There is a Japanese filmmaker named Hayao Miazaki. He makes animated films, anime, better than the vast majority of Hollywood movies. I love every one I have ever seen. I can’t go a month without watching at least one, even if I have seen it a half dozen times before. Luckily, Miazaki has been making movies for decades.
The thing I love about these films is the absolute sense of wonder, the mystery, the ability to accept that not everything has to be explained, some things just are. There is a young hero or heroine, sometimes both, whose courage and bravery will see them through. The power of youth carries a certain mythology with it.
The very young and very old seem to hold a special place in Japanese storytelling. I have seen this truth born out in reality as well. In some community development work I took part in last year we found the very youngest generation and the very oldest generation shared the same value sets. It was almost as if the teenagers were still young enough to have ideals and the elderly had enough wisdom to have realized those ideals were all that really mattered. The people in the middle are too busy making a living, raising a family, mowing the lawn, preparing for that business meeting, or feeding the dog.
Aside from the young and idealistic heroine, very little after that is predictable. The “bad guy” is very rarely simply evil. The “good guy” is often mysterious and more than a little frightening. There are Cat Busses, Radish Spirits, Boar Gods, wizards, flying machines, cats dressed more elegantly than a gentleman in a Jane Eyre movie, and little tree spirits whose heads shake like tiny rattles. It sounds fantastical and often is, yet it is done with a grace and wit which make it easy to embrace.
Industry versus nature is a common theme, each alternately seeming more sinister than the other. Family, trust, and love are central.
But the thing I love most is that central to the hero’s success is his absolute belief in the good within all beings.