Monday, June 16, 2014

Movie Review #22: Spirited Away

I'm finally back to Miyazaki films. The next one I hadn't seen before was Spirited Away, which I'm only really familiar with due to a scene or two I once watched while in a hotel in Houston many years ago.

Short review: another beautiful film by Studio Ghibli, but this time with relatively few environmentalist themes. It's good, go watch it if you haven't.


After a timid girl and her parents stumble upon a portal to the spirit realm, the girl must find some way to save herself and her parents while balancing a job at a strange bathhouse.


Through sincerity and hard work will carry you a long way.

That seems to be the theme of this movie, as most of Chihiro's trials are overcome by those qualities. Not everyone is impressed by her, but the important people are: the boiler room man, her cleaning partner, No-Face, Yubaba's kid...

On full display here are the fascinating visuals of the strange, wonderful spirit world. It's a lot more cartoony than other Ghibli films, since the spirit world gives the animators a license to do strange and wonderful things: fascinating/frightening creatures, the slightly-to-animated human-looking servants of the bath house, and of course Yubaba herself.

And then there was the amazing flock of paper birds, which was fascinating to watch.

Yeah, there's really no shortage of incredible, creative surrealism going on in the spirit world.

Often spirits are portrayed as being above material wealth, but clearly that is not the case here: the spirits of the bath house fall over each other in their desperation for gold, which is a pretty funny thought--that spirits are just as greedy and petty as humans.

Of course, there had to be at least a little bit of environmentalism in the movie: specifically the truth behind Haku, as a displaced river spirit, lost after his river was paved over. That, and the other river spirit, which was overflowing with sludge and trash from a different, presumably heavily polluted river.

I think one of the things I enjoyed the most from the movie was how much it kept reminding me of one of my fondest memories from Japan--my day at the onsen. I swear I recognized the uniforms.

Anyway, the story is sweet, the visuals incredible, and the music appropriate. It was a good movie.

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