Turning Japanese

First published in News by

We've had a bit of a cartoon renaissance at our house recently, via the "discovery" of a hitherto untapped source of entertainment in the Japanese animation industry.

Specifically, we've become big fans of the output of Studio Ghibli, whose latest film, Tales from Earthsea, is just enjoying a cinematic release.

When I say "we" I mean Charlie (four), Alice (two), Claire and me (in our thirties), but it's really Charlie who's the driving force in all of this.

We let him watch a Studio Ghibli anime that I had bought a couple of years ago, Spirited Away, and he was captivated. Our library now consists of such titles as Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, The Cat Returns and our current (and possibly all-time) favourite, My Neighbour Totoro.

There's a chance you haven't seen these films, because they seem to be marketed to a particular (ie geeky) audience, but in missing them you're depriving yourself of a treat.

Warm-hearted, sometimes a bit scary, consummately animated and managing to tread the fine line between not going too far over kids' heads but not patronising them either, these films are great.

It's also refreshing to watch quality animation featuring characters you don't see plastered all over cereal boxes, TV ads, chocolate bars, cheap comics and tatty merchandise (although an internet search did, eventually, turn up some much-required fluffy toys from the Totoro cartoon).

Do yourself a favour - snub the latest Hollywood product-placement fest and enjoy some cracking storytelling. With or without your kids.

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