So you like Studio Ghibli films? That great, so do we! But do you know about the Studio Ghibli manga that is based in Tynemouth and Cullercoats? Just a short metro ride from the centre of Newcastle? Not many do, but lucky for you, Geordie Japan has the inside scoop just for you, but let’s begin at the start…
Despite being founded by three men, it is Hayao Miyazaki that is most closely associated with Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki grew up surrounded by aviation as his father worked as the director of a factory that made airplane parts during World War II, Miyazaki was fascinated with the machines and began sketching planes which started a lifelong fascination with aviation. This obsession would bleed through into his animation, most prominently in his film ‘Porco Rosso’. Miyazaki discovered in 1990 a short story by the British author Robert Westall “Blackham’s Wimpy” when it was reprinted in Japanese. He was already familiar with Westall’s work but upon reading found that this story was about the war, and more importantly airplanes! Miyazaki loved the book and in 2006 he chose it as the basis for his latest manga novel.
The manga switches between Miyazaki’s trip and recounting part of the “Blackham’s Wimpy” story, until Miyazaki amusing stops mid way, telling the reader to read the book for themselves! I live on the coast and have spent some time researching the local area in relation to the manga so I can say with a high level of certainty that the following locations appear in the manga. Tynemouth Longsands including views of St. George’s Church & Tynemouth Priory, Cullercoats Harbour, Dove Marine Laboratory, various areas of the sea front, Percy Gardens/Sea Banks road, the Grand Hotel and Hotspur street. A typical double decker Arriva bus, most likely a 306, can be seen in the pages as well as a large boat that can be glimpsed out at sea. It is unknown what pub the pair drink in however, as there is no pub on the beach in Cullercoats Harbour where it is shown in the manga, so perhaps some creative licence has been used here.
I will not publish full pages from the manga here for two reasons, firstly there is an agreement that there will not be reproductions of the pages plastered on the internet by Ghibli fan sites and I don’t intend to break that. Secondly previous attempts to upload them by other websites have resulted in legal action, something which Geordie Japan would like to avoid naturally. The book is not easy to get hold of, although YesAsia.com has some stock in, the book is completely in Japanese, but you don’t need to speak the language to enjoy the images.
The fact that Miyazaki chose Tynemouth/Cullercoats as a location is unbelievable, and not many locals know about it, but hopefully that will change now. Stay tuned to Geordie Japan, as in the coming weeks we hope to immortalise this work locally.