Hayao Miyazaki’s Masterpieces Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke Imagined as 8-Bit Video Games

As an unapologetic member of the “Millennial” generation, allow me to tell you how to win over a great many of us at a stroke: just appeal to our long-instilled affinity for Japanese animation and classic video games. Raised, like many of my peers born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, on a steady diet of those art forms — not that everyone knew to acknowledge them as art forms back then — I respond instinctively to either of them, and as for their intersection, well, how could I resist?

I certainly can’t resist the sterling example of anime-meets-retrogaming in action just above: an 8-Bit Cinema double-feature, offering David and Henry Dutton’s pixelated renditions of hugely respected Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s films Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. In just under eight minutes, the video tells both stories — the former of a young girl transported into not just the spirit realm but into employment at one of its bathhouses; the latter of the unending struggle between humans and forest gods in 15th-century Japan — as traditional side-scrolling, platform-jumping video games.

Clearly labors of love by true classic gamers, these transformations get not just the graphics (which actually look better than real games of the era, in keeping with Miyazaki’s artistry) but the sound, music, and even gameplay conventions just right. I’d love to play real versions of these games, especially since, apart from an unloved adaptation of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki’s movies haven’t plunged into the video-game realm.

And if you respond better to the aesthetic of classic gaming than to that of Japanese animation, do have a look at 8-Bit Cinema’s other work, much of which you can sample in their show reel with clips from their versions of pictures like The ShiningKill Bill, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I remember many childhood conversations about how video games would eventually look just like our favorite movies, animated or otherwise; little did we know that, one day, our favorite movies would also look just like video games.

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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  • tahrey says:

    Seems a bit schizo in its approach re: whether it’s going for an 8 or a 16-bit vibe, and the times where its Flash construction is a bit too obvious (things suddenly having diagonally-aligned pixels when they rotate instead of aliasing to strict horizontal/vertical lines…) – but if they existed I would play the hell out of these games. The art style is otherwise right in the sweet spot and the idea is something sorely missing from real life.

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