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Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

I saw Miyazaki’s latest the night before last—and the trailer above about sums up the film (even though the current theatrical release has an English dub, with the usual big-name stars, including Liam Neeson). If you’ve seen any other Miyazaki film, you’ll know what to expect—a world in which nature and humanity exist in a balance that humanity threatens to upset; a cast of characters of which none are “bad,” not if you stop to understand them; children making romantic decisions, saving lives, and taking on responsibilities as adults would; and surreal, oozey, disturbing-bordering-on-cute or cute-bordering-on-disturbing creatures. This is Miyazaki top to bottom, and cute as a button—the lightest of his films that I’ve seen (I have yet to see Totoro). All in all, it was a little too light for me—I was waiting for some real threat and darkness to appear on the horizon, as they did in Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, for instance (Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service remain my favorite Miyazaki films). But no. Even tsunamis and catastrophic flooding can’t dampen the mood of the characters or the film as a whole, and the final choice struck me as anticlimactic and far too easy for the characters to make.

Oh, and the final theme song, as rendered in English, hurts. GOD, the remixed peppiness, coming after a perfectly good Joe Hisaishi score and a pleasant-if-in-no-way-surprising Miyazaki film. Why, soundtrack? Why?

Stiil, if you’ve not seen Miyazaki’s films before, go try this one. It won’t hurt you, and it had all of Miyazaki’s trademarks. If you want to see him at what I think is his best, try Spirited Away.

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