It is stated in the beginning that an earwig is an insect that burrows itself in a person’s ear. This movie’s music does just that, and more. If anything, one should watch “Earwig and the Witch” even just for the music alone.
One final note, watch this dubbed. Like “From Up on Poppy Hill,” another Goro film, the English dub adds character to the voice-acting that a non-Japanese listener would miss from the original audio.