Thanks, in no small part, to the success of Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 film Spirited Away, Disney's been putting out the Japanese animator's films on DVD—and doing a pretty decent job to boot, with two-disc sets, solid extra features, and the films' original Japanese audio. The latest batch of DVDs from Miyazaki and his production house, Studio Ghibli, showcase some of the filmmaker's best—which is saying quite a bit.
• My Neighbor Totoro (1988)—Satsuki and her constantly screaming four-year-old sister, Mei, move to the country—and befriend the charming, mysterious, and creepy forest spirits who live nearby. Totoro's an imaginative showcase of how Miyazaki uses artful, sincere storytelling to entertain and provoke both children and adults. (Meanwhile, most American studios' attempts at family films pretty much begin and end with the decision to hire Tim Allen or Eddie Murphy to act like a fucktard.)
• Howl's Moving Castle (2004)—One of the best films to hit American screens last year. Sophie, a young girl, is transformed into an old woman; searching for help, she flees to the mist-shrouded hills to find Howl, a mysterious wizard. The unconventional romance and striking, densely layered story are emotionally dead-on, and the stunning visuals will catch even the most jaded cinephile off-guard.
• Whisper of the Heart (1995)—Fans are always calling Miyazaki a "master storyteller," which always sounds like a stupid cliché—until you realize that he can take even the most pedestrian stories and imbue them with an astounding amount of emotion and insight. Yoshifumi Kondo directed Heart from a screenplay by Miyazaki (who adapted it from Aoi Hîragi's manga), and it's a welcome deviation from Miyazaki's more fantastical efforts. Its low-key premise—a bookish young girl deals with teenage crushes, trails a mysterious cat, and follows her simple but overpowering dreams—illuminates what Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli do so well: Make films so intelligent and heartfelt that whether they feature forest spirits or schoolgirl crushes, it's impossible to watch them and not be completely sucked in. ERIK HENRIKSEN