Spirited Away

Spirited Away (2001)
PG / 2h 5m / Adventure, Family
Academy Award Winner (2003) – Best Animated Feature

Once you meet someone, you never really forget them.

Spirited Awayas well as any Miyazaki film, has been low on my list. I am still not fully “into” anime, but my husband and I began seeking more and more of it out mid 2016. I like the horror / gorey kind like Elfen LiedBlack Butler, Death Note, and Steins Gate as well as some of the more innocent ones – Pokemon (duh), Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Teen Titans. But I am NOT fully into anime. I am not sure if I will ever get there.

Someone on my Instagram page requested that I look into Spirited Away for a possible review, so I got my hands on it and started watching it one night while my husband napped. I am not exaggerating when I say this is one of the strangest films I have ever seen; I am not lying when I say I had to sit up and put my glasses on to concentrate fully, kind of like when you’re driving somewhere new and have to turn the radio down.

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Chihiro is a young girl whose family is moving to a new place. Along the way they make a pit stop and traverse, accidentally, into the spirit world. Her parents are turned into pigs and she is thrust into child labor at a famous bath house by the notion of her new dragon – boy friend. Chihiro meets many spirits – some good, some awful, all downright freakin weird – on her journey to healing her parents and catching that train back to the human world.

First of all, I want to say that I’ve seen many a strange film. I seek out strange film. I like to watch things and feel strange. This is a strange film. I can’t remember the last time I became wrapped up in a plot simply because of the auxiliary characters. Not surprisingly, they were my favorite part. In a multitude of humanoid beings there were special ones – dragons, frogs, man spiders, soot people, twins with the most gigantic heads, decapitated heads, a giant baby, and of course, No Face. This film’s entirety is filled to the brim with such interesting souls, you can’t allow yourself to look away. You can’t wait to meet the next one.

No Face was my favorite of them all. The poor thing that grows gold from his palms and only wimpers. The little guy that eats everything in sight and only grows hungrier. The underdog that didn’t know his place was across the world. I rooted for him from the first time I saw him floating bashfully on that bridge.

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The animation itself is of pure cinematic feat. It has aged so extremely well – more than once I had to remind myself that this is 2001 tech – I still can’t believe that this film is sixteen years old. The detail is extraordinary – the motion is smoother than that giant baby’s bottom. The pacing is natural and exciting – watching this film is just as much of an experience as Chihiro’s living it. 

There are themes galore – family, bravery, work ethic and friendship – but this is not a film for children. Often, it provides a healthy level of fear and nightmarish situations. Not to mention the sensory overload. 

I’ve waited a long time to watch Spirited Away and I wish I would have seen it sooner – Chihiro’s strange journey through the spirit world will leave you breathless, your attention will be locked, you’ll feel happiness, sadness, hopelessness and love as you find yourself being spirited away. 

8.5/10

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