I've become exposed to some of this lately, and I have to admit it can get addictive. I had always thought this was all for kids like Pokemon and giant robots and stuff. Boy was i mistaken. In Japan, animation is viewed as legitimate as live action in order to convey a story in a movie. As a result, they have produced some pretty heavy "cartoons". Sex, nudity, extreme violence, mature themes... the whole gammut of what you would see in a "regular movie" here in the West. Invariably, in the good ones at least, there is some message or moral they are trying to convey. In addition, I've always liked strange movies (Terry Gilliam, John Watters, Peter Jackson, Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, etc...), but some of this stuff is way out there. Well if anyone is interested in expanding their horizons and experiencing some cinema outside of what they might normally watch, and definitely outside what they might expect from an animated presentation, here are some suggestions. These suggestion are pretty much only for adults, since kids will either miss the point or there may be inappropriate content. I also recommend watching them subtitled, but dubbed is usually an option as well. Grave of the Fireflies: This has to be up there with one of the saddest films of any genre. It's about a boy and his younger sister in Japan during WW2 while Japanese cities are being firebombed by the US. The raids are treated dispassionately and more as an act of nature than anything. Anyway the kids are sent off to live with their Aunt in the countryside. Unable to find peace within the traditional family structure, circumstances dictate their departure and the boy decides he must take care of his sister on his own. Themes include the family, responsibility, and tragic failure. Very sad. This is a must see. Lain: Serial Experiment: Begins with a young girl jumping to her death, and how this seemingly isolated act affects another girl (Lain). Unfolding events lead Lain to begin questioning the nature of her own existance. The movie questions what existance really means and what defines us as people, the nature of God, the manipulation of children, and our tenuous hold on sanity. Good stuff. Princess Monoke: This is an outstanding film. It's PG-13 for violence and mature themes, so depending on your kids, they could probably watch it with you. The basic theme is Man's coexistance with Nature, as explored from many angles. Even though there are several factions whose goals are in opposition to one another, there is really no antagonist per se in the film, which makes it all the more interesting. We can look at everyone sympathetically and see where they are coming from and what motivates them. The film deals with the effects of emerging industrialization on the environment and society, including the role of women and other undervalued persons in society. The English dub of this has recognizable voices such as Gillian Anderson lending their talents. Perfect Blue: Teeny bopper pop idol decides she wants to leave that life behind and branch out into legitimate film. Unfortunately her management and some of her fans aren't thrilled with this. It explores some of what she is willing to do to try and change her image, as well as what some will try to do in order to keep their image of her. It begins to get quite strange near the end and you are not sure what is real and what is not. Well, there's just a few if you are looking for something different next time you are browsing at BlockBuster. I'm sure someone with more experience in this genre could give you some other recommendations.
I've seen some of it, mostly oriented towards the sci-fi side of things though. They used to have an anime week on either the sci-fi channel or cartoon network. They would show them all later in the evening - after 10pm - as the ones they show were fairly violent and had a lot of sexual content although they weren't out right sexual in nature - just a lot of scantilly clad females - which is good in any movie . I dont know if I would call it addicting but I did look forwad to watching them, although if there was a better 'live' movie on somewhere else I'd usually watch the live one instead.