Perhaps the most infamous clip of Hayao Miyazaki—the Studio Ghibli co-founder whose name remains synonymous with the studio’s work—is of his reaction to a CGI animation demo: “I would never wish to incorporate this technology into my work at all,” the animation master says. “I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself.” The context alters his meaning a little—the animators have presented a model of a zombie whose movements they describe as grotesque, to which Miyazaki takes offense given his friendship with someone whose physical disability is so severe that he finds even giving a high-five to be difficult—but Miyazaki’s strong words (he reduces the animators to tears) and his declaration, later, that the animators’ desire to build a machine capable of creating art feels like a sign of the end times make a total pivot to computer animation for Studio Ghibli seem unthinkable. Which is why the existence of the studio’s latest film, the completely computer-animated Earwig and the Witch, is so bizarre.

Perhaps the most infamous clip of Hayao Miyazaki—the Studio Ghibli co-founder whose name remains synonymous with the studio’s work—is of his reaction to a CGI animation demo: “I would never wish to incorporate this technology into my work at all,” the animation master says. “I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself.” The context alters his meaning a little—the animators have presented a model of a zombie whose movements they describe as grotesque, to which Miyazaki takes offense given his friendship with someone whose physical disability is so severe that he finds even giving a high-five to be difficult—but Miyazaki’s strong words (he reduces the animators to tears) and his declaration, later, that the animators’ desire to build a machine capable of creating art feels like a sign of the end times make a total pivot to computer animation for Studio Ghibli seem unthinkable. Which is why the existence of the studio’s latest film, the completely computer-animated Earwig and the Witch, is so bizarre.

Based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones and directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s son Gorō, Earwig feels curiously empty. The character designs are wonderfully distinct and colorful, but the world around them—and the way that they move through it—comes across as flat despite being animated in 3D. In a press conference for the film, Gorō joked that he made the anime with a young staff and “didn’t consult with any of the old guys at all,” saying that the elder Miyazaki had given him the green light and had then been hands off. (Hayao Miyazaki is credited as a planner on the film.) Unfortunately for Gorō, who already has impossible shoes to fill, the lack of his father’s touch is evident.

The movie’s setup is simple and plenty reminiscent of Ghibli classics. As a baby, Earwig (Kokoro Hirasawa) was left on the doorstep of an orphanage, and in the decade that has passed since, she’s come to like it so much that when she’s finally adopted by a rather strange couple, she begs the orphanage matron not to let her go. However, when she discovers that her new mother, Bella Yaga (Shinobu Terajima), is a witch, her attitude changes, and she eagerly volunteers to become Bella Yaga’s apprentice. Bella Yaga, however, has other plans. Earwig is tasked with completing menial tasks around the house rather than learning any magic and warned away from disturbing the house’s other occupant, the mysterious Mandrake (Etsushi Toyokawa), a man with ears so long that, as Earwig notes, they resemble horns.

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