I realize that many people might not agree with what i'm going to say about this film, but please hear me out..
first of all.. i think too many people expected it to be like other miyazaki works.. but the worst thing you could do is assume it'll have the magic and light-heartedness of other studio ghibli films.. after all, it was miyazaki's son that directed it.. and for a first film, i don't think it could've been any better.. i suppose it's tough to keep this in mind, as the art style is the same as other ghibli films.. but please try..
that being said..
Story-i loved the story.. that might be partially because i really enjoy this genre.. a sort of medieval setting with fantasy elements.. dragons and sorcery.. but none of the fantasy elements are too over-bearing.. the film focuses instead on the lesson it intends to convey.. sounds lame.. but i think it did a perfect job of getting the point across.. i felt like i would burst when the movie ended.. i really felt the impact of what was being said.. to deny death is to deny life.. being afraid of death is being afraid of living.. i know it sounds cliche, but it makes sense and it really hits home.. heh.. for me at least.. it's a very epic telling of the story.. and you need to keep in mind also that this was literature to begin with, and you can tell by the content of the story.. it may seem to move a bit quickly and is at parts confusing.. but that's just the way it goes whenever literature becomes film.. nothing tough to keep up with though.. just a few holes..
Animation-the scenery was breathtaking as usual.. you could really feel the tone of the setting.. the art, the music, the story-all truly strike a chord.. the character animations could have been better, that would be my only serious complaint.. since it's a more recent film, i thought they could have done more with the effects-especially in scenes involving the use of magic.. more similar to the animation in spirited away or howl's moving castle.. then again, it might have been intentional.. and i'm not sure i liked the design of the dragons.. but overall.. great stuff.
Sound-probably my favorite music in a film ever.. bah.. i love that stuff.. perfectly orchestrated.. gave me chills actually.. heh.. it was dramatic, but it added to the epic feel of the film.. it was never cheesy.. and i especially love when it sounded a bit irish with the flutes and such.. and uh.. the closing song made me break down and bawl like a baby.. it was that beautiful.
Character-the characters were totally fitting for this movie.. nothing felt like it was out of place.. the main characters had plenty of depth and were very likable.. one thing i noticed was that one of the leaders of the bad dudes, the guy with the frenchie stupid-lookin mustache, looks exactly like a bad guy in nausicaa valley of the wind.. this also, may have been on purpose.. he acted like him too.. kinda weird.. and the evil sorcerer gave me chills.. that voice.. shudder*.. so yea-the characters were perfect in my opinion.. enough said.
Enjoyment-i enjoyed it thoroughly.. yea.. that's all.
*please remember to watch this film with an open mind, not expecting the usual miyazaki 'magic'