Review: Spirited Away (2001)

Directed by:

Distributed in Australia by:

Can I just say I recently had the fortune to see this film for the fourth time, most recently in the new English dub by Disney, which it looks like they like they will be promoting much more than Princess Mononoke.

And yes, this is good thing.

Everything you may have heard about this movie is true (unless of course what you’ve heard that this movie is terrible and only deserves to be archived in the deepest darkest pits of hell along such greats as Tor the Fighting Eagle – in that case, I revoke my previous statement). It is a fine movie and well worth watching. I wasn’t that surprised that the most anticipated event for the Japanime 02 survey we did recently was Spirited Away (though personally I was more looking forward to Millennium Actress but then I’d seen the movie twice previously already) but then Hayao Miyazaki (the director) is responsible for some damn fine anime such as Nausicaa, Porco Rosso and Princess Mononoke. Many critics tout Spirited Away as his greatest work ever and I’d be hard pressed to argue with them.

The film is simply wonderful. And I don’t use wonderful as a mere expressive either; I actually mean the film is filled with a true sense of wonder, excitement, innocence and adventure that you loved as a kid (well at the very least, I loved as a kid).

To its very core, Spirited Away is a fairy tale and it is done so well that it doesn’t have to much more than that. The most obvious comparison is with Alice in Wonderland with the young girl inadvertantly finding herself alone in an alien world. Of course in this film, Chihiro actually has a personal stake with this world and intereacts it so much more than Alice ever did as a detached observer (one of the benefits of this being a true fairytale and not a political commentary dressed up as such methinks). The characters in the film are so much more than just a freak sideshow and the growth of Chihiro is so… real… that you can’t help but empathise with her and the friends she develops.

As a complete digression, I didn’t think of this until just recently but I found it quite amusing that the movie was based around a bath house. Aficionados of anime will know that virtually all anime series involve a bath house episode to some extent. It has gotten to the stage that a number of series based around bath houses have started popping up that are completely over the top and silly. Not sure what this has to do with anything but anyway…

Normally I am one of those people who prefer subtitles over a dub as I have come across so many badly dubbed movies. However I really didn’t mind the English dub and am so glad it was done properly and done well. If you want to be pedantic, it isn’t perfect. I did notice some inconsistencies, mainly in the beginning before the story really gets going. But what I did appreciate was not having to focus so much on what was being said and being able to enjoy the beauty of the animation and the art.

I applaud Disney for finally marketing an anime to the general audience that I had expected with Princess Mononoke but didn’t happen. This is a great piece of work and if you don’t go to see it (it opens officially second week in December nationally), I offer my condolences.

10 appreciative kami out of 10.
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