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Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) (2001)

  Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Rumi Hîragi
Links: Spirited Away on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy the Book
Genre: Cartoon/Animation

This movie gets: 9.67 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 4th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) (2001) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Howl's Moving Castle (2004), pearly's review of Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), pearly's review of Mulan (1998), pearly's review of My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and pearly's review of The Castle of Cagliostro (1979).

"Love it, love it, love it" - a review by pearly

It was this film which spawned an ever so teensy obsession by me for the films of its gorgeous writer/director Hayao Miyazaki. I have always been a sucker for things which bring out my inner child, having had a Peter Pan (1953) complex for my whole life. Couple this aspect of a film about the world of a young girl with the fact that it's so damned cool in that cutting-edge, alternative way, and I'm in, hook, line, and sinker.

Since I first saw Spirited Away, I have hunted down, watched, and rated almost all of Miyazaki's films (except for those elusive short ones, though I did manage to see one which I don't even really know the name of (Porco Rosso (short)) at the Studio Ghibli museum - jealous? Huh? Huh?), giving not a single one of them less than a seven. It would be true to say that I'm a fan, in fact, it would probably be an understatement. And now, I arrive back with Spirited Away, the Oscar-winning work which first brought Miyazaki to my attention.

What I loved about this film when I first saw it, and what I still love about it today, is its uniqueness. It does, as andy-j put it, make a refreshing change from anything coming from the USA. The story is of a different kind of girl to those often found in other films, and this girl is so well-rounded and natural a character, that no matter what her journey, she's easy to follow. Where the vast majority of films consider children characters to be nothing more than supporting players in an adult world (even if they're the main focus of the story, or worse still, if the story is aimed at a young audience), and where children are just caricatures of what real children are like, Miyazaki's immense skill is in portraying the thoughts, feelings, and habits of the small in a realistic, and, very importantly, a non-patronising way.

More than what I've described so far, Spirited Away has many layers to it, including the description of the spirit world, which is deeply rooted in Japanese tradition. Being a film about a different culture to my own, I got a lot out of this subtext to the story (which becomes quite a large part of the plot). In fact, it is this magical world which really made me fall in love with the film even more than any of its other delightful attributes, and made me hunt for more (the hunt being, incidentally, quite successful, especially with such wonders as My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997)).

In Spirited Away, the main character is Chihiro (Rumi Hîragi). Chihiro is on her way to a new home with her parents, and she's feeling pretty down about the whole thing. But when her father decides to take a shortcut which leads them into an enchanted spirit world, Chihiro must grow up fast, and learn what's really important in her life. This story is told in the form of an animated film, which, although suitable for children, is very much open to adults as well, and in fact, won't suffer from repeated viewings if you happen to have children who get hooked on it.

Spirited Away makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me grin uncontrollably from ear-to-ear. It makes me want to hit the play button again as soon as it finishes so that I can be back in its world. It makes me happy. Love it, love it, love it.

pearly gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 16 Nov 2004

"Chihiro's got spirit, yes she do." - a review by mino

Spirited Away a truly remarkable movie.

This Japanese film (though the version I watched was overdubbed by some fairly well-known American actors) tells an absolutely mesmerising tale: the story of Chihiro, a young girl who is separated from her parents at an old abandoned sideshow and drawn into a beautiful, wonderfully imaginative fantasy-land filled with spirits, monsters, dragons, and more. Chihiro's quest to get her parents back, and to escape this at-times hellish (but captivating) world is one that could sucker in the most emotionless of souls. It's hard not to relate to Chihiro, to cheer her on, to feel scared for her when she's in trouble, to feel happy for her when she has good luck, and to share her awe at the world she has discovered.

andy-j's description of this movie below really is the best possible way of describing it: watching Spirited Away really does make you feel like you're a little kid again. The incredible sense of wonder, of fascination, of trepidation, of joy, is like very little that I've experienced since I was a child (well… in a movie-going sense, anyway).

It's hard to put your finger on what exactly it is that instills this feeling. I think it's a combination of things: it's the simple, no-frills animation style which reminds you of the cartoons you watched as a kid, then it's the vividly coloured, painstakingly detailed animation — almost art in places — which replaces it for a shot or two. It's the lovable character of the heroine, who is cute and likeable without being at all obnoxious. It's the elements of myth and fantasy which seem to ring bells in some deep dark recess of your mind. It's the fact that everything about it reminds you of something else — but in a good way, not in a what-a-copy way — while still being totally original. While watching Spirited Away, I was reminded of The Wind In The Willows, Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, Super Mario Brothers, Amélie (2001), the works of H.P. Lovecraft, (of course) the contemporary Japanese kids' cartoons like Pokémon which are so prevalent these days, and so much more besides.

My one complaint about Spirited Away is that towards the end, it becomes a little less majestic, a little less dreamy, and instead starts piling on the subplots and taking sudden jumps in action. This is a bit disappointing, because the first three-quarters was such a dreamlike story, whereas the last little bit is a bit more Stinkoman 20x6, with the yelling, the flapping hands, the crazy sound effects, and the cute little fluffy creature action. This does ruin the effect somewhat; it almost seems like adding flapping hands and cute little creatures to the end of the movie might be the Japanese equivalent of the new endings Hollywood test audiences force onto movies like Fatal Attraction (1987).

Anyway, if you haven't seen Spirited Away, see it now. Change into your pyjamas, grab a lollipop, and ask your Mum if you can stay up past 8:30, because you're about to take an amazing, wonder-filled journey back into your past.

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 22 Jan 2004

"Refreshing" - a review by andy-j

While on their way to their new house, Chihiro, a 10 year old girl, and her parents discover an amusement park, which, despite being abandoned, is still serving food. Chihiro's hungry parents decide to eat, but, feeling uneasy about the place, Chihiro decides not to, and instead wanders around. She soon discovers that the place is actually a spa bath resort for spirits and Gods, and before she knows it, it is nightfall and her parents have been turned into pigs as punishment for their greed. Chihiro is found by a young boy named Haku, who protects her from the harm that would otherwise come to her. Chihiro gets given a job at the spa by Yubaba, a selfish witch, who is the boss of the baths. Chihiro has to find a way to get her parents back, and in her quest, she has many wonderful adventures and makes some startling discoveries.

This is an absolutely enchanting movie. I felt like I was 8 years old again while I was watching. It is beautifully animated and wonderfully told. We are slowly introduced to the fantastical world of the spirits in a way that always left me wanting more. As is the norm for anime movies, the story and settings in Spirited Away are rather complex, with several subplots going on at the same time and plenty of players to keep track of. The story is packed with lots of great surprises and totally does its own thing, not following any tired old formulas. This is the great thing about anime - it is refreshing, and Spirited Away is no exception. Chihiro meets a heap of very interesting characters - some friendly, some not so friendly, but many of whom hold interesting secrets. Chihiro herself is an extraordinary and highly memorable character, discovering within herself great strength and compassion that makes everyone around her (including the audience) warm to her. Despite being a young girl, she becomes selfless, determined and very brave. At the close of the film, everything comes together beautifully in a very thoughtful and touching conclusion.

All of the above elements add up to make Spirited Away an instant classic - it is highly original, has the mysteriousness thing happening and is very watchable. Since I saw it, I have barely stopped thinking about it. It is definitely the best movie I have seen this year. Even though it's not necessarily a children's movie, I wish that I had been able to experience this as a child.

andy-j gives this movie 10 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 4 Dec 2003

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 9.67
Lowest rating: 9 (by mino)
Highest rating: 10 (by pearly, andy-j)
 
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Reader comments

  1. This movie is at the top of my list and it has touched me in a way i cant explain. the movie moved me and i don't take things for granted anymore. i love this mavie so much that the other day my mother took me to JB HI-FI and i bought princess mononoke and grave of the fireflies.

    BTW haku would be hot if he was real he he he...

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Chloe on Sun 02 Jan 2005 14:42 #

  2. it is a thrill to watch. just keeps u on your toes.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Andrew Godfrey on Fri 22 Apr 2005 07:37 #

  3. Simply beautiful. Started off a bit slow, but quickly glued me to the screen.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from Anderson on Sun 01 May 2005 07:35 #

  4. I thought this movie was absolutely enchanting. With the lovable main charas, the music, the detailed art, the little bit of romance, and just the way it reminds you of happy and mysterious things. This movie is one of my alltime favorites and I actually own a copy of it. Anyone who has not seen this movie should be ashamed of themselves and go pick up a copy in the next ten minutes!

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from AnimeGrl on Mon 23 May 2005 03:01 #

  5. greatest movie ever and I was just thrilled by the magic that makes it seem like your there as you watch.

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from steve on Thu 09 Feb 2006 12:46 #

  6. waesome movie as soon as u start watchin it it seems as though your acually in it.

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from paul on Mon 08 May 2006 12:14 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 9.83 (6 ratings)

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