The Ultimate Ranking of the Studio Ghibli Universe: #10-6

The Ultimate Ranking of the Studio Ghibli Universe: #10-6

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Miyazaki, Takahata and gang
Our Studio Ghibli countdown enters the top 10 as Noah Oskow ticks off what he sees as the cream of the crop from the history-making animation powerhouse.

Page navigation: #46-30, #29-20, #19-11, #10-6, #5-1

We’ve already covered so many fantastic pieces of animation, including some of the studio’s most legendary. From here on out, each film presented is a masterpiece in its own right.

#10 – Whisper of the Heart

Take Me Home, Down Tama Road

By 1995, Studio Ghibli had existed for nearly a decade, and the in-house creative team had made nearly ten movies together. Although the studio had experienced massive success, every single theatrical release they’d made had still been directed by either Miyazaki or Takahata. (Ocean Waves, a TV film, was the only exception.) Even back then it was clear that studio would eventually need to branch out, letting other directors take the reign from time to time. It was decided to give long-time team member Kondo Yoshifumi a shot, allowing him to direct a Miyazaki script based off a manga by a successful shojo artist. The result is Ghibli’s most enduring slice-of-life film. Sadly, it was the only movie Kondo would ever direct.

The plot: In the present-day Tama Hills of Tokyo (the same housing development the tanuki wage a protest movement against in Pom Poko, which released the year prior), middle school 3rd-year Tsukishima Shizuku goes about her daily life. An avid reader of fantasy and fairytales, she begins to notice how the library cards in all the books she checks out have the same name already written out on them, indicating they’ve all previously been borrowed by one mystery man: Amasawa Seiji. Shizuku daydreams about what sort of person this might be; meanwhile, she encounters a cat riding the Keiyo Line train she regularly rides. Following the mysterious cat, she’s led to a beautiful antique shop on top of a hill. From there, Shizuku makes new encounters, finds young love, and most of all challenges her own perception of who she is, and the person she could someday become.

This is a movie which really hit me at the exact right place when I was a highschooler. Partially this was based on setting — I first saw Whisper directly before my first time going to Japan, where I did a homestay with a Japanese family while attending a local high school for three months. This movie does a wonderful job of portraying the beauty of quotidian Japanese life — narrow, hilly roads, cramped apartments, ubiquitous public school hallways, and all. As someone who got to experience Japanese school life firsthand, all these images took on an immediately nostalgic tone as soon as I returned home to the US.

The other aspect was that, at the time, I shared a lot in common with Shizuku. I was also prone to flights of fancy, to finding the magic in everyday life, to expecting and feeling romance and adventure around every corner. This movie is imbued with all those unmistakable features of a youthful outlook, something which makes a film that’s otherwise quite grounded feel very much akin tp your classic Miyazaki film. (Impressive, given it wasn’t him directing). And indeed, Unlike Only Yesterday, Ocean Waves, the two other real-world set Ghibli films that bear most comparison, this is a word where magic seemingly exists — even if in that small amount that allows for chance meetings brought about by following a fat cat through a neighborhood alleyway.

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I loved this movie for those feelings of the undeniable magic of life paired with a real sense of time slipping by, of youth coming to an end.

That was half my life ago. Now, with youth receding every day, I find that what I appreciate about Whisper of the Heart is a little different. I still love the inherent magic, but its no longer something I feel so deeply. Rather, it’s the deep character work, which so accurately reflects so much of the internal struggle we all go through, both when young and after. Shizuku’s arc has something in common with Kiki, and something in common with Taeko (from Only Yesterday). Like Kiki, Shizuku deals with self-doubt and imposter syndrome. She sees Amasawa Seiji, a person very driven in regards to his hopeful profession as a violin maker, as someone she’s unworthy of; how can a boy who’s done so much and is actively working towards life goals see anything in someone unaccomplished, even aimless, like her? Of course, she does have skills; namely, she’s a creative, praised by her friends. Shizuku just can’t convince herself of her own worth. Hence the imposter syndrome.

For a movie that seems at first brush like a teen romance, its this discovery of self-worth, confidence, and skill that’s the real theme here. It really sets the movie apart, and allows it the complexity we always hope to see from Ghibli. As a adult, this aspect stands out. Another, unexpectedly, was the two older male figures in Shizuku’s life. Her father is a classic Ghibli paternal figure, understanding of creativity and imagination, and willing to allow his daughter freedom of expression (even if he’d rather her take an easier path). Then there’s Amasawa Seiji’s grandfather, the owner of the antique shop, who serves as inspiration to Shizuku. He treats her so kindly and is so gently supportive that it actually brought a tear to my eye – something that never happened on viewings when I was younger. It’s just wonderful to know that Shizuku will have the support she needs in her creative endeavors as she continues to grow.

Overall, I’m not sure this quite beats out the somewhat more mature Only Yesterday as top Ghibli slice-of-life – there was a little melodramatic framing in this one that took me out of the movie just a little bit at times. But still, for all the reasons listed above, and more, this is a worthy Ghibli classic. It fills my heart with happiness, nostalgia, and just a bit of sorrow. And thanks its multiple genius uses throughout the films runtime, I’ll never be able to hear John Denver’s “Country Roads” without thinking about Shizuku and Amasawa Seiji.

There is a real-world tragic aspect to this movie, sadly. Whisper of the Heart was a major success and seemed to indicate that Kondo would become the third of Ghibli’s main directors, making him heir-apparent to the studio. Sadly, Kondo passed away three years later from a stroke brought on by overwork at the too-young age of 47. This was a major shock to Miyazaki, who began questioning his own work style and the company’s future. This resulted in Miyazaki’s first retirement announcement that same year – although, as we all know, he was very much unable to stick to that retirement. It’s very bittersweet, seeing how good this movie is, to imagine what might have been.

#9 – Grave of the Fireflies

The Humanity and the Horror

When people recommend Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies, it’s often with the following caveat: this will be one of the best movies you’ll never want to watch again. Having now watched it around ten times, I can mostly attest to the truth of that claim. This is never a film I look forward to watching; it’s too tough of a viewing experience for that. But I also find it’s a necessary and worthwhile film to revisit. Few movies, animated or otherwise, capture the sorrow of the uneven ravages of war. Each viewing experience brings new lessons, just as it causes new tears to flow.

Grave of the Fireflies is based on a semi-autobiography by Nosaka Akiyuki, a survivor of the Kobe firebombings of WWII. It’s no spoiler to say that the reason the story couldn’t possibly be a full biography is revealed in the first seconds of the film; however, a great deal of the story is directly true to Nosaka’s life. More than that, the tale of two war orphans – siblings Seita and Setsuko – reflects the reality of so many in those horrific days.

Their story goes as such: it’s 1945, in the dying days of World War II. Japan’s once-mighty air force has been decimated, and American planes now prowl the skies of Japan unimpeded, raining incendiary bombs down upon almost every major urban space. Evacuating to bomb shelters has become commonplace. Seita, aged 14, and his sister Setsuko, 4, lose their mother and home in one such firebombing. They’re taken in by an aunt, but wartime deprivations and rationing cause her to be increasingly unhappy at having to feed the two children. Seita, no longer able to bear his aunt’s coldness, decides to take Setsuko to an abandoned air-raid shelter and make their home there. Together, the two try their best to survive.

Roger Ebert famously called Grave of the Fireflies one of the best war movies ever made, adding it to his vaunted “great movie” list. It certainly belongs there. Takahata Isao started off his Ghibli career with a movie of unsurpassed pathos and unsparing observation. The pain we as an audience go through watching Seita and Setsuko try to survive and live a happy life during wartime is all the more painful for its realism, for its lack of melodrama or saccharinity. The tragedy comes in waves; not every moment is one of pain or terror. Takahata shows us beautiful, simple moments of playfulness and love. A day at the beach is only somewhat disturbed by the discovery of an abandoned dead body, so common in wartime, and by the memories of the food, shelter, and love the children received from their mother the last time they had been to said beach. There are moments of wonder, as Seita surprises Setsuko by releasing glowing fireflies into their makeshift bunker home. The true tragedy, the true horror, comes from the duality of the small joys of life, and the war which is stealing all that away from them.

Something I took special note of in this re-watch was the way in which the film shows the unequal effects of disaster. Normal life is completely shattered for some, while others somehow go on. The war touches people in patchy ways. Seita and Setsuko have to sell off mementos of their mother, symbols of her love, just to be able to obtain some white rice. They watch on as other families reunite, expressing joy and everyday happiness. Even these largest of human disasters have their victims and those lucky enough to emerge unscathed – who ends up suffering can be almost random; a result of cruel entropy.

The result of all these scenes of love, loss, simple happiness, and ultimate tragedy is a masterpiece. One that’s difficult to watch and even more difficult to go back to. Proof of its lasting effect, however, lies in the fact that I felt tears well up simply reflecting on the film in order to write this piece. That memory is what matters – just as Seita and Setsuko look on at us over the modern high-rises of Kobe, imploring us to do for others what no-one could do for them.

#8 – Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

Sure Stole My Heart

In 1979, a then-38 year old animator named Miyazaki Hayao released his first ever theatrical film as director. Miyazaki already had a good deal of animation experience at this point, having joined Toei Animation some 16 years earlier.  Indeed, he and his partner/mentor Takahata were both old hands at the franchise Miyazaki had just directed a film for: Lupin the Third.

A product of the late ‘60s, Lupin is one of Japan’s most enduring and recognizable media properties. The title character is the half-Japanese great-grandson of real-world literary character Arsene Lupin, a French gentleman thief. Lupin III takes after his ancestor, although how much of a gentleman he is varies depending on who’s writing him. Together with sharpshooter Jigen Daisuke, swordmaster Goemon, and sometimes-ally-sometimes-rival-sometimes-lover Fujiko, he travels the world carrying off incredible heists. Japanese INTERPOL officer Zenigata, the Javert to Lupin’s Jean Valjean, is always one step behind.

The second film in a franchise that already had dozens of TV episodes in the bag, Cagliostro could easily have been a perfunctory experience; just another in what would be a long line of fun, creative, but ultimately rather slight Lupin outings. What’s so amazing, then, is just what Miyazaki provided us with here. This is the definitive Lupin film for most people worldwide. Although it features rather more moral and noble versions of its main cast than most outings, Cagliostro has emerged as far and away the most iconic single piece of Lupin III media.

Beyond that, though, is something more important: this is simply a great film. It’s an adventure/heist movie at that genre’s most perfectly fun. The story and action are propulsive, one exciting set-piece giving way to the next. The excellent, zany car chase that starts the main action rolling is just one of a series of such scenes. Each setting is realized, detailed, and memorable. So many of Miyazaki’s hallmarks are already in play here: wistful images of abandoned buildings and lonely landscapes; obsessively detailed presentations of real-life automobiles, technology, weapons, and flying-machines (the autogyro is a real treat); a sense for the interconnected nature of the world; naturalism of movement.

Miyazaki’s measured pacing is also on display. For every exciting action scene, we get moments of silence, of views of the ruins of Cagliostro or of our characters as they ponder their situations. These moments of “ma,” the space between, that Miyazaki became so well known for give us a deeper feeling for Lupin and his crew and for the semi-fantastical setting of the fictional Dutchy of Cagliostro. For a series that is so often zany, these moments set this film apart. Before any section can become too ponderous, however, an action scene swoops in to set things back in motion.

For this reason I could actually claim Cagliostro to be one of Miyazaki’s best-paced films. Credit must also be given to how he manages the characters. Lupin is compelling here, and kinder (and less lecherous) than usually depicted. Jigen and Goemon, if perhaps slightly underused, provide wonderful comedy and comradery (and the genesis of Lupin and Jigen to Spike and Jet from the famed Cowboy Bebop is on full display). Clarisse, featured only in this film, is the perfect late-70s Japanese ideal of an ingenue. She is completely innocent and caring. (So much so, in fact, that her character basically single-handed resulted in Japan’s “lolico”n boom — something Miyazaki certainly never intended.) Even so, she still has that special Miyazaki flair for female characters: even as dependent on Lupin as she is, she still has agency. Clarisse starts out the film leading a gang of thugs on a daring car chase. Even when relegated to damsel in distress, she actively fights to help save Lupin and herself.

This brings us directly to Fujiko, the other female character of note. What’s remarkable about Miyazaki’s version of Fujiko is how little the film sexualizes a character known for being the subject of the male gaze. Rather, she’s hyper-competent and completely badass. Fujiko has received thoughtful treatment in recent years (thanks to Yamamoto Sayo’s The Woman Called Fujiko Mine series), but this movie is perhaps the piece of Lupin media which least sexualizes her.

Last comes Zenigata, obsessed policeman through and through. He’s at his best here, both as a source of humor and as an actual character. As he and his oh-so-Japanese officers chow down on cup ramen (the image of Japanese policemen eating the instant food having been popularized during the siege of Asama-Sanso lodge some years earlier), we see just how perfectly Miyazaki envisions the entire Lupin world.  Detailed realism is mixed with zany action to amazing effect.

One last note should be made about the music. This is the only Miyazaki film without Hisaishi Joe composing the score. In his place is Ohno Yuji, whose usual Lupin themes are reworked to great effect here. Lupin doesn’t really feel right without Ohno’s super-70s score, and his swinging sound goes well with both action and the slower moments. “Fire Treasure”, the film’s main theme, is my go-to road trip song.

So, it’s with a great deal of happiness that I rate Miyazaki’s very first film so high on this list. The fact that Miyazaki already managed to put out such a near-perfect film so early in his theatrical oeuvre is nothing short of astounding. More than anything, though, I love this film for being constantly rewatchable. Like The Cat Returns, I know I’ll be able to return to Cagliostro at any time for something undeniably fun and compulsively watchable. This movie also started my love of Lupin, and while I enjoy the franchise as a whole – I doubt there’ll ever be another Lupin entry as truly great as this one.

#7 – The Wind Rises

Zero Hour

「誰が風を見たでしょう
僕もあなたも見やしない
けれど木の葉をふるわせて
風は通りぬけてゆく」

“Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you.
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.”
The Wind, Christina Rossetti

“Le vent se lève! . . . il faut tenter de vivre!

“The wind is rising!… We must try to live!”
Le Cimetière marin, Paul Valéry

Interesting that Miyazaki’s first and last (so-far) films would come one right after another on this list.

The Wind Rises is, to date, the last released theatrical film by Miyazaki Hayao. (He’s working on a new film which is about 20% complete, so hopefully someday in the not-so-distant future this sentence will become outdated.) The subject of some controversy upon release from both far-right Japanese nationalists and those who wished to see Japan’s wartime crimes portrayed more substantially, the movie has slipped into a strange place in the director’s canon. Some dislike it, while many others consider it a true masterpiece. Many others seem to have simply never seen it. It’s a rare Miyazaki film placed firmly in a real historical setting (the early 20th century in Japan); for those used to his magical realms, it may simply not have the same appeal.

That’s a tragedy, because this movie is just as magical and as vibrant. More than that, it contains one of Miyazaki’s deepest and most personal messages.

The story melds the real history of the career of brilliant aeronautics engineer Horikoshi Jiro, and his development of the once-dreaded Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” fighter, with the tuberculosis-centered romantic tragedy of Hori Tatsuo’s 1937 novel The Wind Rises. Sprinkle in a bit of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and autobiographical aspects from Miyazaki’s own life and psyche, and you get a film that’s a bit more complex than just a “Horikoshi Jiro biopic.”

 In the 1910s, young Jiro dreams of becoming a pilot, but his nearsightedness means this will never be a reality. One night during an actual dream, the young boy encounters Italian aviation trailblazer Giovanni Caproni, who tells him that designing airplanes should be Jiro’s true calling. Pursuing this goal with quiet zeal, Jiro heads to school. He survives the devastating 1923 Tokyo earthquake, helping a young girl and her maid make it through the experience. Years later, he re-encounters the girl, Nahoko, and continues his quest for aeronautical perfection – all of which leads him towards the creation of the A6M Zero and personal and national tragedy.

Despite the realistic setting, the movie is far from visually “grounded” — all the less so for its focus on the joy of flight and on aviation both realistic and fantastical. The animation here, despite some occasional mild missteps, is some of the most breathtaking in Ghibli’s history. Crowd scenes are especially impressive — in the aftermath of the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, thousands of people crowd into tight spaces, searching for loved ones of looking for safety. Each person is a detailed individual, weaving in and out of a the larger crowd. More than almost any other movie in the canon, this makes me want to go back and focus on separate parts of the screen on each new viewing. This, of course, is to say nothing of how wonderful the set-piece scenes look – the terror of the earthquake itself, the effervescent beauty of planes in flight. This movie just isn’t talked about enough when it comes to the best looking Ghibli films.

The scale here is impressive, allowing us to take in decades of Japanese history and even bringing us briefly to Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Few animated films deal with such a historical scope. Miyazaki’s interests in history, war, and self-inflicted destruction have been present ever since Nausicaa and before, and here all these themes coalesce into one. That incredible animation and involving characters can be put to this task is incredible to see, and could have been quite dry in another’s hands.

If there is something “Miyazaki” that seems missing here, it’s the understated, unhurried naturalism of movement seen in his other films. (Think Chihiro stopping to tap her shoe snug when she leaves Kabaji’s boiler room. ) While this isn’t a rushed film, it covers so much more time than most from the studio (decades instead of days or weeks) and somehow that attention to realistic moments gets a little lost.

This isn’t to say that character work here isn’t great, though. We have Jiro’s diminutive boss Kurokawa, Ghibli’s answer to Edna Mode; Giovanni Caproni, historical Italian aviation genius with whom Jiro shares a dreamscape connection; Castorp, mysterious fugitive German who enumerates the sins of Japan and Germany that will lead to their destruction. Then there’s Nahoko. Although she has a little less agency than most Ghibli heroines, she’s still a beautiful, tragic character.

Of course, it’s Jiro himself that the film revolves around, and he’s a quietly deep, layered, but subtly flawed individual. He’s one of Miyazaki’s best creations – perhaps one of the best portrayals of a “creator” in film.

Part of your mileage here will depend on how well you think the love story between Jiro and Nahoko fits into the wider tale of aviation and its place in war. The two parts can feel a little disparate, but I believe Jiro’s love – and the creative needs to which he subtly sacrifices it — come together to make the story a tragic, emotional cautionary tale. Surely this part is semi-autobiographical; Miyazaki’s own famous obsession with creation and his enormous workload has stymied his own family relationships. There is beauty in creation, but not only can your work be used for ill — the very process of creation can blind you to what may be more important.

Jiro and his friend and fellow engineer Honjo offer both in-world and meta commentary on this process. They rile against the bellicose use of their planes and the foolishness of the their country’s self-destructive actions, yet seem to come to terms with their position as creatives working for a death machine. “We’re engineers, not death merchants,” says Honjo. “Yeah,” says Jiro. Like Jiro and Nahoko’s love, however, this willful setting aside of a disastrous future for the pleasures of the moment can only last for so long before it all comes crashing down.

Of all of Miyazaki’s movies, I think this is the one I could go on and on about regarding its themes. It truly is one of the best films about the creative process and the sort of people who create. However, for today, I’ll just say that this is a wonderful movie to watch and reflect on for a variety of reasons. It deserves to be counted among Miyazaki and animation’s best. I’m glad Miyazaki is working on another movie, but in terms of ending on a thematically perfect note, one which encapsulates the creator and the career, you’d have a hard time making a more fitting final film.

#6 – Pom Poko

Should have Gotten David Attenborough for the Dub

From the outside, Pom Poko may appear like somewhat standard Ghibli fare: a fantastical, beautifully animated family feature with memorably cute animal characters and featuring a strong environmentalist message. Looks, of course, are often deceiving. For Pom Poko (Japanese title: Heisei-era Tanuki War Pom Poko), they certainly are: this is a completely unique film within the animated canon.

In many ways, this film defies easy explanation. Even its genre is difficult to explicate. If I had to, I’d call it a fictional-animated-folklore-environmentalist-protest-historical-documentary. Even that description leaves out the brilliant comedic side Pom Poko has – this is possibly the funniest Ghibli film, beating out the more outwardly comedic My Neighbor’s the Yamadas and The Cat Returns (both of which are very funny themselves). But despite the laughs – and a fair bit of biting satire – this is still an extremely emotionally affecting film covering a very serious topic. Add in the layers of commentary going on, and well, there’s just nothing else like Pom Poko.

The plot goes as such: In the 1960s, a group of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs, endemic to East Asia and somewhat resembling North American raccoons) living in the countryside in the rural outskirts of Tokyo are threatened by a major development project. The project in question is the creation of Tama New Town, a real-life bedroom community of enormous size designed by the Tokyo government to fulfill the housing needs of the post-war economic miracle. The tanunki – who possess the shape-shifting abilities and love of food, booze, and good cheer that Japanese folklore has long imbued them with – overcome internal differences in order to attempt to sabotage the ongoing construction that is destroying their habitats. This industrial protest movement – waged with magical fear tactics and occasional violence–  has its ups and downs, is riven with great accomplishments, friction from rival ideologies, and has moments of great success and equally terrible disappointments.

This description already points to the unique nature of the film but does little to demonstrate the movie’s real genius. Perhaps this is a strange comparison to make, but in a sense, this movie is like The Simpsons used to be during its golden years — one incredible gag, one incredibly inventive scene, staged one after another. The quick succession of wonderful scene after scene feels almost miraculous. The tanuki’s use of shapeshifting is employed perfectly for both comedy and wonderment and is paired with a simply unbelievable amount of excellently played references to Japanese folklore.

The result is that there’s often so much happening on-screen that this is one of the few movies where I can almost understand the complaint of subtitles distracting from visuals. Said visuals and storytelling also manage to strike up the right balance between fun, excitement, and the legitimate creepiness of classical yokai folklore. Honestly, I can’t think of a single other movie which manages to so masterfully utilize so many traditional Japanese tropes and folklore. So, in terms of presentation and storytelling alone, this is already a unique treat. 

Pom Poko, of course, also demonstrates a real understanding of the reality of environmental issues, from watershed pollution, to the denuding of mountainsides, to the problems of habitat deterioration of overpopulation. This environmental battle is the message the movie wears on its sleeve; perhaps even more interesting, however, is the political basis behind it all.

As I’ve mentioned previously in the write up for Horus, Prince of the Sun, both Takahata and Miyazaki were heavily involved in the leftist student movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. When Miyazaki first started work at Toei, he found himself leading the animator’s union in protest. Takahata was his mentor in politics, and the two watched on in horror as the initially successful protest movements – huge, large-scale actions which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the street in Japan, fighting riot police, occupying train stations, university, and government buildings —  succumb to infighting and increased violence. Eventually, what was once a true grassroots movement that had seen a large degree of public support fizzled out, with only its most violent aspects being well remembered. The result has been ever-increasing political apathy in the youth of Japan.

So much of this real-life political experience Takahata and Miyazaki’s shared can be seen in this movie. In a sense, it’s a perfect primer for the realities of the high ideals, passions, successes, and failures of even the most nobly-minded protest movements. The tanuki, so funny and likeable, are the perfect vehicle for showing this reality. Their cause is just, their aims necessary for their survival; yet the ability to smooth out political differences, stamp out violence, maintain attention both within and without – it’s an incredibly difficult balancing act.

The reality of that violence is also shown. People are outright murdered by the tanuki in terrorist actions; killed for what the tanuki see as necessary, but still killed. Despite the clear environmental message, however, these everyday workers are never shown as particularly evil. They’re regular workers, going about their days far from home.

If there’s anything that can be said against the movie, its that the tone can be a bit uneven. At times, the comedy, as funny as it is, is mixed a little too much with the high-stakes, realist drama – especially towards the end. This doesn’t impinge upon the real emotional heft of the film, however. I can honestly say that I’ve cried every time I’ve watched Pom Poko. It’s this combination of the most wonderfully fantastical, imaginative, funny scenes with the eye of a documentarian and the true-life retelling of political and environmental movies that make Pom Poko one of a kind. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve only come to love this movie more.

For a long time, I considered the Takahata film that came directly before this, Only Yesterday, to be the best Ghibli film. Now, choosing between these two has become nearly impossible. They’re both nigh-perfect miracles of mature animated storytelling, done as only Takahata could produce. Today, however, I have to tip the hat slightly towards Taeko (and a few other films) over the tanuki. However, I really did consider making this #1.

Next up, the final five. Join us tomorrow for this ranking’s conclusion!

Page navigation: #46-30, #29-20, #19-11, #10-6, #5-1

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Noah Oskow

Serving as current UJ Editor-in-Chief, Noah Oskow is a professional Japanese translator and interpreter who holds a BA in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He has lived, studied, and worked in Japan for nearly seven years, including two years studying at Sophia University in Tokyo and four years teaching English on the JET Program in rural Fukushima Prefecture. His experiences with language learning and historical and cultural studies as well as his extensive experience in world travel have led to appearances at speaking events, popular podcasts, and in the mass media. Noah most recently completed his Master's Degree in Global Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.

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