What happens when you cross Alice in Wonderland with Japanese folklore…the result…? Spirited Away…
Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) is a Japanese animated movie produced by Studio Ghibli, as well as written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. This movie is Japan’s highest grossing movie of all time. Spirited Away won “best animated movie” at the 75th Academy Awards.
How I came across the movie: My friends had been begging me to watch Spirited Away for years. One day I had nothing to do and decided to watch it thinking that it would be a charming children’s movie. If I were to have watched this as a child, I might have been frightened (I was a wimpy kid though).
Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl, is travelling with her parents to their new home when her father takes a wrong turn. They end up in what they believe is an abandoned theme park. While exploring the park, Chihiro’s parents happen upon a buffet, and they begin to gorge themselves with food. Gradually they turn into pigs. Frightened, Chihiro runs away, but then it is too late. Night has fallen and the “abandoned theme park” has become the spirit world. In order to save her parents and escape the spirit world, Chihiro must work at a bathhouse for spirits under the watchful eye of the sorceress Yubaba.
Here is the trailer:
I watched the dubbed version of Spirited Away and found out that the voice actress who does the voice of Chihiro also provides the voice of Lilo from Lilo & Stitch. It was strange at first hearing Lilo’s voice as Chihiro’s voice.
This movie was a pleasant surprise. Usually when I think of spectacular animated movies, my mind automatically thinks “DISNEY”. (Note: Disney did buy the rights to this film and distributed it in North America under Disney, but it was not produced by Disney). In comparison to typical Disney animated movies; Spirited Away has its own unique style. First of all, the animation itself is very refreshing. Disney movies may have adapted 3D, but they pale in comparison to the attention to detail of Spirited Away. The artwork is absolutely beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. I am not the type of person who notices detail, but while watching Spirited Away the amount of detail was striking to me.
 Fun fact: Spirited Away was created without a script. Yes, it seems practically impossible to create a full-length feature film without a script. None of Hayao Miyazaki’s films have scripts:
I don’t have the story finished and ready when we start work on a film” – Hayao Miyazaki
I couldn’t help but compare Spirited Away with Alice in Wonderland. It has the same feel, a little girl wandering around a strange place while getting herself into trouble, crazy looking characters, and many bizarre scenarios. The characters are very well developed and have become icons in Japanese popular culture. Despite its focus being a Japanese audience, those unfamiliar with Japanese folklore (like me) can still have an appreciation for this film. In the dubbed version of the film, there are additional lines that provide background information for western audiences who may not grasp the cultural references.
Final Grade: A+
Until next time,
- No-Face cosplay: By Yves Tennevin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons