You have seen quite a few animation movies. Some of them ordinary (Shrek 2, for instance), some good (The Lion Kings and Aladdins of this world) and some stupendous (one word.... Pixar). And yet, if you haven't seen anything by Hayao Miyazaki yet, you have missed a completely different sub-genre of animation - the Epic Animation.
I don't know if its a genre patented by Miyazaki or most Japanese animation is like that but going by what I have heard/read about him, his work is as good as it gets in Japan, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter.
Miyazaki doesn't make your normal laugh-a-minute, cute action-adventures for kids (not that there's anything wrong with that. Pixar people do that brilliantly and who would want to miss their gems?). His style is different. Simpler in a way (he doesn't approve of computer animation and still makes the hand-drawn kind) and yet producing images that remain with you forever. And not just because they are beautiful and grand and bubbling with imagination but also because the pictures tell stories that are simple yet great.
I don't think I know enough about art to even attempt reviewing his work (or anybody else's) but you know you have seen something special when what you expected to be "just an animation movie" keeps coming back to you more than a week after you have seen it. I don't know if everyone would like them as much as I did. Maybe you'll find them good but not as great as others you might've seen. Maybe you'd be disappointed because you'll find that some of his work isn't quite as "entertaining" as, say, The Incredibles. But the fact that IMDb's top animation movies list has one of Miyazaki movies at no. 1, 2 in top 3, and 4 in top 9 gives me hope that a lot of people do like his work as much as I do. And the fact that he is considered a veritable movie-making God (animation or otherwise) in Japan must count for something too. Which reminds me of the little factoid that his Princess Mononoke was the highest grossing movie in Japan EVER before Titanic replaced it later that year. Which reminds me of the fact that Titanic's record was broken by another Miyazaki film - Spirited Away - when it released in 2001. Which reminds me to predict that his latest - Howl's Moving Castle - will take the mantle over very soon (actually it might already have done so. Last I checked, it had already collected more that $150 million and was moving relentlessly towards $200 million dollars without any sign of slowing down.) I am citing all these figures so that you don't misinterpret my raves about his art as an indicator that his work might not be "for the masses".
So, the next time you feel like watching a movie, get a Miyazaki movie regardless of whether you are in the mood to see a great piece of art or just want to have a good time with a light-hearted movie. Among the three that I have seen, I'd recommend that you see Castle in the Sky first. But don't miss the others too.
An image from Miyazaki's current release - Howl's Moving Castle.
courtesy: Studio Ghibli