I was first introduced to director Hayao Miyazaki's work in 2003 when my husband Lance suggested I watch Princess Monokoe. I have to say, I did not immediately fall in love. There was an eerie feeling to the film that unsettled me. And, I suppose, the film is supposed to be a bit unsettling.
However, over the last six years I have come to respect Miyazaki's films as some of the most original, creative, and endearing work out there, especially in the realm of animated film. His ecological and family-centric stories push viewers to think about how we are treating the world and each other. And most of the stories have a strong female lead, which is certainly a plus -- there is not enough of that yet in American animation.
Some of the stories require multiple viewings, especially Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. I get lost in the amazing imagery and quirky characters the first time around. But on the second viewing, I always pick up a message I was meant to hear, usually one that has deep meaning for me at the time. And because there are multiple levels to his films, I learn a new message each time I watch the films.
I just watched My Neighbor Totoro, which prompted me to write this post. It is about two girls who discover a magical forest spirit Totoro in the woods behind their new home. I kept saying, "I want Totoro to live behind our house!" And, I suppose, in some way, he does.
I can't recommend these films highly enough. I suggest you start with Howl's Moving Castle or Spirited Away and move on from there. Each film is a gem.