When the film club watched and discussed Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro a couple years ago, I watched parts of it with my (then) 2-year old grandson. He loved it, but at that time he was not up to watching an entire film at one sitting, so we watched individual scenes, and he soon developed a few favorites that he wanted to watch over and over and over.
In the meantime, Marilyn and I had recently watched Spirited Away and decided that some of the images in that film were probably too potentially frightening for an upcoming 4-year old (his current age), so we did not watch any of that film with him. When the film club picked Howl’s Moving Castle as the pick for January, we decided to watch it ourselves first to see if it seemed appropriate for a 4-year old. Some of the images (monsters and war-making machines) were a little frightening for a 4-year old, but we decided it would be ok for him to watch it as long as we were present to watch it with him. However, I expected that it would have to be viewed in parts over several settings since it runs about 2 hours. I cued up the DVD and started the film running while we sat on the couch. Two hours later the film was over, and my grandson had not budged the entire time, watching every scene intently. Amazing! Miyazaki is clearly a genius at tapping into the fantasy world psyches of both children and adults.
While watching it the second time, I was struck by the strong antiwar theme that runs throughout the film. I had noticed this element somewhat during the first viewing, but one is so mesmerized by the imagery the first time through that the narrative theme comes through only in an indirect way. This is a film I would highly recommend for any parents or grandparents to watch WITH their children and grandchildren.