Howl's Moving Castle (Myiazaki - Ghibli)

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Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) Studio Ghibli Diary Translation by Phillip Schnell from The author is not named, but seems to be a member of the production team and not an animator. Translator's notes in yellow. 11/1/03 (Sat.) It's November. We were a little worried about the rate at which key animation was being finished, but today it improved quite a bit. That's the way with weekends! We started to think we might reach our quota after all, but we ended up a little short. However, although it is the weekend, it is also the beginning of a new month, and that is the essential point. We hope we can keep this up and get through the coming month. Because of the state of production, animation direction was temporarily halted and we had everyone organize and finish up the key animation, etc. on hand. Since many of the drawings were almost done, our rate rose for the first time in a while. The production team, who have been watching the pile of finished animation get smaller each day, are grateful too. 11/4/03 (Tues.) The monthly general Ghibli meeting was held. Kamimura from production usually attends, but, since two people finished up the key animation they had on hand on Saturday, new assignments had to be set up. So only Watanabe and Mochizuki attended. Perhaps it was because of the long weekend [Nov. 3 was Culture Day in Japan], but from this afternoon on, there were many calls about completed material, and we were not all together until late in the evening. From now on, this sort of day will probably become less and less rare. If only those days would come sooner . . . 11/5/03 (Weds.)

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Transcript of Howl's Moving Castle (Myiazaki - Ghibli)

Hauru no Ugoku Shiro

Hauru no Ugoku Shiro

(Howl's Moving Castle)Studio Ghibli Diary Translation by Phillip Schnell from

The author is not named, but seems to be a member of the production team and not an animator.

Translator's notes in yellow.

11/1/03 (Sat.)

It's November. We were a little worried about the rate at which key animation was being finished, but today it improved quite a bit. That's the way with weekends! We started to think we might reach our quota after all, but we ended up a little short. However, although it is the weekend, it is also the beginning of a new month, and that is the essential point. We hope we can keep this up and get through the coming month.

Because of the state of production, animation direction was temporarily halted and we had everyone organize and finish up the key animation, etc. on hand. Since many of the drawings were almost done, our rate rose for the first time in a while. The production team, who have been watching the pile of finished animation get smaller each day, are grateful too.

11/4/03 (Tues.)

The monthly general Ghibli meeting was held. Kamimura from production usually attends, but, since two people finished up the key animation they had on hand on Saturday, new assignments had to be set up. So only Watanabe and Mochizuki attended.

Perhaps it was because of the long weekend [Nov. 3 was Culture Day in Japan], but from this afternoon on, there were many calls about completed material, and we were not all together until late in the evening. From now on, this sort of day will probably become less and less rare. If only those days would come sooner . . .

11/5/03 (Weds.)

We held the regular production meeting we were unable to hold yesterday because of animation planning meetings, etc. The topics of the meeting were the falling behind of production lines in all sections, and the status of the storyboards. It was a meeting filled with long silences.

Because animation direction has returned to normal since the weekend, the rate at which we are finishing animation has risen back to normal. Ahh, a happy topic of conversation.

Suddenly, there was a call from the publicity department, asking if it would be all right for a TV crew to come in, and the always clean and neat (what a lie!) production team replied, "That would be fine." Well, we tidied up a little, anyway. (Just kidding, we did a thorough cleaning.)

11/6/03 (Thurs.)

For any type of film work, including animation, there is editing to do. Since Howl is no exception, we have to begin to make preparations, but since the storyboards are not yet complete, we can't yet talk about specifics. However, since the premiere date is already decided, we called the editor Seyama, and arranged a meeting for tomorrow to plan layouts, etc. Where should we begin?

From this weekend on into next week there is a flood of events. First is the "Ghibli Day" event at the Tokyo International Film Festival on the 8th. After that there are many events one after another planned both inside and outside of Studio Ghibli.

11/7/03 (Fri.)

Today is Friday. We held the regular rush screening. For a while there were no retakes, but today there were two, one CG-related, one dramatic. For the dramatic problem, we will fix the sheets and verify it again, for the CG problem, we will change the CG method and reverify.

At one o'clock, we held the meeting with Seyama mentioned in yesterday's entry. We started to talk about various things, but the atmosphere was awkward. We had a long discussion, occasionally mentioning the schedule. Soon it was 3:30 and we had only talked about the schedule for 10 or 20 minutes. The rest was about various topics. But actually it was a quite substantial conversation.

In the evening, the Ghibli Day supervisors went to make preparations for the tomorrow's Ghibli Day event at the Photography Museum in Ebisu. Despite [preparations made] the other day, there were problems with the Powerpoint presentation, with actor profiles, etc. etc., so it wasn't all finished until past 1 a.m. Boo-hoo.

11/8/03 (Sat.)

Today was the "Ghibli Day" event at the Tokyo Photography Museum. Since the main staff are all taking part in the event, everyone left the studio at the beginning of the evening. From the standpoint of the production, on one hand, it seems like a bad time, but on the other hand, it's good for everyone to have a change of pace too.

Since we spoke with Seyama about the cutting the other day, we prepared a checklist for cutting. But after finishing it, it still seemed a little sketchy.

The main event of Ghibli Day, a symposium with the Ghibli main staff, John Lasseter, and others from Pixar, was a great success with the standing-room-only crowd. The supervisors breathed a sigh of relief. Lasseter was wearing a Hawaiian shirt again. It seems it is the Pixar uniform for all occasions. I wonder . . .

11/10/03 (Mon.)

The assistant producers are currently preparing the "Animation Director Corrections Book." From the mountain of drawings at Production, they are copying, one at a time, pictures that may be of use. It's a tough job. We consult the storyboards while looking for them, but it is hard to find exactly the right picture. Ugh!

John Lasseter and company came for a visit to the Ghibli Art Museum and Studio Ghibli. Reporters gathered in a narrow studio at Ghibli, and everyone was furthermore overwhelmed by Lasseter and company, who have heavy builds. Incidentally, Satoh, the reporter who made the Thank You, Mr. Lasseter DVD, was there too, wearing under his jacket the Finding Nemo Hawaiian shirt he was given in America. As soon as Lasseter arrived, Satoh took off his jacket, as if to compete with him.

Translator's notes in yellow.

11/11/03 (Tues.)

A great quantity of layout check material came from Miyazaki. We spent the whole morning copying and posting. But when we checked over them, we saw that half the material we had expected to receive had not yet arrived. As we thought, the other half (also a great amount) arrived that evening. The unexpected can sometimes be welcome: the in-between animators, by twos and threes, finished earlier than expected. From the production standpoint, we're grateful for this. Even these days, we occasionally receive requests by telephone from other studios to do in-between animation, but since we are working on our own film, we are too busy. Today, looking at this page, the producer said, "Going smoothly, isn't it?" -- but it's not. In fact, we've started to get behind. Really!

11/12/03 (Weds.)

Wakabayashi, the sound director, visited the studio. As with the editor, Seyama, we discussed the present state of the production and future developments. We had Kojoh from the post-production team prepare a rough schedule, using Chihiro as reference, and then used this schedule as the basis of our study. However, regarding the schedule up to the time of the premiere, we were given the saddening opinion that "if we do it like this, from now until July, the entire first half of the year will be nothing but Howl. [lit. "pickled in Howl."] For the sake of reference, we asked about the status of other studios; some [of the news] was relieving, some frightening.

11/13/03 (Thurs.)

Since our internal key animators had run out of work, we held an animation planning meeting first thing in the morning. We are down to nine cuts of storyboard. But it looks like two more [key animators] will be finished soon. When will the new storyboards arrive?

This morning when producer Kamimura came to work, there was a large box on his desk, on the lid of which was written that it was a present from the post-production team. Thinking this was strange, he looked more closely and found the mark of the Zeon Army on the side of the box. More and more curious, he opened the box, and the head of a Zaku popped out. If you put it on your bedside table, the eye would glow. Kamimura, who was of the Gundam generation, was both delighted and saddened.

11/14/03 (Fri.)

The regular rush check With this, we have exactly 300 cuts. However, this isn't even a quarter of the total. The premiere is next summer. We started to feel faint.

We are leaving on a three-day company trip on the 16th, and So-and-so always prepares the pamphlets [with roster, schedule & hotel information, etc.] for the trip. With much prodding, he finally finished them two days before the trip, but when all that was left to do was to print them out, the printer started acting strangely. The data conversion wouldn't work properly, and starting at 2 p.m., he wasn't finished until 7. Oh my. Well, since he had to prepare enough for 220 people, this was unavoidable. However, just when he thought he had finished them successfully, he discovered an error. Flustered, the whole production team helped to make the corrections. It was finished at 11. But it's a nice piece of work.

11/15/03 (Sat.)

Tomorrow, Ghibli is going on a three-day staff trip to Oku-Nikko. You may wonder why we're taking a trip at a time like this, but it is so that our staff can have a little rest, refresh themselves, and renew their spirits, so that afterwards, they can make the run all the way to the end. They'll have to completely immerse themselves in work for the rest of the project . . . After hell comes heaven, after heaven, hell.

11/19/03 (Weds.)

The employee trip is over, and it's back to regular work. However, whether because of the hard-to-get-used-to bus trip, because of the climate of Oku-Nikko (where it even snowed), or because of the lively nights, everyone is in a somewhat tired mode. However, the key animation is getting finished properly. We are thankful.

The long-awaited storyboards arrived. However, as expected, this is not the conclusion. We will have to set up animation planning meetings quickly. Furthermore, processing planning meetings also have to be held, so we will have to look at the staff schedule and set it up quickly.

11/20/03 (Thurs.)

We started talking about setting up a meeting to talk about the treatment, but a planning meeting with Miyazaki got scheduled at the same time, so we postponed it. Then it was decided to have the meeting at 11. Then, after contacting all the staff again to tell them about the rescheduling, we checked the availability of the conference room and found out that it was in use. We contacted [the people using the conference room] in a panic and were able to arrange for it to be available tomorrow. Whew. Apologies to all our staff for changing the schedule so many times because of our bad planning.

Actually, yesterday evening a little more than ten good cuts were finished. Since there were so many sheets, we used the machine today as well, but since there were so many, it took longer than we thought. . .

We grappled with them for as much as three hours before coming back. Good work, everyone.

11/21/03 (Fri.)

As we wrote yesterday, at 11 a.m. the main staff all gathered in the conference room for a planning meeting on treatment. At first, since we stayed with easy-to-understand matters, there were no problems, but since there have been more detailed storyboards lately, nobody remembers exactly how far we got with the planning. But somehow we managed to remember enough to start things off without incident.

When Watanabe and Kamimura from the production stayed late into the night setting up the schedule and so on, they noticed the sound of an electric eraser and other signs that someone was around from the animators area. Even when they had finished their planning and were preparing to go home, these signs continued, but when they looked in to say good night, nobody was there. Strange. When they were on their way out they verified with the security guard that someone had left about five minutes before, and so were able to go home somewhat relieved. Still, the timing seemed a little too perfect.

[No entry for 11/24, the replacement vacation day for Labor Thanksgiving Day, which fell on Sunday this year]

11/25/03 (Tues.)

Thanks to the efforts of Kitakawa over the three-day weekend, all of the computers used for production have been changed over to Windows. Watanabe, an iMac user who resisted up until the end, finally gave way. All of the staff interestedly turned their machines on and fiddled around with them like beginners. Incidentally, Kamimura's machine was not changed.

Watanabe was caught by Suzuki at the entrance first thing in the morning and taken into Suzuki's office. Today's production meeting was postponed until tomorrow or later.

Since our production team was busy, Kamimura went out to pick up and drop off work [at other studios contracted to help with the animation]. On the way to and from the office, he noticed a total of three traffic accidents. Is Ghibli's "Accident Man" back in action?

11/26/03 (Weds.)

Since there was not much work coming back from the other studios today, the production team were almost all at their desks all day. Since we are in touch [with the other studios] by telephone and know before the fact the situation there, we knew that there would not be much today, but looking at the production team lined up facing their desks like ducks in a row [lit. wild goose heads] was still secretly agitating.

11/27/03 (Thurs.)

The air has gradually started to get dry (a little late, but . . .) Since colds have started going around at Ghibli, there are humidifiers running here and there. Since these have been in use for many years, some of them are caked up with lime and broken. Today, the animators requested, "Since there aren't enough, we'd like one more," but when we rushed out to buy one, there weren't any of the type they wanted. Because the hybrid type often turns white here and there after a while, at Ghibli, we buy the steam type as a general rule, but there were no large steam-type humidifiers suitable for a big room at the large-scale dealers nearby. That evening, we went to one more large-scale electric appliance store and finally found one. What will we do if they start breaking one after another? Should we go ahead and buy two or three to keep in reserve?

11/28/03 (Fri.)

The regular rush check was held. The previous time ended without any special problems, but this time, there were two cuts which needed retakes. We were relieved that at least there weren't any large retakes.

Tomorrow is the regular vacation day at Ghibli, and the day after is Sunday. Ah, after the vacation it will be December, the so-called Shiwasu [an alternate name for the twelfth month of the old lunar calendar]. We'll have to hurry with the production. Still, time is passing quickly. If only we had another half a year. . .

12/1/03 (Mon.)

In commemoration of the first day of December, [we held] a production meeting covering the last three weeks. Much of the work is falling behind, but it all has to get done no matter what. Reports on the last three weeks and current status. There were no heart-warming topics.

Imura went out to buy lunch, had his umbrella stolen at the convenience store, and got wet coming back. We asked him, "What will you do about going home?" and he said he would take the extra studio umbrella. But when it came time to go home, the extra umbrella was gone. Two umbrellas stolen in one day!

12/2/03 (Tues.)

From early morning on, between going to Mr. [Kazuo] Oga's office to pick up background paintings and going to other studios [to pick up work], the production team members were out for most of the day. Because of this, even Kamimura had to go out to pick up work. When he came back, he said, heartily, "It's been a long time since I've gone out to the other studios -- it really felt like Shiwasu there, too."

Recently, we've been eating a lot of cheap sweets. When we see them at the convenience store, we immediately buy them, and everyone tries them out. The production team's desks always are stocked with cheap sweets these days.

12/3/03 (Weds.)

The production rate for the in-between animation fell a little over the last two weeks, but yesterday and today there was a fierce drive to catch up. When it's like this, the production team is a pleased and there is a lot of picking up of work from outside studios. However, since we send a few weeks' work out to outside studios as soon as animation direction is finished with it, stock is running out and we are a little worried. The production team silently prays, "Keep working hard!"

12/4/03 (Thurs.)

I just wrote yesterday about the in-between animation and so on, but today, there was no work to pick up. Unlike yesterday, today the entire production team were in their seats. It was a tough change.

Since the production rate fell over the last two weeks on account of Ghibli events and holidays, we started making regular rounds to inspect the status of the key animators. We'd like to get back to our original pace from this week on.

12/5/03 (Fri.)

Today is Friday. We carried out the usual rush check. There were no particular problems. If there had been problems, in our current state, it's possible we wouldn't finish the number of cuts we set as a goal to do this year. If we can't get one cut closer to our production goal before the end of the year . . .

Employees have to be at work at Studio Ghibli by 10:30 a.m., but today, for whatever reason, everyone in the production team was late. If things are going to be like this, we won't finish up what we have to finish. We have to get a grip on ourselves again and do our jobs.

12/6/03 (Sat.)

The production rate for key animation and in-between animation was especially good this week. Since we haven't yet made up for falling behind the previous two weeks, we are still in the same difficult situation, but still, it was a relieving week.

Usually, we have a chiropractor come to Ghibli on the weekends, and those who want to can be treated, but today it took longer than usual and the last person wasn't done until after 9 p.m. When we asked why, we were told that there were many people with severe problems. Hmm, how is it going to be as we hit the peak times ahead?

12/8/03 (Mon.)

We started off the week in good form, with key animation starting to get finished. However, considering how it has been up until now, the pace from here onward will be . . . No good, no good, recently we've started thinking negatively no matter what. We had an excellent week. If we can catch up now we will be all right.

Today we held a meeting about casting for Howl. I wonder what sort of people they are going to ask for?

12/9/03 (Tues.)

As expected, since animation direction and key animation have been working at different speeds, key animation has caught up with animation direction. This is causing the in-between animators some uneasy thoughts. But, since the animation directors are trying hard tonight to finish up some work, it will be helpful for them to have a little time. This has become a little like a message board, but that's the way things are right now with the Howl production.

12/10/03 (Weds.)

Today was the regular Ghibli general meeting. The topic was, inevitably, the status of Howl. "We're worried about the storyboards falling behind, and about the overall length." Also, from the administration, there were announcements about health examinations and about influenza. "If possible, we'd like everyone to have vaccinations done on their own, but on the off chance that you do come down with the flu, even during the final stretch, please do not feel it is your fault; be sure you are well and then come back to work.["] Quite right. Let's be careful watching our health every day.

12/11/03 (Thurs.)

Watanabe, Mochizuki, and Kamimura from the production team have been working for several days on suspicious activities like preparing data charts, writing reports, and wrapping themselves up in them for private meetings with Suzuki. Well, it must just be about the pinch that the Howl production is in. Ha ha ha.

While keeping an eye on the status of the storyboards, Kamimura called up some key animators he knows to ask how things are elsewhere, but all he found out is that it looks like things are in the same sort of state everywhere.

12/12/03 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. Today there were several cuts which will need retakes. There seem to have been quite a lot lately. With this rush check, we are just short of 400 cuts. With only a little of the year remaining, it seems we might have just one cut too many.

The customary big annual sale for employees. Some are there waiting ten minutes before opening to buy Ghibli merchandise cheaply. Soon after opening, the important items are already sold out. Two or three people look as if they are going to open their own stores. Shimamiya from the administration shouted out "Last chance to buy!" whenever there were only a few left of an item, and with this sort of high-pressure salesmanship, everything sold out.

12/13/03 (Sat.)

The group from production which has been working stealthily for the last few days [see entry for 12/11] left after lunch for a private meeting.

It was decided to set up a animation-checking machine for the use of the production team, so we quickly made preparations. We decided to use a scanner which is not currently being used for finishing. We moved the scanner to the production room. Just when we were getting started, [we realized] that the scanner was only designed for Windows machines. Since we only have Macintosh [scanning] software, our main unit is a Mac. We closed the box we had opened, returned it to the place it came from, and were done for the day.

12/15/03 (Mon.)

The long-awaited additions to the storyboards were finished. But still, this isn't the end. Ah, when will the Howl storyboards be done? We will have a meeting first thing tomorrow with our key animators.

Itoh from the production team decided to buy a Windows machine for his own use. It will have wireless transmission capability so that it can receive mail and connect to the internet even outside. However, Itoh, who doesn't know much about computers, was not able to connect when he subscribed according to the store employee's instructions. Finally, it took two of Ghibli's computer technicians to get it connected. The problem was with the service he had signed up for. Everyone on the production team gave him the apt advice that he would be better off not buying it.

12/16/03 (Tues.)

We quickly set up animation planning meetings for the storyboards which were finished yesterday. In a flash, there were only a few left to do. These storyboards were only finished yesterday, but will there be more before the end of the year? Only the gods know.

12/17/03 (Weds.)

Recently the production rate of key and in-between animation has been extremely good. But since the storyboards are not yet finished, it is hard to judge how much remains to be done. Yet, it seems that the key animation has passed the halfway point. Of course, since the storyboards are still being written, we can't tell what their true position is . . . If they haven't passed that point, what will we do?

Itoh's notebook PC arrived. He quickly opened the box and set it up. As he wiped off the PC and such, the production team teased him, "You're just like a child with a new toy."

12/18/03 (Thurs.)

Key animation production had a slump today. However, since some people were unable to submit cuts which were multiple-use or had connected action, we are looking forward to tomorrow and the day after.

Soon it will be time for New Year's cards. An excited Watanabe said he had to make preparations to send them to various individuals and companies. He bought some business card management software and quickly put everything in order. It was well-done and seemed convenient. The production team was impressed. But, since there were so many addresses, after midnight he said, "I've had enough," letting slip his true feelings.

12/19/03 (Fri.)

The editor Mr. Seyama visited Ghibli and consulted about the editing to be done. You mean there will be a bright future for us?

Today key animation broke through the XXX cut mark. According to the initial plan, it was time to say, "There are XXX cuts left, we've seen the peak!" but since the storyboards are not yet finished, we don't know exactly where we are. Oh, it's always the same thing.

12/20/03 (Sat.)

This week too, thanks to weekend catch-up mode, key animation again got back on the level. It's been a long time since that has happened two weeks in a row. From now on, we are going to ask for even more ["pace plus alpha"]. The year will be over in about two weeks. It's the final spurt! (Maybe a little early, but . . . )

We did a test screening at Ghibli of the House [Foods] commercials. They are supposed to be broadcast starting on January 6th. Everybody, won't you please watch them once?

12/22/03 (Mon.)

When making a feature-length film, one ends up thinking, "Why does a year pass by so quickly?" I've gradually started to feel this especially keenly [lit. "with my skin"]. Whenever this time comes around, one thinks especially wistfully about the year-end and year-beginning. Substantial work will end this week. In the new year, it's full steam ahead! Let's do it!

[No entry for 11/23, the Emperor's birthday]

12/24/03 (Weds.)

Today is Christmas Eve. We had the customary cake for the Ghibli staff. It was one piece per person, but there were various types, and everybody brought his plate and chose the cake he liked.

The production team received a Christmas present too. The key animators finished a total of 11 cuts. Oh, if only every day were Christmas.

12/25/03 (Thurs.)

Today was the final rush check of the year. Unfortunately, we were not able to reach our target number [of cuts]. The difference amounted to about one session's worth. If the production had been just a little bit more orderly, we might have made it.

Producer Watanabe was out with a cold yesterday. He managed somehow to come in today, but was a pitiful sight with his mask. Perhaps because of this, Producer Kamimura, who sits next to him, also started feeling ill, and went home early, saying he would try a Suzuki-style cold cure. How will it turn out?

12/26/03 (Fri.)

Today was cleaning day. We had the newest employees do the grunt work of cleaning the window blinds and screen doors out in the cold winter air. Even if it seems severe, work hard, since tonight is the end-of-year party [lit. "forget-the-year party"].

Animation is fundamentally about drawing pictures on paper, and for this kind of work, sketches are necessary. These drafts are of course not used and end up as trash. While doing the cleaning today, we saw that there was a stack of sketching paper as high as a man's chest. Animation really isn't very good for the planet . . .

12/29/03 (Mon.)

This year has quickly drawn to a close. The staff returned and started working in February, but it seems like scarcely two or three months ago. I remember fondly when the storyboards were being finished at a good rate and we thought they might be finished within the year. It won't help to complain on and on. When the new year begins, we have only seven months until the premiere. The staff is going to work hard together, so please look forward to it.

[No entries for 12/30/03 through 1/4/04 because of New Year holiday]

1/5/04 (Mon.)

Greetings and all best wishes for the new year from Studio Ghibli. It is finally the year of the Howl premiere. Since today was the first day of work, Director Miyazaki had the staff gather in the first-floor lounge for a greeting and pep talk. Since, no matter what, we have half a year to finish, this is the crucial stage. The staff will all buckle down and work their hardest.

1/6/04 (Tues.)

Starting yesterday, the backgrounds have started to be finished at a good pace. This is a happy thing for the production. And the animation director's shelves of finished work, which had started getting a little empty around the end of the year, started to fill up a little again. But since we are far behind in all aspects of the production, the question of how we are to rally is a big problem.

1/7/04 (Weds.)

The first Ghibli meeting of the year was held. Producer Suzuki told us that the Howl storyboards were not yet finished, and that we are in a severe situation, both in terms of how much work there is to do and how much time we have. Indeed, to be this far along and not have the storyboards finished really is a severe situation.

1/8/04 (Thurs.)

Since initial editing for Howl begins early next month, after checking the status of all the material currently being worked on, we held a strategy meeting along with the assistant producer. We decided that, to pull together production and in-between animation, etc., we would check the rest of the week to make sure there were no missing cuts.

1/9/04 (Fri.)

We held the first rush check of the year today. There were a few retakes this time. As Director Miyazaki says, there are always a few places to worry about. Now that we've switched to digital, the resolution is better than when we were using film, but now we notice things we wouldn't have noticed before, and once we've noticed them, there's nothing to do [but fix them]. Is digital more convenient or less?

1/10/04 (Sat.)

The first weekend of the year. The production rate of the key animators was just as expected. For the first week, that's good, but if we keep the same pace from here on, we won't make it. Does anyone have any ideas?

[No entry for 1/12]

1/13/04 (Tues.)

Today was the annual breaking of the New Year's rice cakes. We gathered up all the rice cakes which had been put up as decoration before the New Year and made zenzai [a sweet soup made with red beans and rice cake]. For whatever reason, we couldn't eat all of this year's zenzai.

Perhaps they had been saving it up on their desks, but a lot of key animation was finished today, even though it was the beginning of the week. The production team gave a group scream of delight.

1/14/04 (Weds.)

Since so much key animation was finished yesterday, today was . . . We'll look forward to this weekend.

Looking back at recent diary entries, I see "the storyboards . . . " written like some sort of incantation. However, in truth, the whole production cannot go ahead without the storyboards. Please give us the storyboards. (Like with Spirited Away)

1/15/04 (Thurs.)

Since things seemed to be about to hit bottom, we had the in-between animators, whose turnover has been bad, come here temporarily, and the situation is returning to normal. Today, nearly the planned number of in-between drawings was finished. Now, if only this will lend some momentum to the whole animation team . . .

1/16/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. This time, there were more than 40 cuts. It hasn't been that spectacular for a long while. If we don't keep checking at this rate . . .

Suddenly, the storyboards we were waiting and waiting for were finished. Oh, how we waited. The final count ended at 1400 cuts, and with that, we will be able to determine the number of cuts remaining. We breathed a sigh of relief that the cut count wasn't any higher than expected.

1/17/04 (Sat.)

Today the first (?) snow of the year fell. Boy, it's cold. Since the whole staff now knows, of course, that the storyboards are complete, the atmosphere has started to gradually lighten up.

We had the internal key animators finish up the work they had on hand, and quickly held an animation planning meeting.

[No entry for 1/19/04]

1/20/04 (Tues.)

Today was the day for health checkups at Ghibli. As a rule, the men start in the afternoon, but they can't eat anything after seven in the morning. Drinking water and smoking are forbidden too. A number of people were showing withdrawal symptoms. I was one of them, and felt keenly the difficulty of enduring something.

Now, I'm eating at the talked-about beef bowl restaurant. The production team has always praised this treasure, saying "tasty, cheap, fast" in a three-beat rhythm . . . For the moment, everything is going well and the checkups are over, so I decided to go and eat. Furthermore, the moment my checkup was done, I dashed out, ordered the new pork rice dish, and finished it off. If there are any ill consequences, well, you reap what you sow.

1/21/04 (Weds.)

Editing starts next month and has started to weigh on our minds. In order to prepare the necessary materials, Imura, Saitoh, and Itoh from the production team are hurriedly struggling with the in-between checking machine which was installed in the production room.

As for the health checkups, Kamimura, whose has fundamental problems with his dietary habits and lifestyle, has gotten all A's for several years. Shimamiya-san from Administration got angry at this failure of the infinite reliability of Ghibli health checkups, and said "Produce some proper results this year!" But, what does "proper results" mean?

1/22/04 (Thurs.)

Because of the rush, we set up some more desks in the background artists' area, but the table they usually share with the publishing division had to be put in storage for a while. It's big enough for four people to eat at. Since it was wrapped in trash bags to guard against dust, it kept slipping while we were carrying it. (Oh, is that word "slipping" forbidden at a time like this?)

We always empty out the umbrella stand during the year-end cleaning. The administration division has been keeping it in order ever since New Year's. Since there were a good number of broken umbrellas, they gathered them all up and put them in the trash. The rest of them can be used as normal. Yet, even though it happens every year, it's still mysterious how so many ownerless umbrellas get left here each year.

1/23/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check was held. This time, including retakes [from last week], there were more than 50 cuts. Perhaps when there are more cuts, there are more retakes . . . A few more retakes [will have to be done this week] than usual.

After the rush check, Okui-san, who works on photography, and Mochizuki-san, who has been looking after finishing and digitizing by himself, held a planning meeting regarding editing, which is to begin in two weeks.

1/26/04 (Mon.)

Perhaps because last Saturday was a day off for Ghibli, the key animators and in-between animators both completed some work today. From a production point of view, this is good news, but we immediately start thinking dark thoughts about when the reaction is going to come.

1/27/04 (Tues.)

The internal key animators are working just about on schedule. Two people finished the work they had on hand. Tomorrow, we will do the supplemental processing.

The production team are pushovers when it comes to cheap sweets. Both yesterday and today, we stopped by the convenience store to buy cheap sweets. Perhaps we should have a tasting session first thing in the morning?

1/28/04 (Weds.)

The animators are finishing work at a constant rate, and if you compare it to "Spirited Away," the pace is improved at the same time in a similar way. If we keep it up, it will feel just as it did with "Spirited Away."

The key animators who finished the work they had on hand yesterday had an animation planning meeting first thing in the morning. Only a little bit left.

1/29/04 (Thurs.)

Every key animator has his own way of drawing and his own way of handing over finished work. Today, one of the animators, who always bundles his work together before handing it over, handed over the cuts he was working on bundled together. Even though he does it every time, it's always impressive.

Again, the in-between animators are striving to catch up with the animation directors. The animation directors will have to think of some kind of countermeasure before they get caught.

1/30/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. We've now reached the 600 cut level. But that's not yet half. There's a long way left to go.

It seems that influenza is spreading among staff members and their families. Since the real final stretch is still ahead, when you go home, gargle, keep warm, and make sure the humidity in your house is at an appropriate level when you sleep. Let's take care of our health and work hard.

1/31/04 (Sat.)

Today is the end of January. It goes by too fast, and while turning the page of the calendar, I have a sudden feeling of heaviness.

Itoh from the production team is preparing the drawings [line drawings only, since Ghibli no longer uses cels] for editing, working uncompromisingly, like a monomaniac, until everything is done to his satisfaction.

2/2/04 (Mon.)

Since some key animators came in yesterday to finish up the work they had on hand, we started first thing in the morning with animation planning meetings. It's the last spurt!

Actually, those cuts are part of the material to be edited the day after tomorrow. We'll have to finish the rest up quickly as soon as animation direction is completed. Will we be able to finish checking them by tomorrow?

[No entry labeled 2/3/04, but, from the references to "tomorrow's editing," at least the first two parts of the following entry should be for this date]

2/4/04 (Weds.)

For the sake of tomorrow's editing, we held a hurried rush check. Even if we can only get a few more cuts into photography, the editing will at least be that much easier.

Tomorrow's editing is getting closer and closer. With the help of people from every division, we were able to assemble all the necessary materials without any major problems. All that remains is to wait for tomorrow's editing.

The internal key animators had animation planning meetings again today. Only a little remains.

2/5/04 (Thurs.)

Up until now, material was submitted to the key animators one sheet at a time, but today, animation direction finished up a large amount. This is the highest one-day output that we've had yet. With that, the key animators will also be able to finish up work according to plan.

From afternoon on, yesterday's editing continued. They are going to review it one more time and shorten it further.

2/6/04 (Fri.)

The final day of editing ended without any major problems. Next is the music planning meeting with Mr. Hisaishi. After the music planning meeting, there is the production problem of dividing the reels. Normally, editing is done after preparing for it with music planning and reel division, but this time, because of time problems, we are doing editing first. Normally, using these [music planning and reel division] as reference, we would be able to decide on editing lengths, leaving ample to spare, but when we did reel division, we used everything we had edited this time. We've run out of surplus for the next time. I hope this doesn't cause any problems later. Well, let's hurry and get everything set up for the next editing session.

2/7/04 (Sat.)

There's a "photography completed" shelf for the use of the production team, and when we started on Howl, we set aside as much space as we thought we would need, but our estimate was extraordinarily bad, and lately we have started to run out of places to put material. Today, we hurriedly bought a new shelf and started putting it together in the evening, but it still doesn't feel like it will be enough. What will we do?

2/9/04 (Mon.)

These past few days, the pace of the in-between animation has not increased as expected and the pinch has continued, but today a bundle of in-between animation was finally finished. Production has started to gradually feel a little relieved, but we're still in a pinch. Since the beginning of editing is an urgent matter, we'll have to urge on and check the key animators and in-between animators insistently and thoroughly from now on.

2/10/04 (Tues.)

Editing of R-1 and R-2 was finished without incident, but there's still more editing waiting. We will decide the schedule for the next editing session based on the progress of key animation.

Even if the editing time and date are set, editing cannot begin without material. We'll have to talk about the schedule with the key animators working on material involved in the next editing session, and blast our way through.

2/12/04 (Thurs.)

Since the tracing machine broke down before the holiday, we contacted the manufacturer today and had parts sent. But, until the parts arrive, since it wouldn't do not to be able to use the machine, we carried out some emergency first aid. It was unusually effective, and we are able to use the machine without any problems. Still, since it was only an on-the spot fix, when the parts arrive, we still plan to repair it.

2/13/04 (Fri.)

Today was Friday the 13th. In the world at large, this day is not seen as being too lucky a day, but from a production standpoint, it was just the reverse. Including retakes, the number of cuts in the regular rush check was 90, the highest so far. We passed the halfway mark in the overall number of cuts. Furthermore, today the key animators finally passed the 1000-cut mark. There are about 400 cuts remaining. There's a long way left to go, but it still feels as if we have passed a milestone. We will work hard to avoid a slackening of spirits and not to slow down.

[No entry for 2/11/04, Foundation Day]

2/14/04 (Sat.)

Two weekends running, the key animation output has increased, but if you compare it with Spirited Away... Up until now, the key animation for Spirited Away at the equivalent time was always ahead, but it looks as if next week we will exceed that mark.

Today was Valentine's Day. "Love-filled" chocolates in great quantities were placed here and there around the office. Some people even ate too much and skipped dinner.

2/16/04 (Mon.)

At the regular production meeting, it was reported that the in-between animation production rate had surpassed 6000 sheets. However, because last week was slow, if you average it out, the weekly rate is just at the planned rate, and we are still in a pinch.

If you compare the key animation rate to Spirited Away at the same time, we are only one cut ahead. If we don't work hard this week, we will really fall behind. Hmm...

2/17/04 (Tues.)

Today, the last animation planning meeting was finally held. Since the internal key animators finished more quickly than was planned, we hurriedly had an animation planning meeting. It ended without incident.

Itoh stayed late to take care of photography for the next editing session. There was a sudden scream of "Aggh!" It seems the machine somehow froze. Since there was nothing to be done, we had to reset the machine. "The data . . . Give me back my two hours," muttered Itoh. When we checked the machine after resetting, somehow the data was restored. Everyone, please be sure to save your data.

2/18/04 (Weds.)

Just when we thought we would fall into catch-up mode, the production rate for layout and key animation started to rise a little. The main staff checked the material right away and got it back to the key animators the same day. Things have started to move a little more quickly.

The runners' trips to pick up work from outside have started to go more quickly. This is a secret, but due to irregularities, sometimes two people have been sent to the same place at different times. What a waste.

2/19/04 (Thurs.)

Ugh, when I just wrote yesterday about not falling into catch-up mode, suddenly today nothing is getting finished. Wait, surely everything will come bundled together tomorrow or the day after. Definitely it will.

In-between animation has nearly caught up with animation direction. If they catch up, there will be no material for in-between animation checking and nothing to send on for finishing. We made contact with the animators both inside and outside the studio in order to gather all the material.

2/20/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. This time, since there was only the usual number of cuts, it felt short somehow.

The weekend dash? Layout and key animation started to be finished. Since we have been checking (pushing) the key animators, quite a bit of material was finished this week, but tomorrow will probably be irregular (better than usual, of course).

2/21/04 (Sat.)

Since animation direction braced themselves firm this week, they completed a huge amount of material. Although you couldn't say that the key animators also completed a "huge amount," still, they completed nearly the planned amount. Background and in-between animation hit a valley this week. They'll have to recover next week somehow.

2/23/04 (Mon.)

The amount of key animation completed finally fell behind Spirited Away. When we were doing Spirited Away, there was a miraculous rise in production rate. It looks like we will be waiting for the Howl animators to catch up.

The week after next's editing is drawing closer. We have to check the status of all parts, and if there are any problems, fix them this week somehow.

2/24/04 (Tues.)

One of the key animators we had working in the studio finished up all of the work he had on hand without incident.

The key animators who had animation planning meetings this month finished up layouts. We'd like to finish up all the layouts by the end of this month.

2/25/04 (Weds.)

Finally, background art passed the 1000-cut mark. But there are still nearly 400 cuts to go. From here on, it's a race against time.

As if to keep the pressure on the background artists, the remaining finished layouts came bundled together today. Once we check them, the production team will make copies. Tomorrow we'll have to have a photocopying rally.

2/26/04 (Thurs.)

The expected photocopying rally for the checked layouts. Because we're in the state we're in, even layouts completed this morning were checked and returned this afternoon. We have to make copies quickly and hurry on to the next section.

2/27/04 (Fri.)

Tomorrow is Ghibli's regular Saturday off. Some people will come to work, but today is the real end of February. Before work on Howl started, we planned to have all key animation finished by the end of February. What with the delayed storyboards and such, we are only now nearly finished with layout. But since all of the key animators working on layouts will now be working on animation, next month on should be...

The regular rush check. There were no major problems this week either. But, since the number of cuts was less than last week, we did say to ourselves, "That was short, wasn't it," without thinking. We're sorry that the production team's planning for cut flow has been so bad the last two weeks. Next week, we'll definitely...

3/1/04 (Mon.)

Well, it's March. It's time for the stretch. Today's in-between animation output was extremely good. Because of that, the animation direction shelves are empty. Tonight and tomorrow, we'll have to have animation direction put in some hard work.

This is my personal feeling, but it seems that when things go well at the start, unexpected things tend to happen afterwards, producing this sort of unease, but maybe I'm thinking about it too much.

3/2/04 (Tues.)

Layout was finished without incident. Only one part of the animation process is done, but it feels like much more. There's still a long way to go, but we have really passed a milestone. Still, there are many more milestones to go.

In-between animation output in contrast to yesterday was... However, it looks like output will be good again tomorrow. Recently, differences from one day to the next have been extreme.

3/3/04 (Weds.)

Today was Hinamatsuri [The Doll Festival, a traditional holiday for girls], but for the production team, which is made up entirely of men, there were no flower decorations, no traditional sweets, only preparation for next Monday's editing session, being sure nothing had been overlooked, preparing the photography, and checking everything, just an ordinary day at work.

3/4/04 (Thurs.)

Key animation passed the 300-cuts-remaining mark, and animation direction passed the 400-cuts-remaining mark. We also finished preparing the material for reel three. All we have to do is check it and gather everything together. However, it feels as if the amount of material to be photographed has increased. From here on out, it's a race against time.

3/5/04 (Fri.)

With today's rush check, we finally passed the 800-cut mark.

These last few days, we have been walking a tightrope because of animation direction output and the amount of material ready for the in- between animators. Today, we thought we had accumulated a little bit of material, but there was soon a telephone call [from in-between animators] asking for new work. We were happy to get the call, but we had mixed feelings.

3/6/04 (Sat.)

For the weekend collection of in-between animation, we had to send production assistants out one after another. The cars never stopped running. But, with that, we have recovered from the dip over the last two weeks in in-between animation output.

There will be an editing session early next week, and it looks as if we will be on time with the necessary material. But, since editing of the next reel is planned for the end of this month, we still have to continue checking and encouraging the key animators and in-between animators every day.

3/8/04 (Mon.)

The editing session for reel three was held today. After watching it all the way through, work began. Since there was a cut whose timing they wanted to play with, we looked for the photographed cut, but couldn't find it. Perhaps it was still in the photography room? But it wasn't there. Perhaps in finishing? Of course it wasn't there either. Then we looked for it in the production team's "out" area. We still couldn't find it, but finally we discovered it on a key animator's desk. We brought it back to use as reference, but since of course there was no reason to think that a key animator had taken it on his own, the production team's organization of cuts was called into question. So that this doesn't happen in the future, we quickly prepared a lending chart.

3/9/04 (Tues.)

We passed it, we passed it, we passed it. Finally, animation direction output passed 100,000 sheets. At last, a year and a month into the production of Howl's Moving Castle, we reached the plateau. However, since the situation with the amount of material ready for the in-between animators hasn't improved, we still aren't at ease. There are still XXXXX cuts to go, so please work hard, animation directors.

3/10/04 (Weds.)

Reel three editing was completed without incident. Except for the first day's cut search, there were no major problems. In two weeks, editing for reel four begins. Time is tight.

With the expected (?) slump in in-between animation output, the in-between animation inspectors ran out of material. Until more in-between animation arrives, they will help with the in-between animation work. This is a bad time for in-between animation output to have a slump.

3/11/04 (Thurs.)

Falling behind animation direction these last few days, material ready for in-between animation finally passed 100,000 sheets. Since the end of the year, preparation of this material has stuck close to animation direction output. There has been almost no time gap. This is ideal for the production team, but if timing slips just a little...

Yesterday's slump in in-between animation continued. However, today was happily irregular, and internal and external in-between animation output did improve a little.

3/12/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. For reference, we included the title cut and the main titles. There are still plenty of cuts remaining, but still, there was momentary feeling that we were approaching the end. We are roughly two-thirds of the way through rush checks, and there are only a few more months to go.

3/13/04 (Sat.)

With the weekend rush, we thought the key animators would reach their goal, but unfortunately, they were one cut short. Next week...

Actually, there was a traffic accident on Thursday, but then there was another accident today! A chain reaction of accidents? Since we're going to get busier and busier from here on, we told everyone to be careful when driving. We want to stay at "low tension" and avoid the situation of having cars in repair for several hours.

At the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art, where the "Ball-Joint Dolls Exhibition" was being held, there was an interview event with Mamoru Oshii and the dancer Setsuko Yamada. Because of the influence of Innocence, which premiered last weekend, an unexpected flood of over two thousand people came to see the doll exhibition itself, so the event was a great success. [for more information (in Japanese) and photos of the exhibition (now over) see and]

3/15/04 (Mon.)

I wrote last weekend about accidents, but this morning there was another call about an accident. This time, it wasn't a car, but a bicycle. Someone commuting to the studio was hit by a bicycle which had run through a stop sign. Somehow this person was hit on the jaw, showed symptoms of light head trauma, and was taken to the hospital. It turned out to be nothing serious, and he returned home safely today. Everyone, be sure not to ignore stop signs just because you are on a bicycle. One accident every other day. Perhaps we should have an exorcism ritual...

3/16/04 (Tues.)

From the beginning of the week, key animation output has been good. With this pace, the production team hopes to meet its goals this week, and Kamimura has been busily making the rounds to the key animators.

As for the accident mentioned yesterday, everything has turned out fine today. However, according to schedule (?), tomorrow something...

3/17/04 (Weds.)

This week's key animation output is in a so-so state. If the production team were to say what it wanted, we would say, "No matter what, we'd like to pass the 200-cuts-remaining mark this week."

Since a strong wind was blowing today, we were not able to open the windows in the animation or production rooms for the whole day on account of dust. It was hot all day.

3/18/04 (Thurs.)

Just a little more, and we will have readied 1000 cuts for finishing. However, these last few days, animation direction output has been... After all, working without a break causes fatigue. But from here on stand fast, just one more stretch, work hard. (Sorry, it's easy when all you have to do is say it.)

With the recent sudden temperature changes, some people have not been feeling well. Certainly, when the temperature difference from the day before is nearly 10 degrees [18 F deg.], that's not unreasonable. (Or perhaps it's hay fever.)

3/19/04 (Fri.)

Whew. Finally 1000 cuts have gone into finishing, and furthermore, there are now fewer than 200 cuts of key animation left. We're a little behind schedule, but still, the end is in sight.

I've written this any number of times, but this is about mounting cells with the "harmony" treatment [not quite clear on this, but from what I was able to glean from looking at some examples at the Ghibli Museum, this involves painting on the reverse side of a clear sheet to produce a certain effect . . . please let me know if anyone knows more about this] on the machine. There were two cuts this morning with "harmony" treatments. A total of 18 sheets. However, to be safe, for each sheet of in-between animation, we put two sheets on the machine. That is to say, 36 sheets. Because of that, two people put their sheets for the two cuts on in turn, but they finally did it. The machine broke down partway through, the cels melted, and the in-between animation was stained. They went right away to apologize to the in-between animators and inspectors, and were told, "That's all right," but the production team needs to be a little more careful with its work from now on.

3/22/04 (Mon.)

Last week, we greatly exceeded our target output of key animation. If we can keep going at this rate, the future will be bright.

The yearly cherry blossom viewing picnic. But with this weather and these temperatures, flower viewing is thoroughly impossible. There was nothing to be done, and we ate inside. Well, nobody can tell what it will be like until the day arrives.

3/23/04 (Tues.)

Animation direction passed the 300-cuts-remaining mark. Still, the schedule is tight. We hope to increase our pace.

3/24/04 (Weds.)

Repairs were completed on the car which we sent out to be repaired because of the accident, and it came back. With that, the Ghibli parking lot has returned to its usual appearance. There's still time left, but we will soon become truly busy. Looking at the arrayed cars, one of the producers whispers, "Please, don't go anywhere for a while."

The Tokyo International Animation Fair starts tomorrow at Big Sight [Tokyo International Exhibition Center], so we loaded up cars with materials for our booth and set off for Big Sight.

3/25/04 (Thurs.)

This morning we did a little redecoration of our offices. There was nothing in the production or animation areas; it was only a little change. We had to set up desks, and Watanabe, Saitoh, and Itoh from Production pulled out desks from storage, but this morning, several errands came up, and Watanabe-san ended up alone. Even though it would have been fine for him to wait until everyone had returned, he carried the desks in by himself and strained his back. All afternoon, you could see him walking here and there around the studio in an ominous pose, trying to keep his balance. Looks like he hasn't gotten enough exercise. Please, everybody, let's do some light exercise every day, even if only a little.

The Animation Fair started today. Since today and tomorrow are business days, the staff of the merchandising division and the international business office also went to Big Sight. The number of foreigners attending this year was striking.

3/26/04 (Fri.)

Not long now until the big finale for the key animators. The animators we had come from outside to help are finishing too, and desks have started to clear off one by one.

The background artists are rushing ferociously. Fewer than 200 cuts remaining.

3/27/04 (Sat.)

The Big Sight Animation Fair continued today. General admission started today, so families came in crowds. Allegro's two-meter version of Howl's castle was especially popular. Photography is supposed to be forbidden at the Anime Fair, but there was a storm of commemorative photos being taken. Well, it's not as if we are going to run out, so what's the harm?

3/28/04 (Sun.)

Last day of the Animation Fair. There were great crowds of people today too, and even the passageways were packed. It ended without incident at 4:30 p.m., and we set about striking our exhibit. By eight, the Ghibli booth and nearly all the other booths had been dismantled. That was fast!

3/29/04 (Mon.)

Today editing began on reel four. However, animation direction wasn't finished until this morning. The animation directors and Itoh from Production stayed up all night. Because of that, editing could start this morning. Thanks for your hard work.

3/30/02 (Tues.)

The new interns start the day after tomorrow. We have to prepare material for their training. When we checked, we discovered that there were still two or three things missing, and hurried to purchase or order them.

In-between work has been a little slow lately, but started to get moving. The Production team is desperate to get the last few remaining parts finished.

3/31/04 (Weds.)

No matter how much science advances, there is one thing human beings will never be able to do. That is, to stop time. Ah, March is over! Editing was completed up to reel four without any problems, but the rest... Dubbing is scheduled to begin next month. Scheduling is the only thing going smoothly.

4/1/04 (Thurs.)

April begins today. There are new employees at Ghibli. Four animators, two finishers, and one background artist, for a total of seven. There was a ceremony for the new arrivals at noon, and they were introduced to the staff. They will be interns all year, but hopefully they will work hard so that they can become regular staff.

From now on, there will be a countdown chart on the schedule. The number of cuts remaining will be written on it every day. May that number soon be zero.

4/2/04 (Fri.)

Today would normally be the regular rush check, but it was cancelled because there was a problem with the machine. It looks like we'll have to call a specialist. I've got a bad feeling about this.

The interns' real training began today. We thought that the production team would just have to set up the necessary materials and say "we're done," but then we realized that an essential Z light had not been put in. We scurried to install it.

4/3/04 (Sat.)

We did the rush check we were not able to do yesterday. 1000 cuts, and still more? The in-betweeners also hurried and started to finish up some work.

Today was the last weekend of spring vacation. Time for cherry blossoms. But that life has no connection to those heading out to collect work. It's a little irritating being a traffic jam.

4/5/04 (Mon.)

Again today two key animators we hired from outside finished up the work they had on hand and left. Gradually, desks at the studio are starting to empty out, and it's a little lonely. But even if the desks were full, no matter how late we worked, we'd be in trouble.

Production meeting first thing in the morning. The topic was the balance between the number or days remaining and the number of cuts remaining. Since key animators are leaving every day, of course the pace isn't improving. What is the production team to do?

4/6/04 (Tues.)

A sudden valley. The key animators' production rate was bad. But, since animation direction's rate was also bad, even if they had been faster they couldn't have accomplished any more. Will this dilemma continue all week?

Key animation passed the 120-cuts-remaining mark. Not far to the goal now.

4/7/04 (Weds.)

When editing begins, though it is something that happens every time, the number of drawings to be photographed in the latter half of the reel increases. Since there are no staff members specifically for this task, the production team takes care of it, but the older Kamimura is a problem. The younger staff can do the work quickly, but Kamimura, who has not quite got the knack of it, consults others whenever something comes up. He works about three times as slowly. Hurry up and get used to it!

4/8/04 (Thurs.)

The monthly Ghibli meeting. There is a report that we have fallen a little behind the original plan. Even though we already know it, we check progress every day against the cut-count chart.

The in-between animators, who already were walking a tightrope, now are walking on a spider's thread. While being nervous about it, we still urge the in-betweeners on. Before something snaps, won't somebody put out some more wire?

4/9/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. Since the production rate has been bad lately, we were not able to reach the 1000 cut mark. However, we have to be sure to be able to do it by next time.

Soon there will be fewer than 100 cuts for the key animators to finish. No matter what, they are sure to pass that mark this week.

4/10/04 (Sat.)

Finally, the key animators passed the 100-cuts-remaining mark. If you compare the remaining time to the number of cuts remaining, we are still in a tight spot, but the production team was relieved to see that they reached that plateau.

4/12/04 (Mon.)

There are now only 300 cuts remaining to be finished. But from here on... There are fewer key animators working now, and the animation directors will soon reach their peak. We worry that from here on the pace will slow. Is it possible that the pace will not slow this time?

4/13/04 (Tues.)

You have probably already seen it in the newspapers, but today was the presentation of the voice cast. Everybody definitely go and see the film in the theater once it is finished!

A pinch!! The key animation inspectors have no more cuts on hand. There will be some to finish tomorrow, but only a few cuts. Since by the day after tomorrow they will be finished with everything they have, we have to get ahead before then. The production rate has become uneven in parts where the content has gotten dense. We have to think of some strategy. Perhaps tomorrow will be irregular...

4/14/04 (Weds.)

Well, perhaps it is inevitable that as the key animators run out of cuts on hand and the number of key animators becomes fewer, the number of cuts they finish also naturally diminishes. It's inevitable. Ah, the number of cuts looks small. Since there is nothing to be done about it, we understand, but it's still serious.

4/15/04 (Thurs.)

From morning on there was nothing on the animation direction shelves. Today is a real race against time. Which will be faster, animation direction or in-between animation? By evening, it turned out that there was a little bit of material left on the animation direction shelves. There's never been a day when we were more relieved to see something left on the animation direction shelves.

4/16/04 (Fri.)

Animation direction has now finished more than 120,000 sheets. However, considering the content that remains, there are still some ten thousands of sheets to go. Well --

Recording is proceeding according to schedule, but because of that, the amount of time for checking and such has decreased. We feel this dilemma every time.

4/17/04 (Sat.)

Because of recording and such, the rush check was postponed until today. Today we passed the 1000-cut mark. A little fewer than 400 cuts remain.

As with the past several weeks running, there was a weekend dash today too. But this week it was not only the key animators but also animation direction. The animation direction shelves were getting a little sparse, but today, we were put at ease. Lately we have been worried when there is material finished by the in-between animators waiting on the shelves, but for today...

4/19/04 (Mon.)

Every Monday we hold a regular production meeting. When Imura left the studio as usual to gather data, his phone rang, and it was Kamimura saying "Sorry. I tore a fingernail, so I'll be a little late," in a moaning voice. Kamimura invites disaster. But it's too bad for Imura that he had to listen to that story first thing in the morning. Kamimura tore his toenail once too. What will be next?!

Animation direction passed 1200 cuts. Since I had a moment, I checked the records for Spirited Away, and it looks like we are at about the same point. Oh, will history repeat itself?

4/20/04 (Tues.)

The number of cuts is still low, but on the second day of the week we have already finished up half the number of frames we did last week. Since the number of frames in a cut naturally increases in the second half, this is only natural, but it will still take time to inspect that much. The in-between animators, who have been empty-handed until recently are very busy. Sorry the difference between the mountains and valleys is so great.

One more of the internal key animators finished up the cuts he had on hand. With that, we are down to a 12-man team.

4/21/04 (Weds.)

Now, everything depends on the key animators, and they have started giving priority to cuts which look like they might be able to be finished quickly. Key animation from the final cut was finished today. There are still 50 cuts or more to be done, but there's a "We've finally made it to here" feeling.

Watanabe and Kamimura, the gluttons of the production team, bought a baumkuchen. Kamimura was inspired by something he heard on the radio, but Watanabe also was very interested and they bought one right away. Since they bought the biggest one they could find, the production team ate it as a group. "Definitely delicious" was the verdict.

4/22/04 (Thurs.)

Today recording was finished up to reel four without any problems. Mr. Miyazaki set aside some time for the recording session. But since we will not be able to do the next recording session until we have finished checking everything, we expect him to spend several hours helping with the checking in order that we can finish checking all cuts even one day earlier.

4/23/04 (Fri.)

Today was the regular rush check. There were several retakes and re-retakes as the result of recording. Indeed, there's no way of avoiding that happening.

Live recording for Howl began today. Since hats are necessary, Itoh from production went out to buy them, but they were difficult to find. He went to about thirty stores before he finally found one. Thanks for your hard work.

4/26/04 (Mon.)

Ghibli uses a Mac-based in-between animation checker, and recently, whenever one particular person uses it, it locks up. When someone from production starts it up again and uses it to verify that it is working, there are no problems. However, when this person uses it again, it locks up . . . The production team calls her "Miss Freeze." Whenever she stops the machine, time stops: "Miss Freeze."

4/27/04 (Tues.)

Fewer than 50 cuts of key animation remain. We can breathe again. But since we expected to be finished with key animation by the end of the month, we're really still in a tight situation. How much will we be able to compress the completion of the final key animation?

4/28/04 (Weds.)

Editing on reel five was successfully completed. It was relieving to find out that there were no major retakes necessary. All that are left are reels six and seven.

Before Mr. Kamimura goes home each day, he organizes data on the status of that day's cuts. Then he records the information on a status chart he makes himself. But recently, this job has been taking less time. One would think that this is because he has been doing it for a year and is used to it, but actually, the amount of information he records is decreasing. "That's because when I'm writing down the information recently, I've started talking to myself more," is his explanation.

[No entry for 4/29/04, Green Day]

4/30/04 (Fri.) [mistakenly listed as Thursday]

It's Golden Week. Definitely, in the outside world, it's Golden Week. The runners who went out to pick up work took a long time to return. When asked on their return what had happened, they said that traffic jams had sprung up in places where normally they never occur. Ah, it looks like picking up work for the next few days is going to be tough.

Finally, fewer than 30 cuts of key animation remain. One more stretch to go.

The regular rush check was held. With that, just over 300 cuts to go. Hm.

5/1/04 (Sat.)

Premixing on reels 1 - 4 began today. This is putting sound into pictures for which the voice recording has been completed. It's a strange "finally!" or "at last!" or "still?" sort of feeling.

Tomorrow, according to the calendar, is the beginning of a four-day weekend. But, at Ghibli, when a feature film is in production, as usual, we have no holiday. From here on, every day is important.

5/3/04 (Mon.)

The exact middle of Golden Week. But at Ghibli today is a regular working day. We can't let up until we are finished. However, when you go out to pick up work and see how the streets are jammed, you realize...

5/4/04 (Tues.)

Today was a regular working day for the staff. To change the topic, the wind was terribly strong today. Just before Golden Week began, the production team was saying that they didn't care if it rained or not, but we didn't expect it to be like this. Our sincere apologies to everyone who isn't working.

5/5/04 (Weds.)

Today is May 5th, Children's Day. For the staff working during the holiday, we had kashiwa-mochi [rice cakes filled with bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves, traditionally eaten on this day] brought in. We know that some of you have children at home, so thanks for your hard work. But if we keep this up, everyone will start expecting kashiwa-mochi every Children's Day.

I've only written about Ghibli here, but those working outside the studio have also given up their holidays to work. With their help, in-between animation output was the same as on a normal day. Many sincere thanks for working through the holiday (from the production team).

5/6/04 (Thurs.)

For the past few days, animation direction output has been extremely good. During the holidays, material had started piling up a little on the animation direction shelves, but today it started going off to the in-between animators as usual. "Grow up into in-between animation and come back soon!" hopes the production team.

5/7/05 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. It was completed without incident. Looking at the number of cuts remaining, how many more times... No, the way we should think about it is, how many cuts do we need to do at each session in order to make it on time.

Of course, as the rush checks continue, cuts for which photography has been completed come out. The production team organizes these by cut number, but soon, we're going to run out of room. Looking at the number of remaining cuts, there definitely won't be enough. What should we do?

5/8/04 (Sat.)

Only a little bit more, and key animation will be complete. Just one more burst of energy and... That won't do, will it. Even when key animation is completed, there's still a long process to go afterwards. Still, it feels as if we have passed over one great mountain.

5/10/04 (Mon.)

Key animation remaining is finally down to the single digits. Animation direction passed the 100-cuts-remaining mark, too. The end of the whole has started to come clearly into sight.

Postproduction will be moving its work area on the 1st. I seem to remember them moving last year too. They're like nomads, wandering around Ghibli.

5/11/04 (Tues.)

We've been worrying about it, and finally we have run out of space to put the key animation and the cuts which have been photographed. With effort, we can fit the cuts which have been photographed onto the shelf, but even that will only do until the next rush check. There's nowhere to put the key animation drawings. In any case, we've organized them and lined them up. We urgently need to buy some shelves.

5/12/04 (Weds.)

The regular rush check was held. We touched on this before, but there are only a few cuts of key animation remaining. We should be mostly done this week. There are now four people working on key animation. The last person was holding animation planning meetings with the others. [?] However, the number of cuts he has on hand is also in the single digits. [For the key animators] as a whole, also in the single digits. Last week, we started to have days when no key animation was completed, which felt a little lonely, but this is something which happens every time. It's because forty-five people have been reduced to four.

5/13/04 (Thurs.)

An irregular rush check was held. This was so that we could, to a certain point, gather up what was checked and burn the data into film. The rush check ended without incident, we arranged the data, and took it to the developing room. It's finally time for it to become film.

In order to organize the production team's storage area, new shelves were bought. However, beyond these new ones, no more shelves will fit into the storeroom. Well, what should we do about the remaining cuts? Should we secretly expand the storeroom?!

5/14/04 (Fri.)

The animator Ohhashi's long-awaited child was born. And what's more, it was a boy, something very rare for Ghibli men. There have been boys born in marriages within the company before, but this is possibly the first time a boy has been born when the wife was from outside the company. Work hard, Ohhashi, for the sake of your wife and child!

5/15/04 (Sat.)

The first time we have received completed key animation for some time. Considering the content of the cuts being worked on by the remaining three, this is probably the pace we should expect. However, progressing when we are down to single digits is...

A pinch. The in-between animation we expected to be finished today was all delayed. Internal and external in-between animators all worked over the holidays, so perhaps they are a little fatigued. However, at this rate, the in-between animation supervisors and finishers will soon have nothing to work on, so we expect them to be done Monday.

5/17/04 (Mon.)

We shifted the photographed cuts to the production storeroom. Thank you, we're full! We'll have to buy more shelves and install them in another area. Since there are more sheets than for Spirited Away of course places to put them [are running out].

5/18/04 (Tues.)

At last, the big finish for director checking and animation direction work. Just the last scene and various cuts which have accumulated are left. Naturally, this will take a little more time than it has up until now. While I am writing this diary entry, I glance over at the shelf of cuts for which animation direction has been completed, and it is empty. Will the rope, which up until now we thought might break but didn't, finally break? As if to kick them when they are down, large quantities of completed in-between animation started coming in. It's both happy and sad.

5/19/04 (Weds.)

Animation direction work has also progressed quite a bit, and the final frame count is coming into sight, but it will be bigger than was initially planned. We produced projected frame counts at important points, but animation direction output for the last few days has had more frames than expected, and considering the remaining content, it seems likely that [the frame count] will far exceed that of Spirited Away.

5/20/04 (Thurs.)

Only one cut of key animation remaining. Ah, it's really the last stretch. The final editing session will be held at the end of this month. Basically, to prepare, we have to continue photographing all the key animation after animation direction is finished with it. Since we have to make adjustments in accordance with animation direction corrections, this will take quite a bit of time.

5/21/04 (Fri.)

It's done! It's done! It's done! Finally, key animation is complete. We're really done with this phase. It's truly a milestone in the long production process, and the production team has been looking forward to it. To all the key animators, thanks for your hard work.

The regular rush check. The total has now passed 1200 cuts. Nearly 200 cuts remain. There haven't been any retakes for a while, but today there were four.

5/22/04 (Sat.)

At last, the editing session is only a week away. We're taking care of the cuts coming from animation direction one after another, but not as many cuts as we expect are coming, and we feel just a little bit impatient.

5/24/04 (Mon.)

Cuts remaining for background art have also reached the single digits. Animation direction has 50 cuts remaining, and the end has come into sight. However, before that, there is another large job: editing. Until editing is complete, we can't progress any further. Work hard, animation directors!

5/25/04 (Tues.)

For the sake of the editing session, the animation directors worked until dawn on the last spurt. Thanks for your hard work.

5/26/04 (Weds.)

As I wrote yesterday, this is the last spurt before the editing session begins, but of course it is also the last spurt for the production team's preparation of editing material as well. However, the remaining cuts are complex and the work is going slowly. Furthermore, since a bundle of material came from animation direction today, we are simultaneously running three in-between animation checking machines to prepare material. Considering the number of cuts and the number of days remaining, it's going to be tight.

5/27/04 (Thurs.)

When things are tight, it would be easy if we could just increase the number of people, but since we can't bring in more people just for the time we are busy, we increase the number of machines. Since there was, conveniently, one scanner which was not being used, we quickly set it up so that we could use it. With that, we should be able to make it through the week.

5/28/04 (Fri.)

As usual, the production team is frantically preparing material for editing. If we didn't reach the 20-cuts-remaining mark by the end of the day, things would become physically difficult. For that reason, the entire production team worked until dawn. We saw the sunrise from the studio for the first time in a long while.

5/31/04 (Mon.)

The day of the final editing session arrived. The production team somehow got all the material prepared in time and felt relieved. Since there was a bit more photography of key frames, the editing session was a little different from last time. Since the editing session is being carried out over two days, for retakes that came out today, we will fix as much material as possible in order to have it ready for the actual final day of editing the day after tomorrow.

6/1/04 (Tues.)

The middle day of editing. It rained from morning on, and was chilly compared to yesterday. The number of cuts of in-between animation completed was low, but the number of frames...

Since June began today, we wrote out the new production schedule. Since we put up two months at a time, we wrote out the schedule up to the end of July, and realized that, with the sound recording work, we will have a hard schedule once again.

6/2/04 (Weds.)

Somehow editing ended successfully for the time being. However, we still have a touch of unease. Now, we have to set up the cinescope recording [transfer to film] in preparation for dubbing. We have to work hard and prepare at least one good cut. At any rate, has the end come into sight?

6/3/04 (Thurs.)

Today we crossed another mountain. Miyazaki-san has finished his checking. Now, we just have to wait for the work coming from animation direction. They only have ten cuts left.

Now that we have come this far, the in-between animation is being done almost entirely in-studio. The production team only has to make occasional trips to pick up work. Now we are just waiting at our desks for material.

6/4/04 (Fri.)

The "harmony" treatments were completed successfully. Thanks for the hard work.

The regular rush check. There were no retakes, and the check was completed without incident. There are more than 100 cuts remaining. Since we can't be sure that there will be no more major retakes, we're still always nervous.

6/5/04 (Sat.)

Finally, the second half of recording began. For scheduling reasons, the recording session was moved forward a little. Since we were a little busy with the editing session, we were a little rushed, but we managed to make it in time.

The number of cuts remaining for animation direction reached the single digits. It's the final countdown.

6/7/04 (Mon.)

We received a flood of completed in-between animation. Recently, we've been communicating information about the pace of animation direction to the outside in-between animators, and some of them have completed their work. Thank you very much for all the hard work.

6/8/04 (Tues.)

There is only one cut yet to come from animation direction. Finally, animation direction work is complete. (For procedural reasons, we haven't yet received [the last cut], but the actual work is done.) With that, we have crossed another mountain. Thanks for your hard work, animation directors. Next comes the rush checking.

6/9/04 (Weds.)

As I wrote yesterday, animation direction is complete. Now, the last cut is all that remains with the production team. Once that cut goes out, all that is left is to wait for in-between animation. The end has really, truly come into view. We ask for everyone's help with the rest of the work.

6/10/04 (Thurs.)

Today, the last cut went to in-between animation. There's one less piece of data to be checked daily by the production team. Up until now, we have been grappling with nine notebooks, but now we look at them with nostalgia. The checks which took nearly half an hour during the peak time now only take a few minutes to complete. It's like a dream.

6/11/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. There are now fewer than 100 cuts left to be checked. How many more sessions will there be? That's the next thing for the production team to plan out.

6/12/04 (Sat.)

Cuts for which photography has been completed have been collecting in the photography room, so they were moved to the production area. Since the storeroom was already full when the last batch arrived, we secured an emergency area and set up more shelves, but now they're full as well, so we hurriedly bought and set up some new shelves and are safe for the time being. Looking at the number of cuts we have left, it looks like we may just barely have enough room.

6/14/04 (Sun.)

In order to speed up the work a little, the in-between animation work was divided up, but there's a limit to what can be done. Gradually, in-between animators are starting to complete their work.

6/15/04 (Tues.)

There are just under twenty cuts of in-between animation remaining. Because of difficult content, the last person doing animation direction has not been able to complete his work smoothly. Nevertheless, the in-between animators have been working into the night for several days running. Keep up the hard work!

6/16/04 (Weds.)

There are now fewer than twenty cuts which remain to go into finishing. In-between animation checkers are now waiting for work, and we've really started to feel like it's the final countdown.

6/17/04 (Thurs.)

Voice recording was completed today. Now work on music, etc. begins. Work was completed without any major problems. That was a relief.

6/18/04 (Fri.)

The regular rush check. There is some retake work to be done, but today the number of cuts remaining to be checked passed fifty. I say it every day, but that was a relief.

6/19/04 (Sat.)

There was a sudden request from Miyazaki to add to the background paintings. We contacted Takeshige-san, who was standing by at home, and hurriedly had him come in. Well, after all, nobody knows what may happen before we are finished.

6/21/04 (Mon.)

There was a typhoon today. Now, of all times, there was a typhoon. There are ten cuts of in-between animation remaining. Since there was no work for the production team to pick up and they were just waiting for material, they were secretly relieved. This was because with the wind and rain being this strong, there's a possibility that the in-between animation could get wet. We were really lucky.

6/22/04 (Tues.)

There was a delivery of cherries from an acquaintance of Miyazaki's. However, since [most of] the animators have gone on leave, the few remaining staff were able to have large quantities of them. They were really delicious.

6/23/04 (Weds.)

The production team has two cars for its own use. The air conditioner for one of these has recently not been working well, but since we have been busy, we have endured it. However, since we haven't been as busy as usual lately, we had some time and took it in to have the air conditioner gas checked out. But, when we had it checked, it turned out that the problem was not the gas, but the filter. It was completely black and looked horrible. When we had the filter replaced at the dealer, a new problem appeared. There were hardly any grooves left on either of the front tires. We hurriedly had them replaced. We regretted not having the car checked while we were wrapped up in our work. Everyone, it's important to ke