Most of the anime imported here from Japan caters to the stereotypical American fanboy audience (i.e. teenage boys and college students), and such most of it is ridden with your typical anime cliches: robots, demons, samurai, and women with large breasts. But Hayao Miyazaki's animated films are different. He's been heavily influenced by classic Hollywood films (there are subtle references in all of his movies, in one way or another), and his movies are great fun for the whole family. I haven't seen Princess Mononoke yet, but other than that I consider Laputa: Castle in the Sky his crowning achievement - it's a fantastic fantasy adventure that ranks right up there with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. It has magical islands and robots ands flying sky fortresses and spells and pirates and sinister power-mad villains…and it all comes together in a story that hints at Gulliver's Travels, with more cliffhangers than you can shake a stick at. Grand, glorious entertainment – this is easily my favorite anime, and one of the finest animated films of all.
Japanese animation has its own rabid cult following among teenagers and comic book fans here in America; they love it because it follows a different track from Disney. Or so they say…actually, the anime imported here to America is only a small percentage of the stuff actually produced in Japan. Most of what we see over here is aimed at the action-movie market: science fiction action-adventure movies with lots of mecha, demons, spaceships, and women with large breasts. But there are a few exceptions to the rule - and one of the most delightful exceptions is Hayao Miyazaki, whose animated films are to anime what Steven Spielberg's films are to Hollywood. His films are highly entertaining, mostly free of cliches, and enjoyable by the whole family. Loads of fun! Check his stuff out! (My favorites of his are Laputa, My Neighbor Totoro and Lupin III: Castle Cagliostro.)