Anime Film Review: Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a fantastical film that was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released by Studio Ghibli in 2001 in Japan. Walt Disney Pictures released an English dubbed version of the film in 2002, and it went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards.

Spirited Away
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tsunehiko Kamijō, Takehiko Ono, Bunta Sugawara
Run Time: 125 minutes
Rated: PG

The main character of Spirited Away is a spoiled 10-year-old girl named Chihiro, who is unhappy about moving to a new home and going to a new school. According to Miyazaki, he based the character of Chihiro on his friend’s 10-year-old daughter who visited with him each summer.

The story begins with Chihiro and her parents driving to their new home, but her father becomes lost on the way. As they try to get their bearings, they find an entryway to a mysterious tunnel; Chihiro’s parents decide to investigate. On the other side of the tunnel is what appears to be an abandoned theme park. Chihiro’s parents find food at one the stalls and help themselves to the meal. Chihiro declines to eat, and goes off to explore more of the park.

During her exploration of the park, she comes across an older boy who warns Chihiro she must leave the park before it is dark. Night is quickly falling when she returns to the food stall, and discovers that her parents have turned into pigs.

When Chihiro tries to go back the way the family came, she finds that the grassy area is now covered with water; Chihiro also discovers that she is able to see through her hands. The older boy finds her and convinces her to eat something in the spirit world; if she doesn’t, she will vanish. The boy gives Chihiro some advice on what she needs to do in order to survive in that world. The rest of the film follows Chihiro’s adventures as she tries to find a way to return her parents to normal and be able to go home.

In Spirited Away, Miyazaki tells compelling “coming of age” story. After her experiences in the spirit world, Chihiro changes from a spoiled girl to one who is more appreciative of other people and the world around her. Chihiro’s growth as a character was believable, and I also believe she can be a relatable character to viewers who are around her age.

The animation in Spirited Away is rather breathtaking, and at times, it almost looks realistic. Even though there are spots in the film where it’s rather obvious that some of the elements were animated with computer graphics, the obvious computer effects aren’t enough to distract the viewer from appreciating the overall story and atmosphere of the film. Overall, I think the animation style that was utilized for the film really helps to capture and convey the story that Miyazaki is trying to tell.

When I watched Spirited Away, it was on the two-disc DVD released by Disney. In addition to the film, the set also included a 15-minute documentary about Spirited Away, a Nippon television special about the making of the film, a storyboard-to-scene comparison, a five-minute documentary about recording the English dub of the film, and a collection of the original Japanese trailers for the film. The trailers ran for 22 minutes, and there seemed to be a bit of repetition in the trailers included in this feature; personally, I found this to be a bit much. Outside of that, though, I liked the other bonus features included on this release. Disney went to a lot of effort when it came to including bonus features on this release in comparison to the other Studio Ghibli films that the company has released on DVD and/or Blu-ray; obviously, this was due to the fact that Spirited Away won an Oscar.

Spirited Away is a beautiful and well-done film, and I would definitely consider this film to be an anime masterpiece. If you’re an anime fan or anime collector, Spirited Away is truly a “must have” for your home video collection.

I originally watched the DVD release of Spirited Away when I checked out a copy of it through the King County Library System. My husband later purchased a copy of it as a gift for me.

Additional reviews of Studio Ghibli films:

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