on 27 February 2005
I had been told to watch 'Sprited Away' by a friend some time ago and, having heard her recommendation, resolved to watch it some day, promptly forgetting all about it. i eventually did see it and, what can i say? i was a fool not to have listened to her, i should have hightailed it to a blockbuster immediately and proceeded to spend the next 2 hrs glued to a screen.
I promise that anyone with any romance or appreciation for art and music in their soul must watch this film! You will NOT regret it.
Be warned though, it does tend to leave you with either a monumental desperation for a sequel that will probably never be, or an immediate need to run and watch all of Miyazaki's films, so be prepared to wake up one day and find his entire collection along with numerous other animes you've been tempted into buying in pride-of-place next to your dvd player.
on 17 September 2004
I am Japanese, so I should describe a review in terms of Japanese point of view. Miyazaki is pretty popular in Japan, not only do children see his movies, but also adults. In this movie, he is showing the Japanese ancient, but almost forgotton sense of value.
In a movie there are many gods visiting a bath house in order to rest. Japanese ancient religion contains so-called 8 million gods, which means everything has spirit. The meaning of this is we would respect everything. If you believe that a god lives in your coffee cup, you feel it valuable and would try to use it as long as possible. Moreover if you respect each river, mountain, and other nature stuff, it leads to environmental protection, which is Miyazaki's big concern.
If you like it, I recommend to see other movies produced by Miyazaki. My favorite is Nausica, and Laputa is also fantastic.
on 14 December 2006
Occasionally, just occasionally, a film becomes a culture in its own right, and everything it is related to falls away around it to leave it standing on its own. Spirited Away is such a film. It has taken over box office records in Japan, and not done too badly in the western hemisphere, widely being cited as one of, or even the, best animated film ever produced.
But Miyazaki's epic is not just a brilliant animated film. It is a brilliant film. All too often, animated features are great because of the animation, that is the technical dazzle and sheer fantasy nature that the animated medium allows for. And that's great. Spirited Away, however, goes further. The themes it touches on - greed, emotional attachment and the imperfection complex that blights every human being; as well as presenting the importance of traditional values - can be found nestled in the scripts of the deepest live action films.
We quickly become immunised to the sheer weirdness of the world presented to us in this film, and that helps us identify with the characters that we might otherwise struggle with.
The plot is summarised well above, but to give a brief outline (which falls massively short of doing the film's complexity justice); I don't want to ruin the sheer surprise of the exotic, and downright bizarre nature of the spirit world; suffice to say it'll leave you dumbstruck and inspired by the attention to detail that has gone into it. Essentially, the film follows Chihiro, a ten year old girl, who, along with her parents, is transported magically into a world of spirits and sorcery. When her parents are turned into pigs by a cruel spell, she must battle her way through the politics and intrigue of the society she has been stranded in. Helping and hindering her along the way are the friendly but icy spirit Haku, and the greedy sorceress Yubaba. Chihiro must find her way out of the spirit world alive, and with her parents restored to human form. Confused? You will be, so the trick is to let go for two hours and allow yourself to become immersed in the fantasy of this spirit world.
You come away from this film feeling like you've learnt something, feeling like you've had a good time, and absolutely certain that you're going to watch it again. This is the hallmark of a good film - shelf life - and in this respect Spirited Away is timeless. Like all truly brilliant motion pictures (e.g. Where Eagles Dare, The Sting, Crouching Tiger: Hidden Dragon), you come away with a substantial number of questions, and a need to have a repeat viewing to start to answer some of them.
Purists will prefer the original Japanese version, but the dubbed English version has made the film accessible to many more; and, as it's an animated film, the dubbing is considerably less obvious than with live action films. As an animator, I have found a repetitive draw to this film for inspiration and ideas; but as a regular movie-goer, I simply find it a truly excellent, must-see flick.
on 21 March 2006
Well, what can I say or add that the other reviewers have not? Not much. Only that this is FAR from the average violent & profane techno anime. This movie is something that anyone would enjoy; old or young, prepare to be spellbound. Children love it as it is interesting and fun, adults love it because it is deep and beautiful, and provides much escapism from the reality of life.
I first saw this movie some time ago, at a friend's house. When the credits rolled by, I sat there literally stunned. I borrowed the DVD, took it home and began to watch it non-stop over and over (this caused some alarm among my other family members, by the way :).
Miyazaki is a GENIUS. I am so in love with this film, that I find it impossible to accept the fact that once upon a time, I did not even know that this movie existed. I am now going on a mad rampage, trying to accumulate all of Miyazaki's films; it is proving rather expensive, but it the most worthwhile obsession I have ever had!
If you loved this film, I urge you to give at least these others of Miyazaki's a try: 'Princess Mononoke', 'Howl's Moving Castle', 'My Neighbour Totoro', 'Kiki's Delivery Service', 'Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind', 'Laputa: Castle in the Sky', 'Porco Rosso'. Hats off to Amazon for re-releasing them; all us distressed & deprived fans are very grateful!!
Beginners beware: If you see this, you will want to buy it; more than likely, you will become as addicted as me. So think it through before you take the plunge ;)
on 28 February 2006
Make no mistake, Spirited Away is a great film – in any genre. Hayao Miyazaki is held in the highest esteem by film-makers. This is his masterpiece.
Do not imagine that because it is animated it is a “cartoon”. Do not imagine that because it is animated that it is simplistic escapism. Do not imagine that because its protagonist, Chihiro, is a 10 year old child that it is a film for children.
From its opening sequence – a car journey through an accurate suburban Japan – Spirited Away is engrossing and involving. Visually, it is stunning. Although there is some computer-generated footage, for the most part it is hand–drawn animation at its best. It is two hours in length, but this time rushes by.
Most of the action takes place in an R&R bathhouse for gods which is run by a ruthless businesswoman. It has a wealth of characters, many bizarre, many drawn from Shinto and Japanese tradition, who are not allowed to fall into stereotypic roles. Characters are not two-dimensionally good or bad, the plot allows them to change and develop. Sometimes, the action is furious, at others it is calm and reflective. The train journey which Chihiro makes is hauntingly beautiful.
The musical accompaniment, by Joe Hisaishi, is not used just to underline the action but to complement and enrich the emotional experience.
As with much of Miyazaki’s work, our treatment of our environment is an important theme, but this film is really about personal growth, self-belief, courage and love. It is not a film for children, it is for everyone.
Writing as someone who has never watched anime before, this animated feature is an incredibly imaginative superior production with an intelligent story.
Chihiro is on her way with her parents to a new home - on the way they stop to explore a strange tunnel, which takes them into another world. In this world, through gluttony, her parents are turned into pigs, and Chihiro is rescued by Haku, a young boy. She finds work in the centrepiece of this world, the bathhouse for spirits, in which she has many adventures which gradually change her from sullen and spoiled to helpful and kind.
The ideas are complex, and the animation suitably layered as well. The bathhouse creatures are weird and wonderful creations - neither heroes nor bad guys, good nor bad - just fascinating multilayered characters. All of the main storylines involve layers of identity, nothing being what it first seems, and the animation style lends itself to this incredibly well. There is the slime monster who everyone cannot bear the smell of, who, with a little kindness reveals a more benevolent and powerful spirit. Or the `No-face', sort of a walking `Scream' portrait, who changes his identity through loneliness, but returns once kindness and friendship are given. And of course Haku, who takes many forms before being redeemed when reminded of his true identity.
Though the animation on one level may appear simplified compared to modern cgi `toons', in fact the colours and rhythm of events are richer than most, and although I am writing this after one viewing, one suspects that there is much more to be seen on multiple viewings.
Amongst the almost universally glowing reviews however, it is worth remembering that this is a Japanese film. This is both an asset and a detraction. The asset is clear - this movie has more imagination in one scene than any current animated Western feature has in its whole length, both in animation and story. However, while Hollywood sometimes falls prey to too much schmaltz, the absence of a sweetener to the tale here means that it is difficult to be absorbed on more than an intellectual level. Animated features work because you become passionate about the characters or the outcome - not easy when all you are doing is thinking how wonderful all the ideas are.
The DVD comes in two disc form, with the first showing the film in both English dubbed (by John Lasseter of Toy Story / Pixar boss fame) and the original Japanese with subtitles. There is also an option to watch the whole movie in its original storyboard form, but hard to imagine anyone would watch the whole movie this way - though it is fascinating to see this embryonic stage of the movie for a minute or two in places.
The second disc contains a range of material educating the non-Japanese and anime fans amongst us of Miyazaki's output, amongst other generally interesting bits and pieces.
Having said that, the tale is a complete one, the experience rich, and the moral positive. Perhaps younger children will find this a little scary in places, and perhaps a little complicated, but it's a small quibble with so much to warrant the Oscar (Best Animated Feature, 2002) it won. Recommended, as long as you are comfortable with something a little bit different, and prepared for not so much sugar with your dessert.
on 24 November 2014
As Hayao Miyazaki’s remarkable directorial career draws to a close with the poignant The Wind Rises, the Studio Ghibli founder's undisputed award-winning masterpiece, Spirited Away, finally receives the pin sharp Blu-ray treatment in the UK. There aren’t many films we can all agree on, but I’ve never met anyone who was left untouched by the spellbinding magic contained within Miyazaki’s ethereal bathhouse for the gods.
The most widely known and praised of Ghibli’s – and all Japanese – animation, it’s cheering to see that this particular experience is one that so many have identified with. Ostensibly it's a focused Alice in Wonderland re-imagining that sees 10-year-old Chihiro catapulted from the land of the living (where she’s a stroppy sourpuss, sulking at the thought of moving home) to a mythical fantasy land of weird and grotesque creatures. There is a wide-eyed wonder and haunting melancholy that we share with Chihiro, cast adrift in this strange, magical place, resigned to a life without her parents. As Chihiro feels her way around the spirit world she must seek work and make alliances to avoid the wrath of the house’s owner, the witch Yubaba. The story is small, and so is Chihiro, but the transfixing scope of the world is the closest cinema has ever come to real magic.
With this immaculate high definition release, the beauty and detail of the creator’s vision is vividly present in every frame: scenic paintings so textured and ambient they should be framed; incidental characters or objects that barely register but are shaped with as much love and inspiration as the central focus. The world, and all of its magic, feels real because it has been drawn and painted by people who believe in it. Underscored by longtime Miyazaki collaborator Joe Hisaishi, the music is every bit as iconic as the visuals. Jaunty piano melodies appear when required, as do soaring moments of triumphant orchestration. Perhaps the highest praise that can be paid to the music, though, is that it just feels right. As with every hand-drawn and digitally animated line, every note of the score is a deeply interwoven part of the Spirited Away experience.
The character design alone is an overwhelming achievement of creativity, melding folklore and fantasy to conjure beings the like of which those of us fed on a rich diet of Disney could never conceive. Not cute, anthropomorphised animals and teapots, but bobbing severed heads, terrifying stink monsters and the glutinous drifting No-Face. For there is a darkness in Spirited Away, and that real fear that children crave. We can all remember the stories and films that freaked us out as youngsters – they are the ones that touch us the most.
Most importantly this is not a morality tale. Every character is capable of both good and bad, and the only victory to be sought is a personal one for Chihiro, as her confidence and bravery begin to grow – making friends at a new school will be small potatoes after this. And who couldn’t identify with that?
on 7 December 2003
Miyazaki is not well known outside anime fans in the UK, even though the feature Castle in the Sky (originaly titled Laputa) was shown over Christmas periods a few times, but he deserves to be. His works are what Disney strives to be but fails each time. Miyazaki pulls out fantastical masterpieces that dirve the imagination to new levels and they are enjoyable for all audiences no matter their age.
Hiragi and her family are moving to a new home and after taking a wrong turn, the wind up exploring an abandoned amusement park. Hiragi's parents happen upon a vast display of food and start stuffing themselves, Hiragi continues her exploration of the area and is warned to leave before night falls, returning to her parents, she discovers that they have turned into pigs and night is falling. Without understanding why, she is thrown into another world, one inahbited by spirits, witches, demons and monsters and only in this world can she possibly find hope in bringing her parents back to their original state.
The animation is top notch and the storytelling is on par for Miyazaki (perfection, as always) and this is a movie that is worth beinf seen by all. Easily 5 stars and would grant more if I could.
on 6 November 2007
There are many outstanding aspects about this film that contribute to place it among the best anime productions I have seen in my life. It all starts with the animation, since the attention to detail in Miyazaki's work is seldom experienced. I could not help gasping when in one of the scenes I saw the perfect reflection of Chihiro on the window of a train in which she was traveling. These are the kind of details that give the production a realism that is really hard to find. The second crucial element is the story itself, which is proof of a prodigious imagination, and which without a doubt can be experienced several times without generating boredom in the spectator. Finally, and maybe this is the most striking aspect of all, this is a movie that can be appreciated by audiences of all ages, because there is something to take away for everyone. I can only imagine how interesting it will be for my daughter to watch this film as a kid, teenager and adult, since there are things to discover at each level of maturity.
Chihiro, the main protagonist of the story, is a ten-year-old girl who is moving with her parents to a new city. She is the typical kid nearing adolescence, and therefore, is unhappy with the world, her parents in particular, and shows no interest in anything. When looking for their new house, a wrong turn leads them to a mysterious place that looks like an abandoned theme park, but when night falls quicker than expected, Chihiro finds herself all alone in a world full of spirits. There are no words to describe the astounding magical world in which she is immersed, and the transformation the character undergoes is as mesmerizing as it is revealing.
When a few years ago I watched "Princess Mononoke" I thought I had experienced Miyazaki at the top of his game, but this film gives it a run for its money. Bottom line is that both works should be required watching for every fan of the genre. People that are looking for an introduction to anime can find no better place to start than with "Spirited Away". The only drawback is that it will create a tough benchmark for future experiences to match.
In terms of the Extras, the disc that has the film, also has a piece on the Art of Spirited Away, where Miyazaki shares some of the "secrets" behind his inspiration and peers and coworkers talk about the wonderful qualities of this magnificent director. In most cases I would say that the praise was scripted and disregard it as such, but in this case it really rings true, and it is entertaining and insightful to watch. This segment also includes commentary on the challenges faced with the translation, and on the steps that were put in place to conserve the original intent of the film. This is extremely important, especially in the anime / manga genre, where sadly, lousy translations that mangle the product are not uncommon.
The Extras in the additional disc were not really worth watching, and I felt like they were there just as a way to make this a two-disc edition. Nevertheless, the rest of the product is so outstanding that I could not bring myself to lower my rating.
on 24 May 2007
During the 1960s Manga artist Shigeru Mizuki introduced many to Japanese folklore with his beautifully crafted and surreal images of the Yokai,spirits or demons with spiritual or supernatural powers.In 2005 Takashi Miike "fleshed out" this class of Obake but seemed to lose the dreamlike quality opting for a more humourous approach in his film The Great Yokai War,while this film certainly succeeds on many levels it does not realise that animation is possibly the only medium that can properly bring these apparitions to life.
Hayao Miyazaki struck gold when Miramax released Princess Monoke in 1999 becoming the highest grossing film(until Titanic later in the same year),it is therefore more amazing that he could surpass this acheivement with the animated mastepiece Spirited Away.
Chihiro a young girl is moving house with her parents when her father decides to explore a mysterious tunnel leading to an abandoned theme park,unknown to them it is an entrance to the spirit world ,a Yokai bathhouse.
A more detailed description on this moving and masterful story would only serve to spoil a truly great cinematic experience needless to say that this Dvd is thorougly recommended.
Miyazaki has created a film that insists to be viewed more than once, his attention to detail is exquisite(watching the background antics of the rat and bird in its self is a mini movie ).
There are no truly bad guys and the directors use of the bathhouse as a metaphor of imperial Japan is not harse of forced with all characters possesing reedeeming qualities,this adds to its slightly ambiguous nature.To conclude BUY AND LOVE!!!!