16 August 2009 | MartinHafer
It's like drugs....good drugs,....but still drugs! And drugs that the whole family can enjoy!
I have a strong feeling that what you think of this film will strongly depend on your frame of reference. If you've never seen a Miyazaki film before, then it will probably confuse the heck out of you. If you have seen a Miyazaki film before, then it will still probably confuse the heck out of you....but you won't really care! That's because I found that the first time I saw one of his animated films, I tried too hard to figure out what was happening and why--and it impacted my enjoyment of the film. Now that I have seen just about every Miyazaki film, I see the bizarreness and just take it all in--enjoying the beauty of it all. In many ways, these films (at least to Western audiences) is like drugs--lots of strange and beautiful images that don't always initially make sense but sure feel great to see!! Of all the Miyazaki films, this might have the most unusual and incomprehensible story line--even more so than SPIRITED AWAY and PRINCESS MONONOKE or MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO. But, like these and many other Studio Gibli films, if you just sit back and watch you are rewarded with a fabulous tale. But, because it is so hard to describe (and others have already done so), I won't even go there.
As for the artwork, it's very typical of one of these Japanese films, though there was one noticeable change. There was a very extensive use of what looked like colored pencils for the backgrounds. This was NOT a bad thing at all--the lovely pastel-like look was very pleasing and unique. In some ways it looked like a tiny bit of Bill Plympton's art style was infused into a typical Miyazaki film. With a high frame-rate, exceptional character animation (which imbued them with tons of personality) and a great "wow-factor", this is an exceptional film for all ages. Though clearly designed more for younger audiences (the TOTORO fans especially), it is a bit scary here and there (during the storm segments) but there is plenty of great stuff for adults. As an adult (at least chronologically so), I loved the cute stuff and applaud the other-worldliness of the film.
A great film--among Miyazaki's best. I don't give it a 10 because I am hesitant to ever do that--plus I did like a few of the studio's other films a bit more (particularly TOTORO). But that DOESN'T mean you shouldn't rush out now and see it--do it and do yourself a favor.