The family name of Miyazaki is synonymous with the best of animation of the last several decades. Hayao, the father, has conceived of, written, and/or directed many modern classics, from Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke to My Neighbor Totoro. His love of the art and his ability to make a drawn world feel utterly real has rarely been equaled.
With this film his son, Goro, and he worked through some difficult situations to produce an emotionally magical story. Hayao’s script captures both a culture and a coming-of-age moment for two teenagers. But, as this is a Miyazaki script, it isn’t a straight forward path. The movie is much more Millennium Actress than it is Howl’s Moving Castle; full of wonder and joy as well as honesty and realism. But neither is it a deep, angst-ridden crawl through adolescence. It is simply a summer of awakening with some nice plot elements.
In addition to the film, the extras on the disc are fascinating to watch as well. From Miyazaki’s, the elder, speech after the initial showing of the film to a featurette following the American voice direction of the release. Each provide different insights into the film as well as a glimpse of the passion that drives the creation of these true labors of love.
This isn’t Miyazaki’s best. And, admittedly, Goro, whose only previous effort was Tales of Earthsea, is just getting a firm grip on his craft and finding his own way in the shadow of his father. However, it is wonderfully effective and sweet. If you have any inclination to the format, it is one you should see. If, for no other reason, see it for the handing off of the baton from one generation to the next. The result bodes well for the decades to come.