“Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can’t remember.”- Mari Natsuki as Zeniba
Bottom line: “Spirited Away” is a dazzling fairy tale drawn to captivate and provoke a better appreciation for the world around us.
Animation director Hayao Miyazaki is known as one of the world’s master animation artists, and “Spirited Away” is just one of the many examples of his enchanting talent. His vision for “Spirited Away” is reminiscent of an early Disney, and oftentimes the depth of Miyazaki’s characters elevate him past the animation mogul.
His beautifully realized fantasy land is safe for kids, as the PG rating suggests, but Miyazaki exudes themes of death and dreadful pain that many films in the genre won’t touch.
Following his award-winning 1997 fable “Princess Mononoke” (1997), Miyazaki returns with another visually stunning Alice in Wonderland-like story about a ten-year-old child, Chihiro, who loses her way after her parents decide to take an unscheduled stop at a mysterious tunnel during a ride along the countryside.
Much to her dismay, Chihiro’s parents investigate the blocked tunnel. Once they walk through, an abandon amusement park awaits, and her anxiety only escalates. Chihiro’s parents soon fall for a “trap” and are unable to move forward, leaving Chihiro alone in a haunting place where monsters and ghoulish happenings surround the frightened child.
Chihiro quickly realizes she’s stumbled upon a resort for these ghouls and monsters to unwind after their taxing work in the world of humans.
A friendly “boy” finds her and explains the rules of the world she’s found. First, she has to work because laziness is frowned upon. Second, she must take on a new name, Sen, but if she forgets her real name, she will never be able to leave.
Whether it’ spirituality, the significance of words or the power of love, “Spirited Away” has a lot to say. It’s not just a children’s outlet. Miyazaki aims to impress with entertainingly influential dialogue and his persistent need to hand-draw all of his work.
The originality of “Spirited Away” is exposed through this persistence and gives the added CGI visuals a heavenly appeal that should be seen by any appreciative film-goer. The watercolor backdrops and attention to detail will dazzle with ease, especially if you understand the sheer amount of work and talent it takes to produce such magnificent moving art.
Watching the film is more of an event than just a simple movie night. It’s a powerful accomplishment in the world of animation — a world that seems to produce simple, mind-numbing content for children far too often.
Fun fact: First anime film to be nominated for (and win) an Academy Award. It also has the longest run time of any other film nominated or winning in that category (125 minutes).
Run time: 125 min.
MPAA rating: PG
Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent