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Spirited Away

Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi?, or "The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro") is a Japanese animated fantasy-adventure film in 2001. It is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and produced by Studio Ghibli.

Plot. While ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino and her parents get lost when moving to a new town, they discover an abandoned amusement park. The park is beautiful enough that the family is lured into wandering inside.  Chihiro’s parents sample some delicious food, while she roams around and finds a grand bathhouse across a bridge where she meets a boy who warns her to leave the place before nightfall. Chihiro looks for her parents and soon finds out that they have been transformed into pigs. Nightfall comes and a riverboat full of different spirits disembarks on the river. Chihiro hides but is found by the boy whom she meets earlier. He instructs her to see Kamaji, a six-armed creature, and asks him for a job so she can stay and try to rescue her parents. After a struggle, Chihiro obtains a job in the bathhouse and her name is changed to Sen. She meets different spirits – Lin, Yubaba, Boh the giant baby, No Face, the women spirits, the frog servants, several river spirits, Zeniba, and other peculiar creatures. In the end, Chihiro passes several tests and her parents are turned into human again. But it is not only a great adventure for Chihiro for she discovers a sweet, nostalgic truth about her childhood memories…

Review. Spirited Away revolves around Chihiro and her journey from the realms of fantasy to the world of reality, and with it is her transformation from a child to an adult. It is a coming-of-age fantasy animated film. When Chihiro acquires work at the bathhouse, she loses her name, along with her childhood memories, in exchange. She slowly forgets everything. But she must move forward, and as she slowly regains her self and her past, she learns valuable life lessons and gains maturity, wisdom and hope. The movie is truly about a journey and the transformations it brings along.
Spirited Away is a very imaginative film. Much of the materials are very original, though most are based on several Japanese folklores. I particularly love the spirit “No Face” who is turned into a voracious monster after being consumed by too much affection and admiration. He manages to return back into his lovable, good-natured self after Chihiro’s help. The bathhouse is also a place that is vey grandiose, merry, and colorful. Overall, every aspect of the film is very engaging, entertaining, and impressive. Though the film is a traditional two-dimensional animation, it succeeds to bring out so much color, life and “wow” factor. It is impressive despite its simplicity. I guess it would be very expensive to adapt the movie into real-life action or full 3D animation.

Unforgettable Scenes. The bathing of the “stink spirit” and the rampage of “No Face” are memorable. But the part I love most is Chihiro’s discovery about Haku, the dragon and river spirit who has rescued her before. It is partly sad and romantic.

Reception. The movie received almost universal critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 97%, ranking it as the thirteenth-best animated film. It also ranked #9 of the highest-rated movies of all time on Metacritic and the site’s highest rated traditionally animated film.

Spirited Away was a huge blockbuster hit not only in Japan but also worldwide. It became the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, overtaking Titanic. By 2002, a sixth of the Japanese population had seen it. Walt Disney Pictures, under Pixar, supervised the English translation of the film for its international release.

Moreover, the Empire Magazine ranked the film as #10 on its “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema” in 2010. It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, and the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival.

Rating. I have nothing to say against the movie so five stars for Spirited Away. Bravo!


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