Matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
"The only choice is to kill me."
Um. Wow. Woah. Can Studio Ghibli fail me? Just once? Just so I know they're not some impenetrable freak of cinematic nature? They haven't been doing a very good job of not seeming invincible.
The animation: Stunning. Absolutely beautiful. Some of the images actually made me a bit watery. I'm a sucker for vivid hand-drawn/watercolor work, and not only does this deliver in spades but a couple scenes are made even more impactful by some of the methods used. Also, as this is based on folklore, the style feels like paintings that might have been done around that time, but in motion.
The voice-acting: For being dubbed (I plan on seeing the original ASAP, of course), this was very competent. I really don't like most dubs, but this didn't annoy me. Nothing fantastic, but I wasn't expecting such.
The story: An old fable is taken and retold in a manner that children can vastly enjoy and learn from without feeling cheap to everyone else. However, as stunning as this is, it isn't a tale that hides in a veil of happiness. Moving, heartbreaking, painful with dashes of violence. Don't get me started on the ending. There's still joy to be found, but only by traversing through struggles and learning to "let go" when necessary. Much as the moral of this story.
One might notice in the rating that it mentions "partial nudity". It's tasteful and extremely brief. Definitely shouldn't be a deterrent.
Also, this didn't feel like 135 minutes. I was invested throughout the entire duration.