Personally, I've never seen anything as original in an animated film as in this deeply mythical fairytale. What a surreal idea for a movie! It's hard to find an adequate description (because I also don't want to spoil this in the slightest way) but this film has a sense of "otherness" to it - for lack of a better word - like none I've ever seen. And the strange, mythical nature of this film - apart from the amazing artwork - is probably one of the main reasons for its appeal to me.
Maybe the themes of the story don't feel quite as strange to an eastern audience because they fit to a certain degree with some eastern/Asian mythologies - to me, this beautiful piece of wonder was something new. And a profoundly moving experience.
Outstanding animation; funny, weird, scary and touching at the same time, this unique work of art is one I can't recommend enough. 10 out of 10.
'Spirited Away' is the first Miyazaki I have seen, but from this stupendous film I can tell he is a master storyteller. A hallmark of a good storyteller is making the audience empathise or pull them into the shoes of the central character. Miyazaki does this brilliantly in 'Spirited Away'. During the first fifteen minutes we have no idea what is going on. Neither does the main character Chihiro. We discover the world as Chihiro does and it's truly amazing to watch. But Miyazaki doesn't seem to treat this world as something amazing. The world is filmed just like our workaday world would. The inhabitants of the world go about their daily business as usual as full with apathy as us normal folks. Places and buildings are not greeted by towering establishing shots and majestic music. The fact that this place is amazing doesn't seem to concern Miyazaki.
What do however, are the characters. Miyazaki lingers upon the characters as if they were actors. He infixes his animated actors with such subtleties that I have never seen, even from animation giants Pixar. Twenty minutes into this film and I completely forgot these were animated characters; I started to care for them like they were living and breathing. Miyazaki treats the modest achievements of Chihiro with unashamed bombast. The uplifting scene where she cleanses the River God is accompanied by stirring music and is as exciting as watching gladiatorial combatants fight. Of course, by giving the audience developed characters to care about, the action and conflicts will always be more exciting, terrifying and uplifting than normal, generic action scenes.
Through Chihiro, Miyazaki is clearly (but non-patronisingly) talking to youth of Japan. There's a certain sense of revile about the youth of Japan at the moment. Many people consider them to be ill-mannered and baring no respect for their elders or their forefathers. They are simply bi-products of their material world and consumerism. 'Spirited Away' taps into this. At the start Chihiro is a selfish, spoiled, whiny brat. But as she plunges deeper into the spirit world, she becomes more independent, more assured, more respectful and learns some manners. No Face, a black figure with a white mask, is the catalyst behind Chihiro's transformation. Once he is let into the bathhouse, we are no longer tourists the story propels forth. Watching No Face prey on the greed of the workers is a terrifying delight. The three main characters in Miyazaki's youth allegory are Chihiro, No Face and Bô. All of these characters are disconnected with their world. They are lonely, misunderstood and largely ignored. But when they go on their journey together, they united and become stronger individuals.
Miyazaki also talks about the ecology of Japan. What was once a beautiful; grassland has now turned into the Asian New York. That The Last Samurai had to be filmed in New Zealand to get a turn of the century Japanese look speaks volumes. The River God sequence is an unsubtle but unpretentious commentary on pollution. While these two themes are very much current in Japan, they are also universal themes which makes 'Spirited Away' a universal story that most of us can connect with. I'm willing to bet everyone reading this has at some time seen bicycles lying on a lake bed or have had a child talk to them disrespectfully. Sure these themes aren't advanced philosophy. They are everyday issues told in an inventive, fun way.
The animation is wonderful, if not as smooth as Disney's works but there's something superior to that. 'Spirited Away's imperfect, but detailed world is far more fascinating than the perfected blandest of Disney's latest offerings. The animators successfully balanced the tight-rope between not-enough animation on characters and too much animation on characters. No Ralph Balski ADD antics here! The film is full of vivid images both beautiful and horrifying. The line between those two extremes is crossed over seamlessly. From Chihiro and Haku running through an opening flower field to Haku's dragon snarling with a bloody mouth, both extremes seem to belong in the film. It's also excellently done with the characters. Kamaji can be seen as a scary, daunting figure at the beginning, but soon he seamlessly changes into a humble, wise figure. Yubaba also seems to be able to turn from kind to witch with the snap of a finger.
The sound on the film was expertly done. The sounds perfectly match the on screen actions and objects. My sub woofer got a wonderful workout when Haku swoops Chihiro past the bridge at the beginning. And while I don't speak Japanese, I think the voice actors did a wonderful job of conveying their personality and emotions true their voice. Joe Hisaishi's music is sublime, definitely one of my favourite scores. His main piano theme is simple and evocative. His thunderous action music hits the viewers on the chest like a hammer. Like all great scores it heightens the greatness of a scene about three times. The score, unlike many American composers', is unobtrusive. It plays excellently with the scenes, but never overbears them. A lot of the time the it is barely noticeable, a sole piano plays softly in the background evoking a dreamlike/lullaby quality.
'Spirited Away' is a simply a modern masterpiece, easily one of the Top 10 films of the new millennium. It works on a multitude of levels; a social commentary on Japan, a homage to ancient Japanese/Russian mythology, a moral film for both children and adults. But most importantly, it is a simple story brilliantly told by a great filmmaker who appears to be at the top of his game. 'Spirited Away' works much like a relaxing journey. Pop in the DVD; leave this world for two hours and when you will be almost certainly enriched and ready to take the trip again.
There is simply no denying that Miyazaki is the Godfather of Japanese Animation, time and time again delivering unto the public works of such incredible beauty, such stunning visual and sensory delights, such mastery of storytelling, that one can only be left speechless. Overwhelmed. Intoxicated with wonder. Such is the magic of Spirited Away.
Much like Miyazaki's previous feature Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away is an epic fairytale fantasy that deserves no better medium than the stunning animation work of Studio Ghibli. This multiple award-winning masterpiece has grown to become the largest grossing film in Japanese history, and rightly so. From the moment our child heroine Chihiro enters the bath houses we are literally bombarded with an overwhelming sense of detail and rich, lavish colours rarely - if ever - seen in western animation. Scenes such as Chihiro running through the field of flowers, the marvellous landscapes seen from the train, Haku and Chihiro soaring the skies above, and Chihiro running across the pipe to climb the walls of the bath house are nothing short of breathtaking, and undoubtably some of the most lavish animation ever to hit the screen.
The world of Spirited Away is simply bustling with life; unique, quirky, instantly lovable creatures jostling about their daily activities and tasks in the bath houses, dancing across the screen like leaves caught in a playful summer breeze. The inventiveness of Miyazaki's character designs, much like in Mononoke, is wonderful to behold, in fact not since classic tales like Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland and The Neverending Story have we been able to fall hopelessly in love with such original, quirky, magical, even fantastical characters. The viewer is plunged headfirst into another world for nearly two hours and one cannot help but be completely and utterly captivated.
The music and original score is stunningly beautiful, the original Japanese language track of such high quality that one wonders why someone could insult the work by producing a dub track at all. With a plot differing in its complexity on so many levels, from the basic storyline, to the omnipresent universal themes, to the riddling of Japanese history and fable throughout, children and adults alike will be mesmerised from start to end. A magical, awe-inspiring, tearful, laughter-filled, heartfelt journey through a land of sweeping fantasy and dreams.
Prepare to be Spirited Away........................
Spirited Away is one of the most perfect movies I have ever seen. The least I can say about it is that there was not a single moment during it that my attention wasn't completely focused. The plot was fantastic and full-bodied. Each character was given so much personality, even the little soot spiders weren't treated as two-dimensional.
In a way the whole film felt like a dream, in that it is seamless. It flows, effortlessly, from scene to scene, from emotion to emotion - straight from terror and tragedy to comedy - without the subtle bump that wakes you up, that lets you know that the makers of the movie and the creator of the script had wanted you to be crying but now you really should be laughing. It was so LIFELIKE. Sometimes in real life the most grim moments contain honest elements of comedy that do not seem out-of-place. But trying to put that sort of convoluted emotion into a film creates a very thin line that too many have fallen off of.
There was no part of the film that felt fake, or rushed, or shaky; the intensity of the story line and the determination of the lead character was obvious throughout. More than causing interest, this movie made me FEEL. I was sucked into the drama. I can rarely say that a movie made me laugh and cry without feeling like an idiot, but the caliber of this picture is so high that I don't even feel embarrassed. I laughed. I cried. And you will too.
Last year I saw Spirited Away on it's UK release. I've never been a particular fan of anime, and it didn't really occur to me that I was watching a foreign language film dubbed into English (or 'American'). I can't imagine seeing a live action foreign language film dubbed into another language, but hey, this is a kids cartoon, what does it matter? Up to a point it didn't, because I loved the film. I enjoyed it so much I set about digging up the Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki back catalogue, in the process Sprited Away was filed away as one of the lesser Ghibli's - still great, but compared to Laputa, Grave of the Fireflies and a few others, it seemed a little weak.
BUT... I recently re-watched it on DVD with the subtitles and found the difference unbelievable. The film came alive like the other Miyazaki's I've seen. It seemed infinitely more layered, detailed, intelligent and witty than I remembered. Could it be that retaining the intended performances (even if the words are unintelligible) can make that much difference? Maybe the dub was just poorly done? Or was it just because I was now versed in the language of Ghibli? As a little experiment I decided to re-watch some of the film with both the English subtitles and English language dub in order to compare, I ended watching the whole thing out of morbid fascination. It's simply amazing what a difference there is. Entire scenes change. It's not just that subtle emphasis is shifted or the same points are made in a different manner - in the dub, the subject of whole conversations and scenes are changed, and often to some flat and uninteresting hokum. Relationships between characters are changed, their motivations and personalities are changed, the difference is shocking.
I appreciate western, and particularly American audiences can be put off by subtitles. And cinemas are less likely to show the film anyway. It's pointless to be all righteous when, fundamentally, you just want people to see the film. Unless they do, this treasure trove will remain undiscovered, and maybe finding it will encourage people to conquer the 'subtitle demon' (as Miyazaki might call him). But the problem is the quality of these dubs, and the liberties taken with the source material. Of course, without speaking Japanese, who can say it's not the subtitles that are way off? They're probably written by westerners too. But the dub just stinks of Disneyfication. Saturday morning generic nonsense. The challenging, uncompromising and emotionally ambitious nature of the film is severely watered down.
A fair question might be, 'if it's so bad why was it so successful?' The success is evidence of the films staggering quality. Even so, it hardly challenged whatever Jerry Bruckheimer movie was showing at the time. In Japan it's the biggest grossing film in history. 'Go figure,' as Chihiro wouldn't say.
Actually I dislike his or her comments badly. If you didn't get it watch it again. This is not a piece to just entertain, the creator has put his own feeling and I believe life experience and the fear always buried in children's mind into it. It is a comely tale that express the creator's thoughts in some way, whilst shining as a attractive animation piece with so many details that you might have ignore if you were careless. It is a rich story and I can see the efforts creators put into it in many spots and frames.
e.g. While Chihiro was walking towards the garden where Haku told her to meet him, she passed some stairs where she can see an island, there are some house on it, she stopped for it for a little while, that, represents her longing to human world, her own world, this kind of details can be ignored by many people but they don't mind putting it in to make the whole story richer, more truthful, full of power of humanity.
Apart from that, did you ever notice that some "camera language" was used very well to tell the story in a more entertaining and better pace.e.g. When Kamaji was telling Chihiro how Haku turned up to this world before just like what she did, the "camera" panned to where the little rat(changed from the fat baby)was showing off to soots by putting his foot into the spell melted print while Kamaji's introduction about Haku's background is also getting across to the audience. This is just one of the details that shows how much story telling skills and rhythm control of plots.
There're many other things like this, shouldn't be ignored if you want to make a nice comment, even though as an American viewer you might miss a lot of the story by lack of the culture background, but that's not the reason that you can comment it as anyway you want without even really READ the film.
I am a visual effects person and film maker but I can't tell where the jerking of the footage and the stopping of character's movement are in the film. could Gazzer please enlighten us? As also a fan of Pixar I hope I don't have bias on either American animations or Japanese ones, but as a Chinese who might have some resistance towards Japanese products for national esteem or historic reason, I still admires Ghibli Studio's work. "Spirited Away" is a masterpiece of elegant picture and touching story, if Gazzer-2 knows what that means.
"Ice Age" was a pretty cute one of Fox productions, but not good enough to compete with "Spirited Away" I'm afraid. And I'd laugh at the opinion that the story of "Ice Age" is much simpler hence Oscar committee didn't recognise it, actually I believe "Spirited Away" was beautifully hand-painted frame by frame while "Ice Age" had a giant crew in 3d animation and visual effects. I'm afraid Ice Age was the much more complicated one.
This is a wonderfully imaginative and fantastical children's fantasy. It is easy to see why it was perhaps the critical hit of 2002. The film is glorious to look at. It is a testament to old fashioned animation techniques that seem to be resigned to foreign animations. Of course there is some use of computer imagery for certain shots but they blend seamlessly and the overall artistry involved is superlative.
This is the first Hayao Miyazaki film I have seen and I will certainly watch his others. The story plays on many elements successful with kids films, that transport you back to your own childhood and also allows the young audience to connect with the themes in the movie too. The story centres around Chihiro, a young girl about to move into a new place and who feels insecure about the new environment she will be living in. These fears become a part of her encounter with a strange abandoned amusement park that she and her parents find when they reach a dead end in their car. At the park they find that their is a stall that is seemingly open, with glorious displays of mouth watering food. There are no people about but Chihiros parents decide to gorge themselves on this bounty and pay later. As Chihioro explores she comes across a strange boy who warns her to get out before dark. It is too late however, because as night falls, ghosts are awakened, and then by the time she gets back to her parents they are turned into pigs. She then finds that the route she came from is gone and she is now trapped in this place, her only allie being the boy she met earlier. She is told to get a job at the centre piece of the park, a bath house run by Yubaba, an evil power mad witch. This is a bath house for the spirits and Chihiro has to find a job there before she is found and turned into an animal herself, then unable to save her parents.
The story is imaginative and the characters and animations endlessly unique and strange. This is just so much more creative than Hollywood. The characters are likeable and we become engrossed with Chihiros adventures inside this bathhouse, and the characters she comes into contact with as she tries to get her parents back as humans and whilst trying to get back to the human world. What I also loved in this film is that the animation gives it a real sense of cinematography, the drawing makes the film stand out in a way that American animations rarely do. Another film I think of that looked really good was Bellville Rendezvous. Another great point in fact the best part of it, is the fantastic score. It really is uplifting and very original. This is just great film making. *****
I really enjoyed this film-everything about it glows and shines in a gentle luminosity. This film, if you have seen some of Miyazaki's other work, is quite light. The characters are beautifully and lovingly created and the colouring and setting of this film is absolutely superb. This is a beautiful little film and I can't wait for the next feature from Hayao Miyazaki-he is better than Walt Disney.
Miyazaki blends the characters and the environment very well together, and I can see that this would be enjoyed for people at many different levels. Miyazaki enjoys creating female heroines and I was pleased that Chihiro lived up to the expression and beauty of her predecessors-like Nausicaa from the Valley of the Wind. This is beautiful and I would advise anyone to take a look at it's scope and serenity, along with it's fast paced plot and of course, the dreamlike settings that make it truly wonderful.
Good morning. Last night I was able to catch the Disney US Release of Spirited Away ( originally The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro). This is another Disney purchase of a Japanese hit. For those that don't know, Disney has a nasty habit of importing titles from Japan and then changing the story when dubbing films or creatively editing the endings or plot to "suit American audiences". Personally I think that's a travesty. So whenever you go see the Disney release of a foreign film, realize the film you are watching may not be the 'same film' the rest of the world sees.
OK, that aside, was it a good film? I deliberately did no research before seeing this film as I prefer to go into films with little or no expectations. All I knew was that the film was directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki, the same man responsible for Princess Mononoke ( a film released a few years back that I also enjoyed). In the case of Spirited away, I'm glad I did not know what I was getting myself into, otherwise I might not have come (and surprisingly, not for the reasons you likely assume).
The film concerns a young girl and her parents who find an odd tunnel in the side of a hill while moving to their new home. Upon investigating the tunnel, they find a strange "theme park" on the other side devoid of inhabitants. Upon investigating the theme park, things are obviously very "wrong" (at least to the little girl- her parents seem woefully oblivious) and as it gets closer to sunset, things just get worse. Unfortunately, this is all the plot I am able to reveal without spoiling the uniqueness of this film.
This is an 'adult-oriented' movie. It has some rather disturbing images and ranks among the weirdest films I have seen in my life. It's a bizarre amalgam of Wizard of Oz,The Neverending Story, Alice in Wonderland, My Friend Totoro, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The City of Lost Children (just to name a few). This film is interesting from beginning to end even though the plot advances rather slowly. There is always some new thing to see or some truly bizarre thing to witness. The animation is above average but not as impressive as Mononoke (and even features several gratuitous CGI sequences).
There is a great story and some great humor. I laughed more in this film than I have at any Hollywood 'comedy' in the last 5 years (and Spirited Away is not a comedy, it just has several good comedic breaks). No nudity. No Profanity. No 'gratuitous' violence. Some rather disturbing scenes of characters getting eaten alive (and some threats thereof) but even the eaten characters return unharmed later in the film.
This is not really a 'family film' (and definitely NOT a "kiddee film") but it is something you can take the whole family to. Smaller children will not understand the story, but they'll like the visuals and enjoy the humor. Mid-teens might be a bit "weirded out" by the subject matter and the visuals and older teens and adults may be too jaded by American cinema to enjoy the film for what it is- a lavish fairytale from a foreign country. This film runs about 2 hours so leave the "kidney-buster" sodas at the snack bar. If you have to take a bathroom break, you WILL miss something and I assure you no friend nor helpful audience member will likely be able to adequately convey what it is you DID just miss.
If you enjoy Anime or the bizarre, make an effort to see this film. Even if you don't normally like "cartoon movies", you might give this one a chance. It is not a 'casual moviegoer' film by any means and does rely on some thought from the audience to enjoy it. It will also likely be the oddest film you'll see this decade and you'll be sure to remember this film long after all the other 'disposable movies' have faded from your recollection. This film is receiving almost no advertising. I didn't even know it existed until I saw the poster tucked away in a corner at the theatre earlier this week. I hope Disney puts a little more effort into advertising this film's release because it is truly an original film and worthy of a large audience. Hopefully positive word-of-mouth will get this film the attendance it deserves.
Mystical. Enchanting. A key to another world. There are so many ways to describe this movie. The movie focuses on a young girl who is trapped in a sort of "spirit world". When her mother and father are turned into pigs, young Chihiro has to save her parents before they're cooked and eaten. It may sound silly, but this tale has more to it than farm animals. When Chihiro is frightened, she runs off. When a boy finds her, he tells her that she must get a job at "The Bath House". A sort of retreat for spirits. But to do this, she must speak with Yubaba. The witch who rules The Bathhouse. After Yubaba agrees to give Chihiro some work. She takes her name away from her. And she is then called "Sen". While shes at the bath house, she is put under very hard work. I could say more, but that would be foolish of me. This is a great movie that I think people of all ages should see for themselves. Its an enchanting and heartwarming story that I've watched over and over again and have never gotten sick of it. It has been another inspiring movie from Haiyo Miazaki that is above all his best yet. A 10 out of 10 for this wonderful movie.
The art work alone is worthy of the engulfment one experiences when watching the big screen, making me wish I had seen it on the big screen. That is, unless the major release in the US was the English language version.
We ended up renting the DVD and watching it in English. The sound, the voice of Chihiro in particular, grated our ears like nails on a chalk board. After watching it, we played around with the DVD and found the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. Far more subtle and simply put, an AMAZING difference.
So, I would suggest watching it in both languages. English so that you can concentrate on the scenery (with the sound turned down low. Really, the screeching and shouting in English is annoying). Then watch it in Japanese for the color and mood the dialog provides.
Really, don't wanna spoil anything. Go watch it, it will be a significant anime experience. Also it will teach you life lessons which you will always remember and have it as a picture in your mind. That Chihiro girl didn't achieve anything without hard work and great effort. A lot of main characters turn out extremely lucky, well here's one who actually work her ass of to get what she wanted...
I rented this film from Blockbuster after hearing about it from a friend. I was slightly reluctant, never seeing an anime film before, but I watched it six times before giving it back two days later, then bought it the next day. My daughter watched it with me every time and loved it as much as I did. It was an astonishing film, though scary at times, but wonderful the whole way through. It had some laugh out loud funny moments and the next minute you were on the edge of your seat and it all seemed so real. It really got me into anime. Since then I have also watched Howl's moving castle, which is fabulous. My daughter went one step further and learnt to draw manga. I must say she is quite good! She also is learning to play the opening theme on the piano. It's 4 pages long. Rather her than me! I would recommend this film to anybody. But be warned. It's very... different.
'Spirited Away' is a Japanese film, and is available in the UK in dubbed & subtitled versions. I saw the subtitled film and (with the exception of occasional gaps & pauses in the subtitling) I judge it to be the best animation since Akira, or possibly even Pinnoccio. The storyline is (in outline) no more incredible than most anime, but the film excels because it is bursting with unusual ideas. The imaginative imagery is wedded with fine, detailed animation and evocative music. Some parts of the film (chases/drives through foliage/flowers/within the bath-house) are exceptionally detailed and visually striking. There are (thankfully few) portions of the film soundtrack that suffer an outbreak of a Richard Clayderman-esque piano composition (IMO), but generally the sound supports the animation well and the animation was continually stimulating and moving. I give this (original film with subtitles) 9 OUT OF 10.
That "Spirited Away" is a masterpiece would seem to any sane person to be beyond dispute. This is the first of Miyazaki's films I've seen and had it recommended to me by a friend who's into anime. I'm really not keen on Manga at all, so I delayed seeing "Spirited Away" for a few months. I finally got around to seeing the subtitled version - never, never waste your time with dubbed versions of foreign movies - over the weekend and I loved every frame of it. The imagination and creativity blew me away and I'd put the film alongside other "children's" masterpieces like "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe", Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy and Ray Bradbury's poetic "Something Wicked this Way Comes"..
However, in reading through the other comments for "Spirited Away" here I was struck by the huge chasm between the views of those who love the film and (the appropriately small minority of) those who don't.
Even more striking is the strident hostility of those who don't like the film towards those who do. Critics here have called fans of the movie, "liars to yourselves", "gushing", "flat-out wrong" and the movie itself, "inane", "unwatchable bilge", "muddled", "nonsensical", "gibberish".
Now I'd be scratching my head in puzzlement even if these commentators had blandly stated that this film wasn't for them, but this outpouring of venom had me completely perplexed.
Another viewer states, "The girl basically had to suffer for something even her parents didn't do wrong, they just wanted to explore things." And here lies a glimpse of some possible explanations of why some folks don't get this movie.
The whole point is the parents *did* do something wrong. They greedily ate food that wasn't theirs. Apart from being just plain rude, it's stealing. As another commentator here pointed out, you have to look at "Spirited Away" against the context of the culture that produced it. The Japanese are very concerned about the erosion of their traditional values, the lack of respect kids have for their elders, the breakdown of family cohesion and other "negative" "Western" influences on their traditional, polite, family-oriented culture. Perhaps we in the West have trouble with the concepts in "Spirited Away" because the influences that the Japanese audiences fear are the Western "values" that are being thrust upon them, values that we've grown up with and forgotten how to fear.
Another critic commented "I cannot see why this film is such a masterpiece to some people ... (though) my brother and I had a few good laughs, especially when Sen runs down the stairs and smacks into the wall. That was pretty funny, I must say." This made me think back to when The Simpsons first started on TV - my daughter was three years old and she thought the funniest joke ever was when Maggie fell over. Now my daughter's a (very bright) 14 year old and these days it's the razor sharp satire of dysfunctional family life that makes her laugh out loud. QED.
If someone isn't sensitive to the morals that are being examined in this film, then of course the film is going to seem pointless. However, as the film plainly does have more than one good point to make, perhaps it's just that these critics aren't capable of grasping any of them.
But really guys (and you know who you are) don't take your frustration at not understanding "Spirited Away" out on those of us who do. It's not our fault you don't get it.
This movie is an outstanding piece of artwork. I hadn't heard much about it when it was first released. Being a huge Oscar fan, I was surprised when it took home the award for best animated film. At that point, knew nothing about it.
After reading a little more and seeing some commercials, I still wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to see this film. It looked so surreal in an "Alice in Wonderland" sort of way. I had never been a big fan of that film and didn't really want to relive such an idea. Mindbending films have never been my absolute favorites.
I went to see "Spirited Away" with a friend who was into anime. He hadn't heard much about it either, but was interested in seeing it in the theater. Since it had won the Academy Award, I decided it was a good idea to give it a shot.
I am so glad I did. Only a very few times in my life have a I seen a movie as brilliant as this. It stands alone with such masterpieces like "Citizen Kane," "Vertigo," "The Godfather" and any other classic piece of cinema in history.
I won't go into too much detail, but I was spellbound from the opening credits until the closing ones. The story starts out so rough and scary, but becomes a work of happiness and beauty. To think that this movie almost didn't get made is a travesty. It will stand the test of time and go out as one of the greatest films ever made.
It is so ironically tragic that many great movies such as Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away are often overlooked by the public, suggesting that commercialism is the way of reflecting the possibility of achieving blockbuster status in the box-office, even as if most of these recycled products receive poor reviews (remember Shark Tale? It's horribly cliché but millions of viewers still watch it). Is it because of technology that drives its influence to the public without providing any necessity that is its substance? Or is it because Spirited Away is considered another ordinary 2D cartoon that should be suitable for little children and not the rest of us? Sadly, this is reality and we all see as it is right now (providing that we live in a topsy-turvy world with unfair paradoxes) but it doesn't mean that Miyazaki's masterpiece has a chance to change our reflections on life. In fact, there are doses of good reasons on why this movie is so special to us, aside from its family-friendly context.
Hayao Miyazaki, who has directed many of the most acclaimed animated movies in animation history (under the banner of Studio Ghibli), has stated that Spirited Away is 'for the people who used to be ten years old and the people who are going to be ten years old'. Perhaps, he really knows how children see things in their own eyes, as he might use to face during his childhood times (that's why most of his movies feature flying ships/creatures, tons of imaginative elements derived from Asian/Western cultures, some preferences from classic fairy tales, etc.) Most importantly, Mr. Miyazaki uses this tagline as an essential plot device to show the innocence, the bizarre, the horror and the wondrous revelation that the main protagonist (Chihiro) sees, feels and experiences throughout her spiritual journey, a path that we all had crossed as children before the madness of the world overwhelms our innocence. Fortunately, movies like Spirited Away succeeds in regaining our former consciousness, pulling us into his imaginative world where our childhood memories have never died; they are merely hidden inside our hearts and Mr. Miyazaki is enable to reshape them with everything this movie has to offer.
Instead of the cliché-ridden plots that mar state-of-the-art-animated films of today, Mr. Miyazaki refers to his personal experience in Japan as another plot device while maintaining the classic storytelling technique to create an entirely refreshing concept based on real-life situations. If you think Spirited Away features some of the most incomprehensibly bizarre characters you've never seen, fear not! Like all good movies, despite their oddity, they all are no different from us in terms of how they adapt to life and their functions to keep the company going. That also leads to the fact that Spirited Away is really not a good vs. evil show (like Star Wars); despite its scary images, powerful spells and evil-looking monsters, they are all surprisingly ordinary with mere characteristics of maids, bosses and customers. So don't expect a Darth Vader-like antagonist to cover the whole world with darkness while unleashing a large army of robotic troopers to destroy everything in their sights.
The overall animation is simply breathtaking. Even as they are all hand-drawn, the characters' expressions and body postures are all wonderfully done in a very natural way, the same applies to these beautiful background settings painted painstakingly by some of Ghibli's most talented artists in Japan. Speaking of animation, when watching it up close and personal, it does bear some resemblance to Disney's Snow White as well as his classic movies (unlike the new, recycled Disney movies of the early 2000s) in terms of its cel-shaded look and the way most characters move and interact (strangely, though, Mr. Miyazaki is not a big fan of Disney. Ironically, Disney is the only company that understands his movies' significance to moviegoers around the world, so it serves as a distributor to Ghibli's animated movies in North America.). Unlike most current anime that requires CGI to excite the audience, Mr. Miyazaki fortunately decides not to rely much on fancy digital applications (there are some subtle CGI effects, which are cleverly implemented on certain parts of the movie).
Disney, in its other matter, has done a good job in translating the movie's original Japanese context to its English counterpart without radically changing the flow and theme of its entire story, thanks to Pixar animator and executive producer John Lasseter (however, Disney's marketing power fails to attract more moviegoers). Despite the audience's varied reactions on English and Japanese tracks, in my opinion, I find both of them outstanding and seem to have a natural pattern to influence the mood of the movie. Once again, Joe Hisashi, the composer of many of Miyazaki's movies, has provided some of the finest and most memorable cues ever to bring grace to the screens (one of my personal favorite is a cue in which Haku finally remembers his original name, shedding its scales in the sky). Without these important audio elements, Spirited Away could have been another uninspiring, lifeless show.
It is no doubt that Spirited Away has indeed changed the way we look at animated movies, similar to the way the original Star Wars trilogy, the first two Godfather movies and films by Steven Spielberg did. It is also true that whatever I write in this review, a single picture tells a thousand words; you still need to watch it with your own eyes, feel it as you are still a child and you will understand a thousand reasons why this movie should receive an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. However, like many artistic filmmakers, Mr. Miyazaki is not interested in such glamorous spotlights and moneymaking propaganda, as he continues to inspire newer generations with his latest waves of masterpieces, starting with Howl's Moving Castle.
Thank you, Mr. Miyazaki for proving once again that childhood memories will forever endure within our hearts and souls until the end of time.
Seldom have I seen a movie full of such boundless fantasy, incredible beauty and opulent pictures. Miyazaki presents the story of Chihiro who has to rescue her parents from the spell of a witch in fantasy world with such extravagant richness that stuns the spectator.
Granted the story about this fantasy world with all kinds of exceptionally weird creatures and situations takes needs getting used to at first. But very soon the spectator is totally engrossed by the magical story and overwhelming pictures.
In view of the diversity of bizarre creatures, the filmmaker's creativity seems almost unlimited. The beautiful pictures have a very soothing and at the same time enthusiastic effect onto the spectator.
But the brilliance of the movie doesn't only result from the beauty of the pictures, the story itself is very subtle and profound. In short, it is a story about growing-up. Chihiro and her parents are on their way to their new home in the suburbs when they accidentally step into a magical world, where Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs. From now on, Chihiro has to manage everything by herself. She has to attempt to turn her parents back into humans and is confronted with situations and characters that don't coincidentally seem like metaphors of our world. Now, Chihiro learns how to solve problems herself and how to deal with the characters of the people she meets. At the end, Chihiro has turned into a almost mature person.
Although occidental spectator won't be able to understand all symbolisms that are conveyed by the characters, but there's is actually no need of it. The fantastic world and its creatures perfectly work as a scenery for a wonderful coming-of-age story.
The wonderful, as customary for composer Joe Hisaishi, music adds even more magical beauty to the scenery.
I have given movies 10 out 10 stars before, but this just crosses a completely new line into something even above 100% greatness; perfection. This may be the only film I have ever seen that is completely perfect, I would change absolutely nothing about it. The only other film that I would put over the top is, coincedentally, My Neighbor Totoro. The fact that the are made by the same company has nothing to do with it.
Whenever I watch this movie, not only do I find things that I didn't notice the time before, but I feel a sense of having already seen certain things in it before, somewhere else. But I haven't - it is just the originality, and the new ideas that other movies will build on from this one. Everything is perfect. The illustrations are detailed, flowing, and mesmerizing. The musical score is dead-on, and sneaks along in the background for most of the running. And the story takes on a form that I am attempting to do in my first work - complete layers. Two people could watch this, and come away with different ideas and plot lines. This is exactly what a movie should do, keep everyone that sees it thinking about it afterwards. There is no definite ending or beginning, it is left purely to the imagination.
The entire film seems like just a slice of someone's imagination, and when I watch it, I consider it mine.
As the rest of the Western world was amazed by the throngs of CGI animation, and the inside Disney jokes, Japanese audiences were given a chance to see what real animation was like. This movie was the first foreign film which grossed over 200 million dollars before it came over the US shores. It had beaten Pixar's Ice Age and Disney's Lilo and Stitch to get Best Animated Feature. Yet with all these facts and figures shown to us, does this movie live up to its hype. In a one word answer, YES!
However there is no point of handing out the superlatives to a movie, without explaining what the movie is all about. In a nutshell, the movie is about a ten year old girl who is travels to a strange yet enchanting world, after her parents were morphed into pigs. This change of shape was produced by the evil witch, Yubaba, an nasty sorceress who rules over this paralell universe. To avoid detection, the ten year old girl, Chihiro has to work for Yubaba in her bath house. This is where she meets all kind of strange and wonderful characters, like the half man half spider Kamaiji, the mysterious little boy, Haku and many other characters. Though Chihiro had met all these people, her only wish is to go home and turn her parents back to their normal human selves.
Watching this movie, has made me wonder why is this feature shown in very small arthouse cinemas and it is on pirate DVDs, when it should be easily shown on the multiplex cinemas. This is a truly amazing movie, whereby the whole story, transports oneself to their earlier childhood. I know that happened to me. Also the movie's animation was totally amazing, in ways that Pixar and Dreamworks would just die for. A good example of this is the flower scene.
In conclusion, everyone should watch this movie, whether young or old, japanese or any other nationality, because at the end of the day, this will show you emotions that any other animations will not give you the chance to show.
Upon hearing that this became Japan's highest grossing film ever, I went out of my way to look for a theater that had this movie here in the states. I traveled some, paid top dollar for the ticket, and, after seeing it, was totally blown away by the experience I had. I had no doubt in my mind that I have seen the best movie of the year, and quite possibly the best animated movie I have EVER seen.
The story starts with a young girl named Chihiro, and her family, moving to a new place. When they wander into what seems like an abandoned theme park and her parents start to eat prepared food (but with no one around to attend them), they turn into pigs. Chihiro runs and encounters a bathhouse for the gods and spirits. With the help of a young boy named Haku, Chihiro learns that in order to reverse the effects of her parents dilemma, she must work in the bathhouse. Life isn't easy, not even for the gods. She'll come across bizarre creatures & places. She will learn hard work, the sense of loss, greed, & the importance of friendship and love.
It's dreamy-like quality, it gorgeous scenes, and it's incredible list of characters (frogs that talk, a dragon, a baby that is 12 feet tall, a multi-armed boiler-room man) will keep you glued to the story.
Children will love this film, yet it is sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy and relish in it's beauty. It does have it's scary bits and images, however, so very young children may be frightened. But this is still the type of movie that you go out and buy, even if you don't have children. So imaginative is the world that Chihiro falls in, thoughts of 'Alice in Wonderland' & 'The Wizard of Oz' may come to mind. But 'Spirited Away' ends up with it's own originality. It's a timeless piece, and will eventually be a classic that will no doubt be shown to generations.
In the DVD, Disney made sure that the voice acting for the English version is top-notch, but, even if you don't liked dubbing, you have the option to switch to Japanese with subtitles.
How could 'Spirited Away' become the first anime film to be nominated for, AND WIN an Academy Award? How did it gross $200 million before it even came to the states? The answer lies in mastermind creator Hayao Miyazaki. So well known in Japan, he is now getting the recognition he deserves internationally. With past hits like Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki and his studio, Ghibli, have created outstanding features that very few animation studios can even match. Their movies are hand-drawn, without all the CGI that many studios are using. Amid the fact that Disney has distributed these treasures, I would say that there isn't much in the Disney vaults that can even come close to matching what Miyazaki and his studio have produced.
Do not hesitate to watch this magical, enchanting, and rare gem that we have the privilege to see. And if you have seen it, go out of your way to view the rest of Miyazaki's films, like 'Nausicaa', 'Castle in the Sky', & 'Kiki's Delivery Service'.
Spirited Away is my favourite Hayao Miyazi movie. It's a departure from his previous films (all of them wonderful), in the sense that this film lacks the themes so common in his other work: humans vs nature, large scale battles being the prime examples. All for the better I say, as it allows him to create something truly unique and stunning. The story revolves around Chihiro, a young girl who, on the way to her new house, stumbles into an abandoned amusement park and is soon transported into a magical world of spirits, gods and human-frog hybrids.
The animation is stunning. Miyazaki truly sees animation as an artform. Many stand out scenes contain no dialogue at all, and are merely animated images creating surreal effects: Chihiro in the lift with the Radish spirit, Chihiro running through the flowers, and the final train ride, where our young protagonist takes a mysterious train journey across a sea, with her spirit friend, No Face. Nothing much happens, it's just simple, colourful, oddly unsettling, and lingers long after the film ends.
The characters are also perfect, and add to strange storyline. There's Kamaji, the multi limbed boiler room operator, Yubaba, the evil witch, and her massive baby child. No Face is a peculiar spirit who turns feral when Chihiro is not around, and finally, Haku, a boy spirit, who shares an emotional scene with Chihiro towards the end of the film.
Colourful, imaginative, interesting, and emotional. Spirited Away is a film you'll want to see time and time again. Buy it.
How many people can sit through a 120-minute animated film? That's normally just too long for that genre. However, this one could meet that challenge. It only took me two sittings to make it all the way - that's very good, at least for me!
The best part of the film was the color, stunning in parts, beautiful and with great detail. It also had some wild characters and a bit of humor here and there, which helped. Overall, a good mix of good and evil and a different kind of story.
Being it's Japanese, you are going to get some different theology than you are accustomed to in the West ("the spirits of the wind and water have healed you," etc.) but it's not presented in a heavy-handed manner.
I was concerned early on as the young girl - the main character in the film - had a shrill voice that was not pleasant but she calmed down after the first part of the film.
Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi, or Spirited Away as the name is translated, is probably the best animated movie I've seen for a while.
Summary of the story: Young girl Chihiro is is moving with her parents, when they stop for a while at place, which her father describes as old amusement park. But soon it is visible, that this place is no ordinary amusement park. When sun sets Chihro's parents turn into pigs and spirits, ghosts and ancient gods start to roam around in a place ruled by old witch Yubaba. Chihiro must rescue her parents and herself from eternal slavery in Yubaba's bath house.
Not your typical Disney cartoon. And that is a compliment. No ready chewed, easy to point up moral codes, but more real grip from things. A line between good and bad is very vague line. Is Yuababa really a evil witch or is she just greedy old woman, who can learn from her mistakes? Do all bad deeds bring more sorrow, or can they sometimes bring something good? Chihiro grows, really grows during the story. She begins from a wimpy little girl and ends up to be brave, selfless girl, who ends up saving more --hmmm-- I think entities would be proper word in this case.
But Chihiro is not the only one growing during the story, there is also a nameless spirit named no-face, who ends up finding peace thanks to Chihiro.
There is also a young boy, Yubaba's apprentice Haku, who doesn't know who he really is. Yubaba is using Haku as a tool against her twin sister Zeniba.
It is rare, that a single movie contains so much material. It is even more rare to see animated movies with such depth.
Also for the acting, it's top notch, as is the animation. All backgrounds and characters are done with detail and passion.
I really feel, that this is one of those must see movies for all animation fans.