Spirited Away is truly a trip into the imagination with excellent animation, a whimsical execution, and a storyline that leaves one not only liking the characters and progression of events, but also with warm emotions with the overall atmosphere.
The movie introduces a young girl named Chihiro as a sullen 11-year old who comes into town with her parents for the first time, as they're moving into a new neighborhood. When the three come across a strange tunnel, they pass into what seems like a carnival...and her parents end up becoming caught in the strange place with a curse. As a result, Chihiro must find a way to turn her parents back to normal and leave the captivity of the carnival...but not without meeting her share of witches, spirits, dragons and many other creatures to boot.
Chihiro follows Haku, a boy who orients her around this strange world, but with an identity that the movie comes to unfold in its overall progression; I believed that Chihiro and Haku's chemistry made the movie quite sweet, even endearing.
One could say that this film focuses primarily upon very abstract presentation to entertain in its overall story, from the creatures to the environment of this seemingly unstable carnival-revealing places like a machinized factory, a bath house, a dojo, a farm house, among others. Like Miyazaki's other films, it reaches into a broadened sense of imagination, appealing to an audience both young as well as mature. I wouldn't say this film is for the very young (as the odd looking creatures and events may be scary for young children, but those of maturity, even around the age that Chihiro is in the film, would be able to appreciate it. The movie also, in its progressive length, follows Chihiro with a keen eye, and yet allows the focal point to shift well in the many odd twists and turns she encounters, and you actually come to really care and connect with the characters despite the film's abbreviation.
The animation retains a rather classic style similar to other Miyazaki films such as Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, or even Nausicaa Valley of the Wind. Spirited Away, however, does well with its coloring and fluidity to make it fit right along with contemporary animation standards, just with a different style of character design and settings, the latter of which i found quite impressive in meshing together this abstract atmosphere.
One thing to keep in mind, the character designs are quite intentional, if the witch, for example, looks downright ugly, then that's a part of the emphasized environment - the character and overall designs were very consistent, and I couldn't complain in most regards.
From a musical perspective, only the settings of the BGM were really standout to me, very relaxing when the more serene and heartfelt scenes came into play, and more upbeat when the comical or intense rush of events emerged. I wouldn't say I was all too fond of the ending theme song, though it was quite nice from a lyrical standpoint.
Voice acting in both the Japanese and English perspectives were top-notch. The Japanese version had strong leads in Miyu Irino and Rumi Hiragi, as well as strong leads in the English version (Jason Marsden and Daveigh Chase) for Haku and Chihiro respectively. I think the strong voice acting really enhanced the prescence of each character, and granted that Miyazaki's stories are very character driven, it shows no lapse in quality along that regard.
The characters in Spirited Away are easy to follow and adapt to, even at the expense of brevity in which a film may allot. Miyazaki's format of storytelling allows the characters to come center stage and the journey in which they follow and come into their encounters are something the viewer can enjoy as "along for the ride". I actually think that character-wise, Spirited Away is one of Miyazaki's finest in allowing us to look into Chihiro-she's at first a rather aloof girl, overly cautious, as shown when she tries to tell her parents to go back, and also in terms of her encountering this world of variant beings with timidness. Yet, as she comes to know her surroundings, follows Haku and befriends quite a few interesting faces (including a spider-armed man who claims her as his granddaughter at first and a woman who helps her along in working for her keep), she develops an inner sense of strength that one sees even towards the film's conclusion. It feels like a coming-of-age story in an abstract format.
Secondary characters are quite as enjoyable as those that take full stage as the primary, in fact, they are what enhance the atmosphere of the overall film and it's difficult to separate them from the story as their numerous encounters revolve around the story's framework.
I would definitely recommend Spirited Away as a title to view. It's one of the most imaginative anime films I've seen to date and also one of my favorites overall.
I, for one, am okay with a more surreal experience. I enjoy nonlinear narratives, or cases where there is little narrative to be had. In other reviews I've expressed a fondness for David Lynch, which should encapsulate all I'm trying to say here.
I've also, in the past, expressed a hate for shows that aim to hit this kind of unique, abstract mark, and fail miserably. This, is what Spirited Away falls under.
As we watch Chihiro blunder around this spirit world, we are of course greeted to its inhabitants. These spirits all take crazy, wacky forms, and are interesting to look at. Very interesting.
But these things are the only entertaining part of the film. Are they entertaining? Of course! But to carry a feature film? No can do. Besides looks, these demons have nothing too them. No character develop, barely any semblance of a personality. The humans fare worse, nothing special in their looks, or their personalities. It's just a shame, to see the creativity just went into the visuals and none of the writing.
Outside of what can only be described as the cartoon equivalent of a freak-show, there is no film here. Is there a loose, and I mean VERY loose plot of a girl trying to get home? Yes. But this functions more as a framing device than a plot, something that holds these vignettes of freak-shows together.
The voice acting often falls flat, but again shines in the creepy cast. These demons and spirits have appropriately freaky voices, but they don't sacrifice acting talent. Think Tim Curry, if Tim Curry could act. The human cast is acted much worse, so we have an odd fifty-fifty split here. A five is appropriate, but rarely have I seen a show that is this hit-or-miss.
This is definitely one film that would be better to see in short clips on Youtube. See one spirit here, another there, maybe watch it on mute, but anything to remove all the meandering nothing in between these segments. Chapter skip on my DVD player, you've never been so useful you wonderful bastard!
Spirited Away may very well be the greatest animated film of all times. Not just in anime, but in the most general sense. The storytelling is perfection itself, the characters developed to the perfect point, the animation memorable and an artistic milestone that combines the traditional Japanese style with more modern techniques, the soundwork fantastic on every level from the brilliant voice acting to the flowing soundtrack. If you do not love Spirited Away, then the part of you which has a sense of wonder isn't working right.
People who have rarely seen anime will be quick to call this "the Japanese Alice in Wonderland", and in many ways that is true. Those familiar with Studio Ghibli's work will say that Spirited Away is "the most westernized creation of Miyazaki", and in many ways that is true as well. And yet, Spirited Away has so much of its own character that trying to nail it down to such a small box is missing the point entirely. It is a timeless story, that has been retold many times, the child in a strange land on a quest to get home, but is both an amazing telling of the tale and a unique one so full of character that comparing it to others will always fall short.
The artwork is so powerfully unique, using bastract themes, gross exaggeration, and clean and subtle backgrounds that it will take your breath away. Details are abound where needed, and Spirited Away is famous in certain aspects like the memorable depictions of food, and are nearly absent in other areas. While technically the world has advanced plenty in the past decade and a half, the artwork is absolute genius at nudging the viewer between a dreamlike state and a mundane setting. The soundtrack is subtle and is just so right for what the film does that it is only matched by the cream of the crop of Hollywood productions.
The characters are magnificent. Chihiro is one of the most memorable characters ever created, with subtle and deep character growth and tons of personality. The side characters build upon archetypes, and not only have their own behaviors but also represent different aspects of life. Not one character is out of place, but rather they cast makes the world built in Spirited Away as powerful and memorable as it is.
I will not bother breaking down the details more than this, because that would cause me to gush over every tiny detail, every interaction, and spoil the movie for everyone as I will go on for thousands of words. Spirited Away is as close to perfection as I have seen in animation history. While cynics can disect the tiny details and find flaws in everything, by looking through that lens and not with a sense of wonder they have failed in enjoying what may be the most honest, powerful, and engaging tales of the modern era.
If you haven't watched Spirited Away, then you are missing out on one of the greatest creations of all times. If you have watched it, why not do it once more?
*The only Anime I've seen that I'd give a 10 out of 10*
Spirited Away; not only one of the titles associated with anime in general, but also the very movie that introduced me to the splendid medium of Japanese animation. If said statement doesn't make me seem highly biased, then allow me to proclaim that this review most certainly is. I think it's natural to reserve a certain amount of one's affection for movies and books one associates with particularly pleasant memories and experiences. With this in consideration, I do acknowledge the vague possibility that Spirited Away's position as my favourite anime of all time is due to the fact that it was the first I ever saw. I had nothing to compare it to at all, and despite its minimal similarities to Alice in Wonderland I praised it as both original and engaging, two compliments that I still choose to use whenever I ramble on about it to my friends. But enough of my drabble, let's commence this biased excuse for a review!
His most famous movie may lack the environmental undertones of Princess Mononoke and the profoundly sincere charm of My Neighbor Totoro, but Hayao Miyazaki successfully managed to portray what he initially aimed for; how the departure from adolescence to adulthood is a tough transition filled with responsibilities and expectations. Cynical as it may be, this message is heavily incorporated into ten year old Chihiro, a prime example of a time-honored Ghibli heroine, as well as the protagonist in the movie who initiates a journey towards self improvement. This progress is decorated with a handful of fascinating characters, as well as the infinite virtue ofMiyazaki's ability to craft excellent plots.
The beginning plays out like a heavily altered version of Alice in Wonderland where a young girl suddenly finds herself wandering straight into a mysterious and occasionally frightening world. Where the two stories differ heavily though is when the plot in Spirited Away suddenly starts to make sense, and when Chihiro encounters several characters who aren't mentally deranged. Furthermore, Hayao Miyazaki has enough tricks up his sleeve in the form of twists and unexpected events to allow his narrative to ascend into further heights of creativity that definitely compares to Lewis Carroll. All in all, Spirited Away may borrow a few elements from other stories but it remains original and intriguing throughout, and it's a movie that at least I can enjoy over and over again.
Many people would probably argue that the animation in Spirited Away is great, though nothing special that deserves to be praised and remembered. Be that as it may, I still find the visual direction to be absolutely splendid, a fact that my fetish for the typical "Ghibli style" contributes heavily to.Miyazaki's usual emphasis on the importance of traditional animation shines through brightly but is combined with the subtle and withdrawn use of computers to create a symbiosis where technology improves the artwork without taking control of it completely. This is highly beneficial when it comes to establishing a visually innovative and charming approach that still carries the classical feeling many anime fans grew up with.
Among great backgrounds, fluid movement and a cleverly structured world, the aspect of the visual section that left the biggest impression on me was the character designs. Despite a few characters having dangerously few facial features, Chihiro herself looks absolutely terrific whenever her face contorts due to sudden emotion, and the main antagonist of the story is masterfully designed to hover between the border of frightening and restrained. All in all, I have no mayor complaints about the animation found in Spirited Away.
Joe Hisaishi must be the wet dream of any director, within or outside of the medium of animation, and in Spirited Away he proves once and for all why it should be. The soundtrack uses a large variety of instruments and possesses the knowledge and power to realize what kind of melody and tone it needs to work perfectly in tact with the movie. Melodrama goes hand in hand with piano use or the violin, just like moments of a more quicker pace benefit from the enhancement of brass instruments. The melody 'One Summers Day' is not only one of the few anime tracks I know the name of, but it's also a piece of musical flare that I listen to regularly when I feel melancholic.
Based on several re-watches, I don't think the performance of Rumi Hiiragi (Chihiro) is something that deserves particular recognition. It's far from bad but equally far from the splendour I personally associate with movies of such high production values. Overall, though, the acting is terrific with the antagonist Yubaba stealing the show together with her far more benevolent twin sister.
Fundamentally speaking, character development is what comprises the very core of Spirited Away, as it decides to dedicate it's run time to the journey and growth of a young individual. But diversity is the key to success in characterization whether it be in an Anime or a novel, and so there are several other characters that enter the stage along Chihiro's path to either assist her, restrain her or just accompany the background with a lavish presence.
Another thing Ghibli has a tendency of featuring is the lack of unrestrained evil. In the Disney universe, antagonists rarely boast any positive characteristics, and the ultimate goal for the far more virtuous heroes are to rid themselves of their evil by slaying them, and then life happily ever after with their beautiful princesses. In those cases, the evil is extreme, grisly and unredeemable. In the Ghibli universe however, even the antagonists are capable of feeling compassion, whether or not that compassion is restricted to close relatives or not. The evil witch Yubaba may thrive and benefit heavily from exploiting the services of her servants, but she displays a heavy amount of affection for her abnormally sized baby. Traits like those are what truly makes Spirited Away a charming piece of entertainment; there may be characters who exploit the weak and live in luxury without considering the well-being of their employees, but in the end the mysterious world they inhabit isn't plagued by terror and suffering but hard work and a modest, yet absolutely sufficient lifestyle. That carries an appealing charm in its own realm of prestige.
If you didn't catch me the last time, Spirited Away is a movie that I watch regularly. Because of its almost harrowing ability to use music for emotional effect, as well as a dedication to thoroughly develop its relatable characters with splendour, it deserves all the praise it has received. I find it ironic that a person like me who usually goes for more eccentric stuff ended up considering one of the most generic titles to be his favourite, but that's the magic of Ghibli. Masterpieces gone mainstream!
This is consistently one of the top rated anime movies so i had to watch it, but i have to say that i don't 100% agree. I mean i will say that it was a very unique idea and story, and it was interesting and entertaining, but i wouldn't think that it makes top 20 all time (or top 10 according to Anime News Network).
I think that the reason it scores so high is because its like a nice story about a girl not really coming of age, but becoming more sure of herself and going through an experience that teaches her the value of friends, love and like getting through tough situations or something. I mean its a realatively quick watch (2 hours ish) and it was a good break from the shows that i had been watching.