Spirited Away is a 2001 animated movie about a sullen ten-year-old named Chihiro who, while moving to a new city, finds herself trapped in the spirit world. With her parents turned into pigs and unable to leave herself, she works in a bathhouse run Yubaba to find a way to free her family and return to the human world.
Considering Spirited Away has won a ton of awards for the animation and plot, you can imagine how I feel about those two subjects. Spirited Away’s animation is crazy. The architecture, lighting, and much more that the animators created have made this world what essentially represents the “spirit world” down to boot. The backgrounds are painted, very nicely done, and the animation for the people flows wonderfully. It’s at its best when Haku is in his dragon form. The different kinds of spirits are creative and fun to watch. This is also, once again, one of those Ghibli films that made me want to eat really badly whenever food was shown on screen. The plot line to this is a “coming to age” kind of story, and it essentially works. Though Miyazaki intended this movie to have a longer plot, the movie would have ended up three hours long, and for what he kept, the plot is great. There is a tone of possibilities involving something as the “spirit world” and Miyazaki once again capture the right amount of tension and charm.
Chihiro is a sheltered brat at first, but as the story progresses you see that she does grow up and becomes braver. Chihiro is a scardy-cat, but is determined in what she does. She kind hearted even to those that don’t deserve that kindness. Her character design is cute, with the round cheeks, auburn hair in a ponytail and the body type that makes her look like a twig. I mostly like the white shirt she has with the large green strip in it. Her English voice I did find annoying at first. It’s just the tone the voice actor had, but that doesn’t mean she did a bad job. Her acting was spot on and she put emotion into her performance. And that voice does somehow manage to extraordinarily work for Chihiro’s character. Chihiro falling for Haku I could understand in the movie since he was the one that was trying to save her, but I didn’t find the pacing for that done that well. I felt that Chihiro suddenly fell in love with him even though they didn’t even have that many bonding scenes together and that Haku kind of acted like a backstabber at some points. Maybe it was meant to be viewed as having a close brother sister relationship. Let’s face it though, that doesn’t satisfy me. I want them to be in love like most of us fangirls or guys do.
Haku always confused me when I was younger. I never knew if I should view him as the bad guy or the good guy. He is a good guy it’s just that he’s being manipulated by Yubaba to act like the bad guy. Haku is kind, patient, and gruff, but knows when to stand up for him and others. Once he’s out of Yubaba’s spell he’s an independent water spirit. Yet you can also sense the underlying sadness in him for losing his identity and original home. Haku’s character design in his human form doesn’t make him seem human, but more otherworldly, somehow retaining that dragon aspect of him even when he has a human face. His dragon form is what most people remember about him. His dragon form flows in the wind like water, making him beautiful beyond words. Even when he gets bloodied up it only shows the power he has in that form. His English voice I find to fit him great, got no complaints there.
Yubaba I always found to be awesome. She’s tyrant that control’s people but can do a complete 180 and become a softy for her big baby. She honors the world she lives in and doesn’t want unbalance to come to it so that her bathhouse may remain within steady business. Her head is huge, and when compared to Chihiro it looks funny but also intimidating. Her twin sister, Zeniba is the complete opposite of her, so you get the yin yan thing going on between them to teach Chihiro further in growing up. Both Yababa and Zeniba have the same English voice actors, so they’re voices turned out wonderful
The other characters can be remembered with ease, not because of how famous this movie is, but because each character stands out. Kamaji is the spirit worlds Spider Man, Yubaba’s huge baby gets turned into this bity mouse, Lin is the caring yet sarcastic friend, and No-Face is the misunderstood spirit that eats like a fat-ass. Each character has qualities that stand them apart.
The ending to this movie have been guessed by fans all over the world, that mystifying quote by Haku that they’d meet again. I can’t help but think that since it was the spirit world that the only way for the two to meet up again is if Chihiro dies and becomes a spirit . . . Kind of reminds me of Titanic with Rose and Jack meeting in the end after she dies. Maybe it will be what most fans predict and that they’ll meet when Chihiro gets older. Maybe Chihiro forgot her whole experience and that Haku was only talking metaphorically and that once she remembered they’d meet again in her memories. Whatever the outcome, it’s what has us continuing to do fanart of them together!
The soundtrack has what I consider to be the best piano usage ever. The first rift you hear is “One Summers’ Day”, and I know that whole rift by heart (I wish I could actually play it), it’s magnificent. The whole soundtrack is like that, no matter how the rift in a song is played. “The Dragon Boy” is just this one piano rift in the beginning that repeats itself, but it’s so powerful that it will send chills down your spin. With this soundtrack added to my Joe Hisaishi collection, I know where every soundtrack is placed in this movie, and I haven’t even seen Spirited Away that much, I just love the soundtrack enough to get to that point. I will forever love this soundtrack.
Overall, Spirited Away directed by Hiyao Miyazaki is this mystical story about growing up, love, determination and knowing your true self. The animation keeps true as to why this movie has won so many awards. The characters have made history and will be remembered ages to come. The soundtrack though just simple piano playing in most will move you.
I give Spirited Away 8.6 out of 10
Spirted Away (C) Studio Ghibli