Spirited Away (2001) (PG)

Arguably the most acclaimed film to stem from creative mind Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, "Spirited Away" proved to critics and audiences that anime was a force to be reckoned with. Fantastical, larger than life, frightening, and visually stunning—"Spirited Away" is the animated equivalent to Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth".
The movie starts with Chihiro and her family moving. Perhaps moody from the move or anxious because of new beginnings, Chihiro sulks in the back seat as the car whizzes along. Thinking that he is taking a short cut, her father takes a back road that leads to an old tunnel. The path is decorated with odd looking statues.
Feeling adventurous, the mom and dad set out to explore the tunnel. Chihiro, on the other hand, would like nothing more than just to get back into the car and take off to their new house. But not listening to their daughter, her parents uncover an old meadow and what looks to be an abandoned amusement park.
This is spirit land, the place where Chihiro is given the name Sen by the witch Yubaba...that was random wasn't it?
Her parents have been transformed into animals and in an attempt to get them back, Chihiro will have to put aside her fears and have a Nike moment...just do it.
She enters into the world of fears and oddities. Not everything here is out of a nightmare, in fact, some of the spirits are quite cordial. But Chihiro will not be sidetracked, she has one thing on her mind: get mom and dad back.
Helpless in what seems like a make-believe world, she is helped by a mysterious, powerful boy named Haku. These two will have very many, bizarre adventures together.
"Spirited Away" has been heralded by many critics as the best animated movie ever. The bold ingenuity and fierce style are some of its appeals. The film caters to both children and adults in the way that the "Lord of the Rings" caters to both. Some of the images are very frightening, or just so bizarre as to be intimidating,
But then I got to thinking about the kid's movies that Disney put out—are these images any scarier than a character murdering his brother, the shooting of a mother, a witch hellbent on being beautiful, or a woman planning on skinning 101 dogs just because she can?
What differs is the oddity. Yes, lions talk and cats are wealthy...but no Disney magic can compare to "Spirited Away".
It's so visually different from any movie American audiences are used to, that it can be shocking.
The acceptance of the spirit world by Chihiro allows the audience to accept it. We just sit back and let the story unfold, it's a movie that's impossible to predict.
Rich with Japanese culture and realistic animation, "Spirited Away" becomes a movie that is about love. But not the crass love that so many Hollywood movies portray. It's childish, naive, and pure love. Love in its most innocent form.
Undoubtably genius and altogether moving, there is something about "Spirited Away" that strikes you. Unfortunately, it can strike you the wrong way.
I'm not convinced that this movie is the best animated film ever made, nor do I think that it is a masterpiece.
But it is enthralling, adventurous, and original.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

1 comment:

  1. Studio Ghibli is an amazing Japanese film studio. These are without a doubt the best anime films I've ever seen. Because they ARE Japanese of course it's rich and not overdone. I know not all films are like that, but it's not in the cheesy American Japanese steakhouse way. I highly recommend their films for whenever you have an anime craving. The only thing we can be thankful for, American wise, is thanking Disney for making sure there was an English translation.

    I believe this film deserved it's Oscar for both animated film... I mean, especially seeing it's competition. Ice Age, Lilo & Stitch, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Treasure Planet. This movie is a masterpiece in comparison, and is definitely an animation favorite of mine.

    Of course the name thing is weird, but I love how it all tied together. That's basically what I could say about a lot of elements in this movie.

    No-Face is probably one of my favorite animated silent ghost in a movie. I mean, I know that's a specific category, but I can't say overall silent character [The renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close] and I guarantee there's an animated character that I can't think of. Point is: I love No-Face. For some reason, in his terrible ghost moments, I still wanted the best for him. He was so sweet to Chihiro and all that jazz.