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Spirited Away

Nov 9, 2011

*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!

Story: 9/10

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.

Animation: 9/10

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.

Sound: 10/10

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.

Characters: 10/10

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.

Overall: 10/10

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!

9/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
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Marceus Nov 9, 2011

I never get tired of watching this movie. It's the one anime that I would recommend to anyone, regardless if they even liked anime or not.

MrAnime Nov 9, 2011

There is no doubt that each time I hear the title "Spirited Away" I always have chills running down my body. I mean, it’s not surprising why this movie gives me that feeling, seeing how it's one of the most successful movies in Japanese history.

Now of course, I've seen the English dubbing that Disney distributed.

Great review, thanks for a good read.