Japanese anime has apparently gone mainstream enough stateside for the likes of Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, and Gillian Anderson to lend their voices to an American-dubbed, Disney/ Miramax-released version of Princess Mononoke, which was the top-grossing domestic film in Japan in 1997. Directed by influential animation master Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke probably won't outdo The Bachelor at the box office, but it's sure to introduce many American filmgoers to Miyazaki and give them an appetite for his other works.
Meanwhile, fans of anime have been familiar with Miyazaki for years, as well as many of his contemporaries. Serious buffs get their chance to see seven major works from the leading creators of full-length animated features at the Pacific Film Archive's "Studio Ghibli: The Magic of Miyazaki, Takahata, and Kondo." Studio Ghibli was founded by Isao Takahata and Miyazaki in 1984, and its films have been among the most successful and praised anime works worldwide. Rich in Japanese mythology, surreal imagery, and character details that -- beautifully -- don't make any damn sense, the films of Studio Ghibli are often the beginning point for those hoping to delve into Japanese animation, and the zenith for those who have already discovered it.
Screening Saturday, Nov. 13, is Miyazaki's 1992 epic Porco Rosso, which follows a (literally) pig-headed sea plane pilot as he plies the skies over the Adriatic Sea during the 1930s. In what's basically an old-fashioned adventure story, Porco Rosso battles pirates, fascists, and disillusionment with life as he struggles to regain a human face and win the heart of his girl. Also screening Saturday is Takahata's Only Yesterday, a tale of a young Tokyo office worker who sees her current pursuits as empty and meaningless -- a feeling with which wage-slaves worldwide can identify. Porco Rossoscreens at 2:30 and 7 p.m., Only Yesterday at 4:30 and 9 p.m. The festival continues through Nov. 28 at the Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley. Tickets are $3.50-6 for one film, $4-7.50 for double bills. Call (510) 642-1412 for a complete screening schedule.