Hayao Miyazaki wows viewers with his style once again with Spirited Away (2001). Spirited Away is about the journey a young girl must take in order to save her family when they are trapped in the spirit world. In order for Chihiro to ensure her safety, she must enroll in a job right away in the spirit world and through some literal ups and downs she becomes employed at a bathhouse. Although she begins this challenge on her own, she quickly gains aid from the spirit and monster community as she grows as a character. She begins as a clumsy child that is easily scared to a daring young girl willing to do anything to save those she loves.
As before, Miyazaki’s particular mixture of animation, comedy, adventure, and fantasy shine through. The creatures that are displayed are imaginative and vivid. When a “Stink Spirit” arrives at the bathhouse the viewer can practically smell the odor emitting from his body just from the animation style and the realistic reactions of all the characters. There is something so real about Miyazaki’s films although the viewer can clearly tell that it is a fantasy through the animation style. That is, unless you personally know a radish spirit? If so, contact me, ASAP.
Just like Miyazaki’s other works, Spirited Away is full of defining lessons. Among them is the fact that you are much stronger than you believe. You just need to work hard and believe in yourself and you can do the impossible. You can travel long distances, unravel curses, and help a friend all at the same times. He also emphasizes the importance of love. Be it familial love, the love of friendship, and romantic love—they all give you strength and allow you to show your true colors so you must be kind. You must work hard and you must believe in yourself.
The characters were definitely the most important part about the film. Miyazaki crafts them with the eye of a sculptor and as a result, he gives his audiences the most realistic animated characters around. Their natures truly shine through in all the small things about them. Their looks of worry, the way they scrunch their eyebrows, and even the way they put on shoes. Miyazaki takes notes of all of these mundane movements in order to bring his characters to life.
Spirited Away has a very direct effect on its audiences through the attention to detail it pays and its guidance through the mind of a child. I could not imagine this movie would have the same effect if it were not animated under Miyazaki’s particular style. Let me tell you, there is a scene where Chihiro has to cross a bridge holding her breath and I dare you to not hold your breath along with her. I certainly did, in fact, any time that the bridge was approached by her I found myself holding my breath, just in case. This film may anger some people in bouts because of the treatment that Chihiro is given but these feelings are quickly mollified as she is taken care of by others.
The main conflicts in this movie have to be Man vs. and to an Man vs. World. Chihiro must survive in the spirit world without the aid of her parents and as a result she must become a stronger person. All of this has to be done in order for her to save her parents and to return to the human world. However, to do this, she must work at a bathhouse and find a way to undo the curse placed on her parents by the witch Yubaba. She must also learn about the world and its customs in order to navigate in her time there.
This film is amazingly strong from start to finish. It doesn’t narrate the characters and their situation to the audience, rather, it sticks them in the action and allows them to get a feel for the characters through their speech and actions. Additionally, it accomplishes all of these things without over-exaggerating the characters actions. Miyazaki trusts his audience to be observant in order to understand what is going on. This movie made me laugh and hold my breath in multiple different times. It also made me very excited when it introduced little monsters that were shown in some of Miyazaki’s other films. Let me tell you, the Soot Sprites are very endearing little creatures.
Spirited Away displays many of Miyazaki’s trademarks. There are flying sequences all around. The movements of Haku in his water dragon form are absolutely inspiring. The weather is a barometer of what is to come, particularly the use of rain and clouds. As always, there is a journey that must be taken that has transformative effects on the main character. The use of Miyazaki’s drawing style, the attention to detail he has, and the vast amount of creativity needed to provide a multitude of monsters and spirits make this movie Oscar worthy.
If you can’t tell by now, let me tell you: I LOVE Miyazaki films. They always leave me in awe and make me want to become a better person. Spirited Away is no exception. I would have to give this movie 9/10 strawberries. It is absolutely delightful.