I remember being fascinated with Kiki’s Delivery Service when I was like 7. But it never dawned on me that the writer/director/animator had other films. Then by luck it rained on the last day of middle school, which had been planned to be a obstacle course day (YUCK), instead we watched an award winning foreign film, Spirited Away.
I fell in love with the mythology in this movie. It was more fantastic and weird than Harry Potter, and it even had a better plot. This wasn’t the Westernized droll of wizardry, it was exotic magic that captivated me from the beginning. Japanese culture was in front of my face, brimming with character and wonder.
I realized that this was the same guy who did Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I wondered what else he did. I stumbled upon other masterpieces like Nausica Valley of the Wind, The Cat Returns, Flying Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rico, and Princess Mononoke. Recently, Ponyo and Arriety came out. His style is unmistakable. Common themes include childhood, war, political/environmental messages, and magic (obviously).
My favorite is a toss-up between Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Mononoke is definitely his most violent and bloody movie; filled with death, hatred, and greed. His movies are popular in the US, often for their typical toddler protagonist.
What’s your favorite?