I've just returned from seeing Howl's Moving Castle (Hauru no Ugoku Shiro), Studio Ghibli's latest film (and that's the Ghibli Museum's ticket counter in the post below, in case you're wondering). I feel... a little sad. It was, of course, beautiful to look at. For example:
It's story was also lovelier than any American-made animation feature, in my opinion. But, compared to the jewels of Miyazaki's work, such as Totoro, Nausicaa, and even Princess Mononoke, something seemed missing from HMC. I was surprised not only by the repetition of themes and even art from Spirited Away but also, and even more so, by Miyazaki's growing sentimentality. This is the first film from Studio Ghibli that I find akin to Disney's Ariel-Pocohantas-Beauty type love stories, which saddens me. I may be wrong, but I think this is the studio's first film kiss, which seems such an American concept in animation features and so out of place for Miyazaki.* Restraint and subtlety have always marked the studio's love stories - witness Taeko and Toshio in Only Yesterday or Shizuku and Seiji in Whisper of the Heart, even given the dramatic conclusion. Granted, these are not Japanese characters, so cultural differences may be taken into account, but such was not the case with Porco or Lupin or any other "European" characters.
But this is not about kissing - it's the subtle change from films so different and unpredictable to something that seems so familiar, which makes it disappointing.
Regardless, see the film. It's beautiful and charming. See it subtitled, if you can. Somehow anime dubs all sound the same - the same cadence and acting, no matter the context. My theory is that the voice actors must always match the rhythm of mouth movements intended for Japanese, so English always sounds a bit wrong in the dub. Recognizing voices in dubs is also annoying - e.g. the kvetching of Billy Crystal, or Batman voicing Howl!
*Tanuki do NOT count.