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Spirited Away

a.k.a. The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro

a.k.a. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

spiritedaway-1

Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Studio Ghibli
Format: 1 movie
Dates: 7/20/2001

The Ogino family is moving. This doesn’t seem to make ten-year-old Chihiro very happy as they are driving towards their new home. A wrong turn has them reach what seems to be an abandoned village. Brave and hungry, Chihiro’s parents decide to do some exploring. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat… it transformed the two of them into pigs and awoke eerie shadows and creatures. Left alone, our distraught, little girl will luckily meet a young boy who is willing to help her named Haku. Chihiro is to follow his instructions by the letter if she ever wants to restore her parents to their original form and escape this uncanny wonderland.

summary by Kjeldoran

 

Reviewed: 03/06/2006 by
Grade: 92% av-Kjeldoran

Highs: Genuinely voiced and animated heroine; a technical marvel; exceptional design for characters and universe

Lows: Abrupt beginning; some elaboration is in order

The highest grossing film in Japan history so happens to be an anime. Miyazaki may claim he is getting too old to go through the stress that comes with directing projects of such titanic magnitude but shows that his mind is still in great shape with Spirited Away.

Some purists will claim acting is not applicable when talking about animated features; they obviously have never seen the performances in Spirited Away. Everything about Chihiro is believable. Beyond the incredible voice acting by 13-year-old Hiiragi Rumi, her reactions, facial expressions and body language seem to bring about more genuineness than if portrayed by a live actress. Characters and settings have nothing to envy from Alice in Wonderland; from kawaii to downright frightening, the many creatures sprouted either from Japanese folktales or Miyazaki’s boundless imagination, are a longed-for sight.

The most important facet of artwork for me is attentiveness. This anime was a real treat in that sense. Backgrounds used for mere seconds featured tons of details that would go right past us (if it wasn’t for that pause button) but unconscientiously contribute to creating overall excellence and realism, even in this fantasy world. No distinction can be made between a main character and some trivial extra; all are designed with the same tedious attention and originality. Even CGI is used in perfect dosages and, since it features nearly as much detail as hand-drawn sequences, does not look intrusive by any means.

The original script asked for the movie to be three hours in length. Many scenes were cut to bring it down to two and it slightly shows by an abrupt beginning, a few rushed explanations and vagueness tied to characters such as Kaonashi and Haku. I doubt anyone would mind sitting through an extra hour of Spirited Away but production costs would have most likely forced Studio Ghibli to diminish its technical quality. It’s probably for the best. Besides, even with the occasional bump in the road, the story flows smoothly… making this anime another Ghibli work of art.

 

Reviewed: 03/06/2006 by
Grade: 82% av-Kain

Highs: Immensely pleasing to all the senses; imagination runs wild

Lows: Quite a few dubious events go unexplained; Chihiro’s seiyuu is flat and uninspiring

I have been waiting for this movie for about three years. It’s Studio Ghibli. It’s Hisaishi Jo. It’s… it’s Miyazaki. The critic in me tried and tried (to no avail) to suppress the otaku in me, which was doing figurative cartwheels when I was finally given a chance to see not only the highest grossing movie of all time in Japan (which is inconsequential. Box office numbers and quality rarely correlate) but also likely the last time we’ll see Miyazaki in the director’s chair. A lot of milestones were going to be set.

Please, oh please, do not let this be his final curtain call! Don’t get me wrong; Spirited Away is a very good movie. This is the kind of anime that could make the careers for hundreds of aspiring directors, producers and animators. For the Great One, however, it pains me to see that he wasn’t given full reign (or was it self-restraint?) to just goall out. Yes, hypothetically speaking, this movie could have gone three hours and beyond with a budget that would make Wings of Honneamise look like a value meal… but genius knows no bounds. Instead, the viewer is privy to a nice, albeit segmented, story… and one of Studio Ghibli’s weakest to date, in my honest opinion. I don’t mind taking a leap of faith once in a while with my anime, but too often I felt like I was handed a scene that lacked any real explanation as to why it was happening.

Spirited Away is a masterpiece in the realm of sights and sounds; excellent use of truly unique character designs, colorful backdrops and camera placement throughout. It’s not often animators are given a blank canvas and a palette with the most astounding assortment of paints and colors; the visuals are among the most vivid and inventive in anime.

I always summarize how much I enjoyed an anime by the degree I was sucked into its world. Did I feel like I was momentarily transported to a distant land and experienced the events side-by-side with the characters? Not as much as I would have liked.

 

Reviewed: 04/17/2005 by
Grade: 83% av-Gatts

Highs: Great presentation; a feast for the senses

Lows: Story and characters are a bit disappointing

The first time I watched Spirited Away, I was really impressed. The visuals alone leave a resounding impact on its viewers. It’s easy to get swept up by the fluid animation and gorgeous designs, but while they may be quite the feast for the senses, the rest of the film never quite reaches the same level of quality.

What Spirited Away succeeds at is creating an immersive, extraordinary fantasy world. The locations that Chihiro visits are truly a sight to behold and are full of grand architecture, intricate designs and vibrant colors. The bath house and surrounding buildings feature great detail and create an amazing atmosphere for the film. A cast of bizarre and interesting characters populates these gorgeous locales. The designs for the bath house’s inhabitants are eerie and interesting, complementing the film’s atmosphere nicely. Adding to the already impressive presentation is a great soundtrack and some very fluid animation (although some scenes have distracting CGI). From a visual standpoint, Spirited Away is a brilliant success.

While Spirited Away may be a visual and aural treat, the rest of the film is a bit of a disappointment. The early parts of the anime are engrossing and interesting, though towards the end things start to fall apart as the conclusion feels rushed and incomplete. There are a few twists leading up to the finale, but these end up feeling forced due to a lack of explanation. The story takes a backseat to the visuals, and much of the plot feels underdeveloped. This problem is true for the characters, as well; although interesting in design, they lack any true character development. The little bit of information thatis revealed about the characters is abrupt and forced with no real explanation.

Spirited Away is by no means a bad film. It’s a really enjoyable anime to watch but lacking in a few key areas that prevent it from reaching the high standard set by other Studio Ghibli films. If for no other reason, this anime is worth seeing for the amazing visuals… too bad that the plot and characters weren’t a bit more developed.

 

Reviewed: 05/07/2006 by
Grade: 93% av-Madoka

Highs: Amazing art; vibrant characterization; charming story; highly imaginative visuals

Lows: Coming-of-age theme is highly familiar

Over the years, Studio Ghibli has become known as a wellspring of some of the most beautiful, creative and beloved anime ever created. In keeping with the tradition of quality and imagination, Spirited Away certainly does not disappoint. In true Ghibli fashion, the art is spectacular and highly detailed, the characters are warm and well-rounded, and the world created is enchanting and deeply immersive.

Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, the setting of Spirited Away plunges viewers into a rich, vibrant fantasy world filled with bright color and detailed creatures. From the smallest side character to the lavish settings, every facet of the art in this anime shines. Musically, this anime delivers as well, combining with the visuals to create mood and movement within the scenes.

Though the coming-of-age theme in this anime has been done before, the characters themselves are unique and well-developed. Chihiro behaves and sounds like a believable 10-year-old, and most of the other characters show multiple sides of their personalities. The plot moves along fine, with both amusing and touching scenes keeping viewers charmed and entertained.

With beautiful art and a magical, sweet story, Spirited Away is a fantastic anime for almost anyone. Perfect for young children, introducing a friend to anime or just relaxing and enjoying on a hot summer afternoon, Spirited Away is a movie that just about anyone can enjoy.


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