“Spirited Away” stars Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, and Bunta Sugawara. Released on July 20, 2001, the film is about a young girl who becomes trapped in the spirit world.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Originally, this was supposed to be my classic review for Halloween, but due to scheduling issues, I had to review something else as a substitute like The Nightmare Before Christmas, which you can find in my “Classic Reviews” page. This latest review continues my “epic” quest to watch and review some of Studio Ghibli’s classic hits on the big screen that started with My Neighbor Totoro back in June. Funny how time flies since then. This is another Studio Ghibli film that I usually watch at home during my middle school days or my high school days, but I have never watched it on the big screen before…until now. Not only is it considered one of the best animated features of all time, but it is also notable for being the only hand drawn animated film and Japanese animated film to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, beating out the likes of Ice Age, Lilo & Stitch, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Treasure Planet. Quite an impressive accomplishment, if you ask me. So far, my previous theatrical experiences with Miyazaki’s films have done nothing but impress me, so I was hoping that this one will do the same. For this review, I will be looking at the English dub version which consists of Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, and Pixar’s John Ratzenberger.
To sum up the plot in this film, if you’re familiar with such stories as Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, then you should already be familiar with the concept in “Spirited Away”. Similar to how Castle in the Sky is Studio Ghibli’s answer to Indiana Jones, “Spirited Away” is their answer to those two stories. While the film is basically your ordinary “young-protagonist-in-a-fantasy-world” story, it is also a miraculous coming of age tale about a girl who must perform acts of bravery, selflessness, and heart in order to return to the human world. People who are going through with something like moving into a new home should be able to relate to this film, especially Chihiro (voiced by Hiiragi in the Japanese version and Chase in the English version). Like Miyazaki’s other films, his storytelling in “Spirited Away” always finds a way to portray its thought-provoking themes as well as delivering its beautiful sceneries and relatable characters. It’s great for people who are really into the art of animation, especially Studio Ghibli. As for the kids, well, that’s the tricky part. It’s quite possible that the little ones will be inspired by the animation. However, there were a couple of scenes in there that may either frighten them a little bit or bore them. Despite its running time being around two hours and five minutes, there were some occasions where the film slowed down a little bit compared to the other Studio Ghibli movies, but it didn’t get to the point where it winds up being dull, so that’s a good sign. A lot of people will usually prefer the Japanese version over the English dub from Disney, but I will always be the kind of person who enjoys the English dubs of Studio Ghibli’s films despite their issues, and this film is no exception. I always thought Daveigh Chase was a good choice to voice Chihiro in the English version in terms of her personality, and I still do today, while Jason Marsden delivered a pretty convincing performance as Haku, who helps Chihiro on her journey. The animation once again shines alongside its brilliant storytelling in terms of the spirit realm and the designs of the characters, mostly the spirits. Of course, there were a few sequences where the animation on some of the characters’ facial expressions looked a little…eh, weird, but that’s what happens when you watch a Japanese animated film. You get stuff like that. Also, the music by Joe Hisaishi can be summed up in one small word: beautiful. If you like Hisaishi’s other musical scores, then this one won’t disappoint you.
Overall, “Spirited Away” is a Japanese Alice in Wonderland that is also an enchanting and inspiring act of brilliance. With its astounding storytelling, great animation, beautiful music, and a main character who’s both tolerable and relatable, the film is another piece of animation treasure that will be remembered for years to come. As always, if you’re a fan of animation and Studio Ghibli, in general, give this one a shot. It’s definitely worth your time. Now there’s already one more film from Hayao Miyazaki that I would like to review, but it’ll depend on my schedule. If I have time, I will get to it. If not, then I’ll leave it alone for now. Until then, I’ll just look forward to seeing Thor and Justice League.