I like Spirited Away. It's strange, colourful, uplifting, surreal, imaginative, and other similar adjectives. The first time you watch it you miss all the messages, and even some of the plot - you just go along with it. A young girl has to work in a bathhouse for spirits and monsters after her parents are turned into pigs. That's the premise anyway, but it just seems to become a rapid succession of ideas. There's magical soot loading coal into a furnace. Now there's a dragon being attacked by paper arrows. Now the entire world has been covered in water as a train skims across the surface. It's a film that demonstrates the limitless scope of animation. If it can be drawn it can be in the film. John Lasseter from Pixar has said that, when his staff are stuck for ideas, they sit down and watch Ghibli films. These are the people the masters turn to for inspiration. That's high praise. For all its anime style, Spirited Away comes from the same place as any Pixar masterpiece. There are same powerful themes - losing your parents in this case - but dressed up in dense anime plot. It's less immediate, but it gets the job done (in a slightly more convoluted way). Just when you're trying to work it out, the film might hit you with something simple and beautiful to make you forget. Hayao Miyazaki (writer and director) seems keen on the grotesque too. Big wrinkled heads and slimy globs of death shift it away from the friendly adventure you'd think it might be. The deserted spirit village is just plain sinister, and the talking frog is actually quite threatening. And I haven't even mentioned the music.
I saw Howl's Moving Castle a while ago. That impressed me, but now I might be realising why everyone loves Ghibli. Even if I'm not sure how to say it. Gib-lee? Jib-lee? I don't know enough.