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SEPT. 12 TO NOV. 21

The protagonists of Japanese animation—”anime” in Japan and to its American devotees—invariably have the huge eyes and button noses of idealized moppets. Yet they face such grown-up threats as murderous robots, aliens with phallic tendrils, and—most tellingly—nuclear annihilation. The Freer Gallery of Art’s overview of the wildly imaginative genre is divided between films rated A for adult and F for family viewing, and opens with an example of the latter: Kiki’s Delivery Service (pictured, at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12), the sweet tale of a 13-year-old fledgling witch who moves to a picturesque city with her talking cat and begins delivering packages via broomstick. This exquisitely rendered 1989 ‘toon (recently dubbed in English) is the work of revered animator Hayao Miyazaki, whose Castle in the Sky (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20) is one of the few films in the series that has already been shown locally. Another is the A-rated Ghost in the Shell (at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17), in which a cyborg security cop battles a “ghost hacker,” a rogue bit of artificial intelligence that wants a body (“shell”) to call its own. Other highlights include Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26), The History of Japanese Animation, Parts I and II (at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1), Grave of the Fireflies at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14), and a preview of Princess Mononoke (at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16), a 1997 Japanese box-office champ set to open commercially in the United States next year. At the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th & Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Mark Jenkins)