Genre: Kids, Animation, Drama, Romance
Cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Michael Chiklis
Synopsis: A sullen young girl enters the world or spirits after her parents are turned into pigs for eating food that didn’t belong to them. She must work in a bath house for the spirits and discover her courage to save her parents and return home.
Spirited Away is the Studio Ghibli film that everyone has heard about and the one that is considered Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus. Whilst the latter is certainly debatable, there is no doubt that this movie is an absolute masterpiece. It’s a sumptuously animated coming of age tale about a girl who is trapped in the world of spirits and must work at a bath house for a witch. Whilst at the bath house, she encounters a marvelous array of characters and is forced to look within herself and learn valuable lessons about courage, conviction, and love.
This movie won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The win was well-deserved. In contrast to many western animated features, Spirited Away never patronizes its audience. The central themes of the movie, though simple and familiar, are presented with a touching complexity that possesses a resonant honesty. Nothing is black and white. Instead, everything lies somewhere in the middle. There is no pure good or pure evil, the key is to find the inner strength that enables us to turn our backs on the bad and to find the conviction to keep moving forward towards the good. This message is perhaps exemplified in the relationship between Chihiro and No-Face, the film’s semi-antagonist. Chihiro understands No-Face’s unhappiness and, in the face of certain death, sacrifices her own chance of saving her parents for his own well-being. She understands his dark side but sees his good side too and encourages it to flourish. In my opinion, films too often occupy themselves with the idea that evil can be vanquished but that’s a mistake and doesn’t reflect reality. Evil and sadness are innate and, instead of killing them outright, we should face these problems, accept them and not feed them so that they grow out of control. Evil will always be a part of us but we all have the power to control it. This is a theme that is featured in a lot of Miyazaki’s work, such as Princess Mononoke, but it feels a lot more accessible in Spirited Away and a lot more relatable.
With regard to the visuals, I can’t begin to describe the beauty of the animation. Everything is crafted with expert precision. There are times in this movie when I have to be completely silent in order to appreciate the splendor of it all. Whether it’s a train gliding across the ocean, a bustling bath house stretches out like a fortress, or a walk through walls of wild flowers, the most basic scenes possess a resounding gorgeousness that can be appreciated by everyone.
Whilst this is definitely a kids’ film, I think that a lot of the themes will be lost on the young. However, Spirited Away is a film that stays with you and the more you watch it the more you understand. As such, it’s essential viewing for people with young kids. As I have said numerous times, I plan to force my kids to watch the entire Studio Ghibli catalog. I think it’ll make them grow up to be good people. I hope it will at least. For adults, I think the messages are still applicable. Even though it’s a story about growth and maturity, we’re always growing and learning. Spirited Away has the power to remind us of our strength.
- Spectacular animation.
- Complex characters that really satisfy. There is no weak-link here.
- The ending. The unsure and almost mournful look back to the past and that strong and confident turn to confront what lies ahead, safe with the knowledge that accomplishments can be made.
- LOOK!!! HE’S CUTTING AND EATING THE CAKE!!!! Kawaii!
This movie probably isn’t to everyone’s tastes but it needs to be seen at least once. Also, I’d recommend watching the original Japanese version. The dub is good too but I think the original dialogue has a little more depth to it. Weed isn’t necessary to enjoy this movie but it certainly adds an interesting perspective to the viewing experience. I’d prefer to watch this after smoking something that will give a cerebral high. The animation and color become all the more vivid as a result. Keep this movie for a sad day and for when you need cheering up. It’s the perfect remedy for the blues.