Anime Blu-ray Review: Spirited Away Collector’s Edition

Spirited Away Collector’s Edition includes a Blu-ray Disc of the film, the CD soundtrack, and a booklet.

Spirited Away Collector’s Edition
English Publisher: GKIDS
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: November 12, 2019

After Disney lost the rights to the Studio Ghibli films, GKIDS acquired the rights and began releasing the films theatrically and on home video. The review is for the GKIDS Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of the Academy Award winning Spirited Away.

A 10-year-old girl named Chihiro is the main character of the film. She comes across as a bit of a brat in the beginning, but after her father takes a wrong turn and the family comes upon an entryway to a mysterious tunnel, Chihiro ends up being the smart one in this situation. Chihiro tries to stop them from going into the tunnel, but her parents refuse to listen, so Chihiro follows them in. They find what appears to be an abandoned theme park, yet one of the food stalls has food. The adults don’t question it, and they just help themselves to what’s sitting out. They intend to pay when someone shows up, but to me, that still didn’t make what they were doing right. I got kind of annoyed with Chihiro’s mother, because she kept trying to pressure Chihiro to eat the food, even though she kept saying no.

Chihiro decides to explore the park to get away from her parents and encounters a boy who warns her that she has to leave the park before it gets dark. Unfortunately, night is falling quickly when she returns to the food stalls, which now has spirits starting to roam through them. When Chihiro finds her parents, she discovers that they have been turned into pigs.

Chihiro tries to go back the way her family came, and discovers that the grassy area is now covered in water. Not only that, she can also start seeing through her hands. The boy from earlier, who she learns is named Haku, finds her and convinces her to eat something in the spirit world in order to keep her from disappearing completely. Haku also gives Chihiro advice on what she needs to do in order to survive in this world.

After making contact with Kamaji, who works in the boiler room for the bathhouse, Chihiro is taken to Yubaba, the witch who runs the bathhouse. She makes a contract with Chihiro and takes away her name. Yubaba says that Chihiro must now only go by and answer to the name “Sen.” The film shows Chihiro making friends with Lin, one of her co-workers at the bathhouse, and she also keeps encountering the creature known as No-Face. This creature ends up causing problems at the bathhouse and evolves into something terrifying, yet Chihiro manages to return No-Face to his original state. The film ultimately follows Chihiro as she learns secrets about Haku and Yubaba, as well as trying to find a way to save her parents and return them to normal.

In Spirited Away, Miyazaki tells a compelling “coming of age” story. After all she experiences in the spirit world, Chihiro evolves from the bratty girl she came across as in the beginning of the film into someone who is more appreciative of other people and the world around her. Her growth as a character is very believable, and I think Chihiro is a character who is relatable to viewers who are around her age.

Even though I’ve seen Spirited Away a few times now, I still find the animation to be as breathtaking as it was the first time that I watched this film. I still think that the animation style that was utilized for this film helps to capture and convey the story that Miyazaki was telling.

On the Blu-ray Disc in this release, there are a total of four bonus features included. First is “Feature-Length Storyboards,” which is the entire film, but in storyboard form. Personally, I’ve never understood the point of this kind of a feature. There may be cinephiles out there who enjoy something like this, but most people in the general public really aren’t going to care. Next is the five-minute “Behind The Microphone” documentary about the recording of the English dub, which comes directly from Disney’s DVD release of Spirited Away. There are also the original theatrical trailers for the film, which run for about 20 minutes and are shown back-to-back. This appears to also come from the original Disney release of the film. The final bonus feature is “TV Spots,” which includes several Japanese television spots for the film.

It’s interesting to note that the GKIDS release of Spirited Away does not include three of the bonus features included on the original Disney release (the 15-minute documentary about the film, a Nippon television special about the making of the film, and a storyboard-to-scene comparison). I would guess these exclusions could either be because Disney refused to allow GKIDS to use these features, Disney was asking too much money for the use of these features, or Studio Ghibli refused to make these features available for whatever reason. Instead, this release includes two features not available on the original Disney release: the feature length storyboards and the TV spots.

This Collector’s Edition comes with a CD that includes the music for the film, which was composed by Joe Hisaishi. There are a total of 21 tracks on the CD, and only one track has vocals (the last track, “Always With Me,” which is performed by Youmi Kimura). When you listen to the CD, many of the pieces are instantly recognizable to listeners who have watched Spirited Away. These orchestral pieces have a very ethereal feel to them and work perfectly with the scenes that they were composed for. For many of Miyazaki’s films, I tend to view the music being as much of a character of his works as the actual characters in the stories.

The Collector’s Edition also comes with a 40-page book that includes pictures from the film, as well as essays written by various people (including Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, Hayao Miyazaki, film critic Kenneth Turan, and film critic Leonard Maltin). I thought this booklet was a nice addition for this release.

Overall, I’m very happy with this release. I’m a little disappointed that this Blu-ray release from GKIDS doesn’t include all of the bonus features that were on the Disney DVD release of Spirited Away, but I understand that this was likely a decision that was out of the company’s hands so I really don’t hold this against GKIDS.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, it’s no longer easy to find a new copy of the Spirited Away Collector’s Edition. If, for some reason, you actually come across a new copy of this release and you are a fan of Spirited Away and its soundtrack, then I would highly suggest picking it up.

Additional reviews of Studio Ghibli films:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.