First, there can be no denying that Hayao Miyazaki is a genius, one of the best animators who ever lived. Before this one I’ve only seen Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, both masterpieces. I think I’ll see more.
Second, as I’ve said elsewhere, I doubt I will never be a fan of the Japanese anime style. It’s just a prejudice of mine, I guess, but the jerkiness, the lack of full 24 frames per second continuity bothers me. Also, the open-or-shut mouths when a character is speaking … all this strikes me as laziness, but even worse, it reminds me of crap like “Speed Racer” and “Kimba the White Lion,” really awful shows that my youngest son watched faithfully.
But third, none of those objections really apply when a movie is as stunningly beautiful and awesomely original and just plain amazing as this one. Miyazaki’s mind must be an incredible place to live, and I thank him for letting me into it for a little less than two hours. The sense of depth and of motion, the incredible colors, the sheer inventiveness of the visuals just overwhelmed me. I could watch it again right now.
And here’s something odd. I hate dubbing, I have been known to eject the tape or DVD when I realized I had somehow obtained the dubbed version instead of the subtitled. But here, since the mouth movements in anime never match the dialogue anyway, since the lips don’t form words as they do in Disney or Pixar animation, it didn’t matter. The English version was prepared with great care by Frank Marshall, John Lasseter, and Kathleen Kennedy, among others, people who know great animation when they see it and wanted to bring it to subtitle-resistant American audiences. The voice cast includes Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, Tina Fey, Matt Damon, Betty White, and Cloris Leachman. Alas, it still played largely to just anime fans. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are more anime fans now than there used to be. Maybe one day I’ll even be one of them.