On the way to their new home, 10-year-old Chihiro Ogino's family stumbles upon a deserted theme park. Intrigued, the family investigates the park, though unbeknownst to them, it is secretly inhabited by spirits who sleep by day and appear at night. When Chihiro's mother and father eat food from a restaurant in the street, angry spirits turn them into pigs. Furthermore, a wide sea has appeared between the spirit world and the human one, trapping Chihiro, the sole human, in a land of spirits. Luckily for her though, a mysterious boy named Haku appears, claiming to know her from the past. Under his instructions, Chihiro secures a job in the bathhouse where Haku works. With only her courage and some new found friends to aid her, Chihiro embarks on a journey to turn her parents back to their original forms and return home.
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi is the highest grossing film in Japanese history, with a total of ￥30.4 billion from Japanese box office sales alone. It is also the most successful film to debut from Japan, with a total of $289 million worldwide. This critically acclaimed film has won numerous awards, including the Academy Award, more commonly known as "Oscar", for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards in 2003, as well as the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (alongside Bloody Sunday). It is also among the top ten in the British Film Institute's list of the "50 films you should see by the age of 14". The English version of Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi was dubbed by Walt Disney Pictures and premiered in 2002. The film was released on DVD and VHS formats in North America by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 2003.
When I first saw the movie, I didn't see what the big deal was. All right, so a girl gets whisked away to a fantasy world? We've heard that story before. And, unlike many other movies, there's no dramatic love story or epic battles and action scenes to keep you at the edge of your seat. Consequently, I didn't think of it as being very exciting.
Still, I watched it again and, for some reason, I got it the second time around. Spirited Away isn't meant to be anything grand, with all the bells and whistles. It has a quiet, subdued way of telling a simple story about a simple girl in a very strange world. Instead of expecting something huge, just sit back, watch, and appreciate the world and story Miyazaki has finely crafted for us all to enjoy.
To get to the technical aspects...
The art is, of course, amazing. The colours are rich and the animation is fluid. When Chihiro and her family first walk into the spirit world, you can practically feel the breeze as you watch it whisk through the grass. The lights of the spirit world at night are breathtaking. And watching the train ride closer to the end of the movie, coupled with the amazing music score (the track is called "The Sixth Station"), remains one of my most favourite animation sequences out of anything I've seen. Which brings me to another point: the music.
I will get this out of the way first - Joe Hisaishi is one of my favourite composers. His music style is very simple, but he makes every note count. Most of his music is quite subdued in nature and takes a careful ear to notice when your eyes are being captivated by what's going on in the screen, but do take notice if you have the chance. Or search on YouTube for videos of his live performances. His music is a joy to listen to. Like with Spirited Away, Hisaishi's music lacks all the "bells and whistles" per se, but it's beauty lies in its simplicity. Hisaishi has not failed here in Spirited Away.
I dearly loved the characters. One of the best parts of this movie, for me, was that it lacked any clear good or evil characters. Everyone has a bit of both, though perhaps some allow the evil sides of them to come out a bit more obviously than others. In this way, it's very realistic. Granted, the characters were all quite predictable and Chihiro grated on my nerves at times, but overall, I enjoyed each and every one of the characters Miyazaki has create here.
Overall, Spirited Away is one of my favourite movies and will always be a treasured item in my small DVD collection. It requires some patience to get through since it's not packed with action or drama, but it's a nice fairy tale to watch and enjoy.read more
This is my first review in MyAnimeList, so I apologize in advance if you find the ideas I'll put forward here badly-written, explained or structured.
I am going to talk about Spirited Away (yeah, obvious). It's been quite a long time since I watched it for the last time, more than a year in fact; but I became a really fascinating and influential piece for me at that time, far enough to define my current love for Miyazaki's works, the Studio Ghibli and animation in general as an art and a strong way of expression. Today it's still one of my favorite animated features of any sort, and not because of its lack of flaws than its amazing blend of concepts.
The first thing that appeals the audience in this movie is its art and animation. I, as unexperienced and poor in technical knowledge about the subject, think it's utter fascinating, it manages to create a whole world out of nothing, and the use of lights and shades, the forms and colours make the overall experience a visual joy. And in addition to that I find the characters' gestures and movements extremely plastic and realistic, some other scenes have been mentioned in that aspect by other reviewers but I was particularly fond of that one where Chihiro is walking with her parents and she gradually moves away, only to come back to her position with a little run-up. These things don't happen, usually, in animation. In so far as they are unnecessary, easily ignorable and feel like a waste of resources, we hardly see characters making these little movements which in the end result in nothing relevant. Ghibli, however, animates them, and does it with such a mastery, a love for detail and a goddamn naturalism that I can't help but feel amazed.
As if the visual aspect wasn't good enough, the movie is also a pleasure for our ears and has what I consider the best track of my heavily worshipped Joe Hisaishi, one of the best (if not the best) film composers I have ever heard. Spirited Away is exceptionally good at that aspect; I'd say it's one of the very few cases in which there is, at some scenes, such a strong fusion between story and music, that I can't conceive nor think of one without the other.
But despite all of these beautiful qualities about its setting, the real substance of this movie is at its story. I apologize in advance, again, because as I'm going to develop some points I will give some free spoilers. If you haven't seen the movie I'd recommend to stop reading at this point.
It has been said many times by critics that Spirited Away felt like a senseless blend of magic elements, just a simple story filled with many things the author introduced undiscriminatingly to drag out the experience. Well, I have a quite different point of view for that device. I just can't conceive that the animation, for example, is taken to such a high level of detail and, on the other hand, that doesn't happen with the story. And by rewatching it repeatedly in a short amount of time (once every two months, more or less), I began to develop some theories about the nature of the world that is depicted here.
What must be considered at first is that all this magical world, with strange creatures and spells, is just an allegory for the always difficult transiton between childhood and the first steps of adulthood. It's the age you start dealing with responsibility, when you realize your acts have consequences and you have to make decisions that will affect your future; you define yourself and the course of your life. Miyazaki puts these simple concepts by transforming the need of finding an identity into a way to escape the wonderful yet cruel world where Chihiro is suddenly trapped. Its hostility imitates quite well the drama of the process, as it reinforces the need of an additional effort every one of us have to make at some point and reset our lives and our positions.
Does this mean that Yubaba's world is an undeveloped blend of magic, hostile things that only serve as a situation that Chihiro has to overcome at some point? Well, I don't think so, as it seems to have a clear structure and hierarchy. One of the stories I see compared more often with this one is Alice in Wonderland. However, I would define that as a blend of unrelated events, a story whose main charm lies in its anarchic, nearly nightmarish, narrative. Spirited Away is not like that in any way. In fact I think there is an effort to transmit a strong sense of logic throughout, it tries to delimit the causes and consequences of every single case.
The key character to understand how Yubaba's tyranny works is, in my opinion, Lin. She just happens to be the link between Chihiro and the rest of the magical creatures, just like somebody that is in some sort of intermediate level. Her physical appearance looks slightly transformed, but not as much as the rest. She is aware of the existence of another world outside of that one, the importance of remembering her name, her "identity"; and knowing that, she helps Chihiro and takes the role of a mother. I have the theory that every one of the creatures that live in Yubaba's world were once human, maybe little boys and girls like Chihiro who couldn't find the way to escape, or other people; and they ended up forgetting who they were, losing their "humanity" and becoming mere pieces of this world. Lin is a special case because it seems she's not lost her identity yet, at least not at all, but forgot at one point her name, the key to come back home, and knows her situation is irreversible. She maybe observed this in some of her companions when she arrived, and Chihiro reminds herself of that. Maybe because of that, because she knows and appreciates what she's doomed to lose, she decides to help her in an altruistic way.
And what about Kamaji? Another key character in Chihiro's development in there; he seems to be quite aware of his situation too. I'd say he is a bit like the "sacrificed" individual, who Yubaba used to start his project and maybe the only one that didn't lose his identity at all. He's a slave in this world, he knows it but can't help it.
So yes, I have a more "adult" and crude view of the overall concept. This definition of the magical public baths as a place were people are doomed to end up losing what makes them "special" is quite harsh and melancholic for a -as targeted and admitted by Miyazaki- kid's movie, and it might feel even weird, but that's how I interpreted it and I think it makes some sense.
Does this mean Yubaba is a villain? Well, define villain. Somebody whose only objective in life is to harm people? That's hardly what Yubaba is. She, for better or for worse, created a world, and made it work. She imposed some rules. We could even say she created her own utopia (and that doesn't mean she is naturally "bad"), why not? And, most important, she has a strong sense of honor, she dictates and also OBEYS her rules. One of the (maybe) main reasons why she loses her battle against Chihiro, in fact, is that her weakness is shown eventually (giant baby); and reveals a hypocritical attitude, as she is protecting her lovely child from any influence while she's always preaching the exact contrary. As she knows it, it's a shameful thing to admit and maybe here is where her image of forcefulness starts to teeter.
All in all, these examples just show that the real strength of this story lies in the characters, as they are always depicted in a detailed way. Yubaba not being the typical villain, or not even being a "villain" at all; Haku, the hero and the "positive" one here has also an overambitious side and is for the most part guilty of his situation... and Chihiro, of course. She is a spoiled brat who learns to appreciate some things, but in no way overreacting at these points, as she sounds real and relatable at every damn scene. It's quite easy to understand her, she's not made to be likeable but her portrayal is solid enough to make us join her development through the story.
I could spend hours and hours talking about this precious anime and its many details, the enigmatic role of No Face, the negative influence of the parents in Chihiro's behaviour, and so much more... I love it. It breathes mastery at (almost) every one of its points, and I can enjoy it in many levels. My only grip would be the way things are resolved, which I have always found too rushed; reading Miyazaki's opinion on that ending I've come to understand the intention behind, but still I'd say the metaphor is made too subtle for the audience, and maybe the execution is also somewhat clumsy. But aside from this minor flaw, I can't help but admire this fascinating, eye-captivating piece of art, my second favorite anime behind Grave Of The Fireflies.read more
This is like watching a dream. Sometimes when you have those moments where you picture something then you say to yourself that was not reality, the image that came to my mind must be from a different world that I saw somewhere, but not that I can recall when or where. This is like opening a door deep down in your mind and behind that door lies all your lucid dreams and imagination. watch it for sure, you can never go wrong with this.
I enjoyed this very much. You will experience all kind of different feelings watching this; fear, love, warmth..etc
The very facet of childhood can be boiled down to the very definition of mysterious wonder and awe-inspiring imagination. We’ve all had those moments where we would go off into our own little world of childlike imagination and try experience an entirely new reality different from our own. Films have tried to recapture the atmosphere that resembles this nostalgic feeling of experiencing the journey of childhood that either succeeded or failed. It just takes a man like Miyazaki to do just that flawlessly.
Miyazaki isn’t a stranger to making movies about childhood and things similar of its nature; Totoro would be an obvious example to this fact. He certainly has an eye of making these kinds of stories that could be reflected to everyday childhood experiences that we have since grown out of and are now living in a realist way of life. The fantasy elements that are a constant staple to the Miyazaki lore is what has made most of his movies so special to a lot of people, including myself, because of their originality and inventive folklore. Now, that isn’t to say that I’m the biggest Miyazaki fan as much as the next person. However if there is one film that could never lose its imaginative and beautiful vision in his filmography with each passing viewing, Spirited Away would win at no contest.
In describing what kind of story Spirited Away follows, coming-of-age would be the most logical way of putting it. In that, we follow with our main protagonist Chihiro and how she handles certain situations that would prove to be difficult for any other young person such as herself. When she first encounters this Spirit World she is lost, hopeless, and confused. Not knowing what is going to happen to her or her parents, after they’ve been turned to pigs, she finally finds help with other characters that are willing to help her be acquainted with this world that is unlike her own. Once she is acquainted with the Spirit world, we now see her as a strong individual once she is more aware of her surroundings and is able to take care of herself without the help of Haku. It is by the end of the film the most essential point to what makes not only Chihiro a wonderful character but also how Spirited Away paces its story structure.
Art and animation are nothing but superb in Studio Ghibli’s legacy in how they incorporate more emphasis on impressionist inspired backgrounds with traditional hand-drawn animation. The scope of Miyazaki’s artistic vision is vast and organic in each of his films that some other Ghibli films sometimes lack in minimal detail. Spirited Away may not have the biggest scope in terms of scale such as his previous films such as Nausicaä or even Princess Mononoke, but I would argue the minimal scope works magnificently with the show’s structure. From the wonderfully drawn buildings to the tiniest detail of rust and wood splinters to the hypnotic waters that surround the spirit world, it complements extremely well with Miyazaki’s ascetic vision and Ghibli’s artistic talents.
With regards to Art, the one aspect of it that Spirited Away shines the most is its creative art designs of the characters of each spirit you come across. Every single one of them looks absolutely original and not thought of from previous animation, despite most of them obviously inspired by Japanese folklore. It’s not as if most of them are forgettable the minute after you see them. They all stick with you as you go along with the film and even years after you’ll finish it from how memorable and imaginative all of them are from the amazing art designs.
To describe how the character Chihiro is treated, as in how she is portrayed in the film in her own personality, would come to the conclusion that Miyazaki approached her in a realistic fashion. You’ve often seen kids before that behave like Chihiro, or you may have been like her in her age, and that behavior would be considered “bratty” or “immature.” But these shouldn’t be seen as negatives since realistically that’s what kids are at her age, as you see Chihiro before she goes to the spirit world. We see Chihiro go through hardship when she arrives through the spirit world and then we have this sense of hoping for her to succeed due to bravery and strong courage to help her parents. It gives her a sense of humanity that could make you feel so much empathy for her as not only just some drawing in motion, but as a human being in the flesh in some ways.
Other characters such as Kamajii, Lin, Kaonishi, and Yubaba fill in the cast quite nicely. Kamajii and Lin filling in as nice slight comic relief character give Spirited Away a nice needed level of charm from the voice acting and dialogue. Yubaba at first does seem like the villain of the movie but from how you see around it, there really isn’t a villain in this movie. She’s nothing more than just a woman who just wants to run her bathhouse in a very authoritative way that has no ambition to do anything evil in nature. Kaonishi, the spirit that follows Chihiro in the bathhouse, gives the film a vulnerable side to it from his troubles of being alone, all through no dialogue at all, at least from his own voice so to speak.
Now we come to music. Composed by Joe Hisaishi, who has been Miyazaki’s main collaborated in almost all of his films as composer, it is pure excellence in Hisaishi’s backlog. This shouldn’t really be surprising considering how so well he composes his scores. From listening to his songs on how they interact not only with what is going on currently in the film but also how it leads the story from each scene to another just from how Hisaishi makes the songs so vibrant and adds a whole new way of looking at the films he scores. I guarantee that there is not one person in the world with a clear conscience to listen to “One Summer’s Day” and not burst into tears.
It is with utmost sincerity that Spirited Away is Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus. Though many will claim this to be his most “accessible” film in his filmography, especially the Miyazaki “purists”, it is, for me, the film with the most heart out of the rest. It’s the type of film that almost hurts to love, in that you feel so vulnerable watching this yet you feel a sense of awe because of how your absolutely mesmerized by how much sublime creativity was put into making Spirited Away. From all of its likeable characters, its brilliant pacing, its memorable score, and great coming of age story, from what little minimal flaws there are to be found in the film, it is all worth while to take in what is grandeur and admire it wholeheartedly. Just as with its atmosphere, nostalgia plays a part in how special Spirited Away is. Not nostalgia in the sense of how you were a kid when you first see it, but from how it invokes nostalgia from the film’s ambiance itself of showcasing childhood curiosity and adventure. Something of which more kids films really need to learn from in future generations.
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