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!