Shinkai is one of the most talented auteurs working in the medium of animation. This is his third feature length film and it is his longest and most complex film to date. Instead of the more current anime style of 5 centimeters per second this one features the classic japanimation style of Ghibli's films.
The best thing about this film are the visuals: indeed one of the most beautiful films I have ever watched, each second of this film is pure visual joy. However, the rest of the film is not up to the standards set by the visuals.
Indeed, this film is a homage to Miyazaki in every way possible. The main plot is derived from Castle in the Sky (which I think is Shinkai's favorite film), while there are several scenes taken directly from Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa. The cat/creature mimi, for instance, is obviously derived from Teto while Asuna looks almost like Satsuki from My Neighbor Totoro.
However, despite being highly unoriginal the film works very well. It is not as powerful as 5 Centimeters per Second but it is richer visually and thematically.
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