I’ve never been a fan of Japanese Anime, but films like this are winning me over. Maybe the problem is the definition. It seems to cover everything from stuff suitable for 3-year-olds where nothing moves but the mouth (like “Speed Racer,” which was endlessly fascinating to my son when he was 3), to masterpieces like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. The Japanese are fond of a cloying visual sentimentality that emphasizes huge round eyes (is it racist to ask why?) and baby-like features. But then, in a Disney semi-realistic movie the men are huge and the women are tiny. Look at their hands! Lots of anime is computer-game dumb, a lot of sound and fury. And the cheapness of the movement animation always disconcerts me at first. I will always prefer the 24 frame/second stuff of the old Disney classics.
But there is another level to anime, where the backgrounds are gorgeous and subtle, and the stories are things you will never see from Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks. This one is rated PG-13, and includes stuff you probably wouldn’t want your 6-year-old to see, including whorehouses and a realistic, brutal beating. We liked it a lot.