Hayao Miyazaki is like the Pixar of Japanese animation; he just never fails at making a hugely imaginative and entertaining picture. I was as huge a fan of Spirited Away as one could be, and I’ve seen a number of his other films as well, so I was eager to delve into the film that first opened the Western world’s eyes to Miyazaki: Princess Mononoke. Needless to say, my expectations couldn’t have been higher, and now, having finally seen it, I can happily say that every one of them was met, and then some.
Here, Miyazaki weaves a tapestry of grand ambition, a sweeping tale of epic grandeur and imagination that soars into the heavens. It tells a story of fictional times gone by, of spirits and demons, of animals and humans, and of heroism and selfishly-driven actions. To tell of the plot itself is to cheapen the experience; this is a film that you immerse yourself in, like calmly wading out into an ocean of water and just… floating there, without a care in the world. This feeling is helped along by the film’s fantastic and extraordinary level of visual artistry, as well as the modest but fitting score. This is also, thanks to the Western love this got, one of the better examples of dubbed anime, so for once, it’s okay to watch this is English if you’d like, rather than having to get the inflections and tones of the original foreign language performances.
I read up on a few other reviewers’ opinions on this one, and was a little flummoxed to find that there were very few that would even admit to liking this fully, let alone loving it. There seemed to be a cultural barrier that most were unable to get over, a cultural barrier that is admittedly nonexistent with me, but I didn’t think it would be that high-reaching and all-encompassing. There was a lot of confusion and detailing of what the film was supposed to mean, rather than just taking the film’s world as it is and enjoying the vision of spirit and creativity that Miyazaki has crafted. It’s a shame, really, but I can understand how this may just not be for some people, but I took to it incredibly and found it absolutely engrossing. Hopefully, I won’t be entirely alone on this one; give this a shot, at the very least, and see if you’ll end up being as big a Miyazaki fan as I am.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10