Friday, 13 April 2012

Guest Post - Review of Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away"

A review of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away

Have you ever seen an animated film produced by the talent at Studio Ghibli? Great animated movies aren’t limited to those produced by the artists at Disney or Pixar, and the impressive illustrators at the Japanese Studio Ghibli can certainly give American studios a run for their money. If you haven’t seen a Studio Ghibli movie, there is none that I could more highly recommend than their 2001 classic, Spirited Away. Illustrated and directed by the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away exemplifies the magic of an old-school animated film that can still captivate an audience.

So, what makes this movie worth the hype?

A brief synopsis

The film tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro, who is on her way to move into a new house with her mom and dad in some distant town. You can tell from the start of the movie that Chihiro isn’t happy about the move as she sits in the back of her parent’s car, watching the scenery zoom by. Her dad suddenly takes an unplanned shortcut that leads the three to an ominous tunnel which opens up to what looks like an abandoned theme park. The three explore the ruins of the park until certain events transpire with the onset of nightfall: Chihiro notices that spirits inhabit the ruins at night, and when she hurries to warn her parents of this news, she discovers that they’ve been turned into pigs.

Chihiro is forced to live in this spirit realm so she can figure out a way to save her parents. She’s helped in this endeavor by the spirit Haku, who looks not much older than Chihiro even though he’s lived among the spirits for ages. Haku gets Chihiro a job in the nearby bathhouse, a gorgeously drawn structure that serves as the main setting for the film. The bathhouse is run by Yubaba, the notoriously tricky and powerful witch who begrudgingly allows Chihiro to work for her. While at the bathhouse, Chihiro meets mystical creatures and fantastic entities of all shapes and sizes as she tries to deal with being a human girl in the foreign setting of the spirit world. She runs into many trials along her way, but I won’t spoil the ending for you. You just have to see it for yourself!

Dominating themes

More than anything else, Spirited Away is a movie about perseverance and finding courage when you find yourself completely out of your comfort zone. Chihiro’s transition throughout the film from childlike immaturity to a more adult and responsible look on life is both poignant and stunning. She’s just a little girl preoccupied with the sudden upheaval of home life as she knew it, and suddenly everything she knows about the human world is thrown out too. She has to perform manual labor in a bathhouse run by bizarre and sometimes ill-meaning spirits in an effort to free her parents from perpetual captivity, all the while outwitting the players that try to do her harm.

No words do justice to the breathtaking animation in the movie. Hayao Miyazaki makes you forget that you’re even watching an animated feature, so life-like and magical are his characters, settings, and ear for dialogue. His depiction of the spiritual world is nothing short of miraculous.

Overall, Chihiro’s struggle to grow up in a strange world is a stirring performance for an animated movie, and not one worth missing. Do yourself a favor and checkout Spirited Away as soon as you can. You won’t be sorry that you did.
About the Author:
This guest contribution was submitted by Samantha Gray, who specializes in writing about Questions and comments can be sent to:

I didn't ask Samantha to review this particular movie, but she ended up picking a film I adore - I thought Spirited Away was a wonderful movie.  My review of Spirited Away.

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