Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) (2001)

spiritedaway“Spirited Away” has had the unfortunate distinction of being compared to “Alice in Wonderland”, and while they bear similarities in themes, characters, and oddities, but Miyazaki’s animated tale is highly superior. Miyazaki takes us into an incredible land of creatures, landscapes and spooky villains, along the injecting truly heartfelt emotions, and thematic undertones. Miyazaki’s animation and storytelling bear an aspect sorely missing in American animated films, which heart, and true sincerity. Chihiro and her parents are on the way to their new home, and while driving they stumble upon a weird tunnel. Curious, they enter the tunnel and end up in a magical field and begin journeying into a village. But when Chihiro discovers her parents have been turned into pigs, she finds that there may be no going back where came from.

What we’re given by Miyazaki is an incredible world of creatures, demons, spirits, and figures that we’re never sure what to expect next. Daveigh Chase is great here as Chihiro one of Miyazaki’s trademark precocious heroines who is forced into this land from the beginning and is never sure what to do, and who to trust. Desperate to find a way out she comes across an array of great and surreal characters like the eight armed Kamajii the boiler man, lady yubaba, the sootball spider workers, and many more. With an array of compelling characters, “Spirited Away” is a film that actually reaches down in to the souls of people and touches their inner-child with a complex emotional narrative, unique undertones, character depth, and just sheer emotional substance.

Miyazaki once again captures that wonder and the awe of sheer fantasy and utterly amazing beauty and innocence. Miyazaki rips from the dreams and fantasy worlds of children and puts it on screen for everyone to explore. No corner is mundane, or boring, and while some elements are very strange and menacing, we want to explore his worlds deeper and deeper to see how far the rabbit hole goes. Miyazaki challenges the imagination and his heroine by coming across the endless array of characters. Who can Chihiro trust in a world with so many shifty characters? And who may be betraying her? Rin? Master Haku? Or the mysterious shrouded spirit that keeps following her around the town? Who or what is this shrouded spirit following her?

And what threat does it pose to her, if any? Miyazaki has a knack for creating excellent precocious heroines like Kiki, Miss Fio, and, of course, Chihiro who stumbles upon this new world with a lot of courage, and then there’s Rin the independent and very courageous servant. There are some amazing sequences like the bath house scene with the sludge monster, and when Chihiro’s ally Haku realizes who he is. Ultimately, this is an excellent fantasy tale with amazing creatures, and you’ll be glad you checked this out. “Spirited Away” is an amazing movie with a lot of originality and a glimpse in to a world only Studio Ghibli is capable of creating.