This is one of Studio Ghibli's less known films. It tells the story of middle-aged Taeko's gradual realization of her love for the Japanese countryside. Through frequent funny and realistic childhood coming-of-age flashbacks we see that even during moments when life seems hopelessly complicated, it's really quite simple. On a similar note, the ability of anime to refine the needlessly complicated to its essence is one of its great qualities in my opinion. The scene in which little Taeko merrily walks into the sky is an (exaggerated) example of this ability. A live action attempt to show childhood elation would be much more strained. The film does glorify farm living, but doesn't gloss over the difficulties to the extent that most films do. I was skeptical of any animated film's ability to inspire emotion for the beauty of the countryside. I mean... it's just drawings that presume to represent the real thing right? Well, the animators obviously did their research. The scenery isn't artificially...scenic, but it is very beautiful in a subdued, natural way. What most impresses me is the constantly calm mood of the film. Where other films would escalate certain situations to cheesy melodramatics, this film keeps it's feet on the ground (except for little Taeko... I love that scene). On a final note, the voice acting was superb, and the famous (among otaku) ending sequence is very uplifting. If Miramax releases a subtitled version of this, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.