I want to start off this review by saying that this review is one of the most personal reviews I have ever written. Not just because it is about anime, my favorite form of animation, though that helps, but because 2001’s Spirited Away is my “boss’s” favorite movie. If her favorite movie ever changes, I will now have a reason to see it.
The plot revolves around a little girl named Chihiro, who is very upset by having to move to a new neighborhood. They arrive at a place, to which the father believes it is an abandoned theme park from the early 1990s. Suddenly, after something happens to her parents, she finds herself alone in an alternate reality that is filled with spirits and monsters. Chihiro, by getting a job working in Yabuba’s bathhouse and befriending a friend by the name of Haku, tries to find a way to get out of this alternate reality and get back to the real world.
Many critics have touted this film, with some claiming that it is similar to the 1951 Disney film, Alice in Wonderland. However, this film is much more tight and, at times, complex than that Disney film. The animation is, as always, simply masterful. When you are not looking at the realism of the animation, you are drawn by the breathtaking creativity. I nearly sprained my eyes looking from side to side at all the surreal creatures present in this alternate reality. These creatures lack the kind of simple whimsicality that would be present in an American animated film. A lot of these creatures, given the fact that a lot of them don’t speak, seem to have an unsure menace. You don’t know whether to be excited or frightened by these creatures.
Also, the characters are authentic, particularly Chihiro. When she finds herself in this alternate reality, she doesn’t automatically become a plucky, courageous character. She is confused and scared, which is most likely how we would be if we were put in this uncomfortable position. Because of this, she feels real and we root for her all the way. I, also, love the way depth is given to certain characters. You find out certain things about certain characters, but it doesn’t feel contrived. Also, the relationship between Chihiro and Haku, who kind of looks like the inspiration for Yu-Gi-Oh, is wonderful. I love how the director, Hayao Miyazaki, handles relationships between kids. They never end with them being romantically linked, but they never say that they aren’t. We have to decide what’s going on between them.
This film is elegant, graceful, and beautiful. I love the way the movie seamlessly blends ambitious creativity, social commentary, delightful comedy, and heartfelt drama. Even the score, especially, near the end is simply perfect. I don’t understand why America can’t make films as intelligent as the films Miyazaki makes. We get so much empty, soulless rubbish that we just spoon-feed our children. Even the best Disney film isn’t as intelligent as Miyazaki’s films. I swear Disney knows it, too. No wonder they keep distributing them. Hayao Miyazaki, I tip my hat to you. I can’t wait to watch the next film of yours on this Studio Ghibli Museum DVD set I borrowed from a friend. This film may not be Totoro, but damn it, it’s second best.
On a scale of zero to four stars, Spirited Away gets four stars! By the way, here’s a message to my boss, a.k.a. Tia. Here’s another reason why you’re awesome: You love this movie!