While I absolutely loved this movie, I feel I'm highly biased. The anime and manga were some of the best I've ever seen as a long-experienced anime/manga fan. I'm more than impressed that something from a manga series could be turned into such a beautiful masterpiece. But it's not for those expecting something lighthearted or fun. It's a very deep, very spiritual, and somewhat slow movie. It helps to have seen other classic Japanese film first. It helps to know something of their culture. Otherwise, I can understand why the film could be confusing to most. Realize that the plot of this film was lifted from various episodes of the anime and merged together in a way they were not originally written, which might account for it being confusing at times. But since I knew the stories already, I had no trouble seeing the genius it took to write it as it was. So this film is simply not for everyone. Yet, for what it's attempting, it hits the mark perfectly. I dare say it even improved upon the source. I was blown away. I imagine that even if I couldn't follow the complex spiritual story I still would have at least appreciated it for it's sheer beauty and originality. Realize also that purpose of the movie isn't about any particular message. It's merely a spiritual journey that is beautiful and unpredictable. The message is dark, but the anime wasn't always like that. I would still recommend the anime first, then watching this movie. It helps a lot. In comparison to the anime it's much darker, much less spiritually moving, and a lot harder to understand. But they really aren't worth comparing since they are done in such extremely different styles of storytelling and medium. Yet, if you enjoyed this movie you will definitely enjoy the anime. Please watch it, it's available on DVD in both excellent subtitles and excellent dubbing (I'd recommend the dub.) And specifically, this movies plot corresponds to episodes 3,7,12, and 20, although I would also recommend episode 1 as an introduction to the series.