Reviewer: Rich (Webmaster)
on: Full Anime
Optimum Asia (DVD
The most recent and probably most unusual of Hayao
Miyazaki’s films, Spirited Away seems an strange choice to be a big release by
Disney but there you go.
The story revolves around Chihiro, a young girl who gets trapped in a strange
land when travelling to her new home. Unable to escape and with her parents
turned into pigs Chihiro is forced to find a job at the bath house run by Yubaba,
a sorceress who renames her ‘Sen’, until she can find a way out of the mess she
The drawing and animation are as excellent as you would expect from Studio
Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, making more use of the computer animation techniques
used to such good effect in Princess Mononoke, and the fantastical setting is
well realised. Chihiro is a superb character – completely believable and easy to
like, and the story is very good. Again special note must be given to Joe Hisaishi’s excellent score, which includes one of the best orchestral pieces I
have ever heard (track 19 on the soundtrack, called ‘Reprise’) and is distinctly
Japanese, a fact that adds to the otherworldly sense of the film.
However, there is something that I find strange. Spirited Away is an excellent
film but it is not Miyazaki’s most accessible. To start with it is heavily
rooted in Japanese mythology and various elements, such as the bath house
itself, are very Japanese. Yet the film was Disney’s first major
Ghibli release. I find this unusual as films like Kiki’s Delivery Service and
Laputa, Castle In The Sky are far more obvious choices and have more Western,
and immediate, appeal. Spirited Away is a film I found I had to watch several
times before I really appreciated it.
However, Disney must know what they are doing and it is good to see an anime
getting a cinema release, even if it has been limited to art house
cinemas in the UK, despite it's Oscar win.
Anyway, back to the review. Spirited Away is a very good film. The animation,
music, story and characterisation are exemplary, but some people may find the
sheer Japanese-ness of it a bit alienating. I don’t think it is Miyazaki’s best
film, but it is certainly one of his most interesting. Chihiro visibly changes
during the film, becoming more responsible as the film wears on and solving
problems in her own way. The superb fantasy element and focus on the young
girl’s struggle will make it especially popular with children, but it has appeal
to adults too. There is action, drama, comedy and some moving moments in it and
some scenes, such as a dragon being chased by paper dolls, Yubaba using magic to
pull Chihiro to her office and Chihiro’s encounter with the Stink God are
Whilst not as moving as Grave of the Fireflies (well, what is?), as action
packed as Princess Mononoke or as accessible as Laputa, Spirited Away is an
excellent fantasy film which delivers on many levels. It is a definite grower
and repeated viewings are extremely rewarding, Spirited Away could be likened to
Alice in Wonderland and it easily matches Lewis Carroll's classic for escapism and fantasy.
Best Bit: Chihiro's journey to her
first meeting with Yubaba.
Worst Bit: The big baby
wanting to play with Chihiro.