Words: Sam Edwards
What is Spirited Away about?
A young girl trapped in the spirit world must find a way to free herself and her parents, in one of the most popular anime films of all time from legendary director Hayao Miyazaki.
Spirited Away Synopsis
After taking a wrong turn en route to their new house, ten-year-old Chihiro and her parents stumble across an abandoned theme that marks the entrance to the spirit world. When her parents are turned into pigs, Chihiro is forced to work at the spirits’ bathhouse until she can find a way to save them.
Her work introduces her to a colourful array of powerful spirits, including the mysterious, ghostly No-Face, the cantankerous but motherly witch Yubaba, and the heroic Haku, who might be more than the boy he normally appears to be.
Why we chose Spirited Away
For many people, Spirited Away is the first film that comes to mind when they think of anime. Winner of over 30 awards and the first anime feature to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature (the only hand-drawn and non-English language film to win that award). It introduced the genre into mainstream western cinemas in a way that nothing before it had quite managed. It is regularly cited as one of the greatest animated films of all time, in any genre or language.
It also made Miyazaki and his production company Studio Ghibli, already very highly regarded by that point, a household name across the world. While Princess Mononoke had raised the company’s profile in America, the limited release of its English language dub had not resulted in the ticket sales it deserved. Spirited Away’s success at the Oscars led to a wider distribution and elevated Miyazaki and Ghibli to the same levels of popularity as the likes of Disney and Pixar among English speaking audiences.
In Japan, it was even more of a phenomenon. It was number one at the Japanese box office for a total of 16 weeks and ultimately made ¥30.4 billion, making it the highest-grossing film in Japanese history – a record that it held for 17 years. It was also the first film to have already passed the $200,000 mark before even reaching its US release.
Right from the start of the film, it is abundantly clear that all of that acclaim is very well deserved. The animation is stunning – the attention to detail in every character and setting speaks to a long, rich back story and fleshed out personality. All of the Miyazaki boxes are ticked – a young protagonist, themes of man’s relationship with the natural world, deep roots in Japanese folklore, and a sense of wonder at everything the world has to offer are all combined into a truly magical two hours. Like Chihiro, you leave the film feeling like you’ve been in another world and become a wiser person for it.
Where can I see Spirited Away?
Spirited Away | 125 minutes | PG, is screening at the Mockingbird Screen 1, Sunday 1st October at 16:45
If you like this, consider Howl’s Moving Castle (U)
Based on a novel by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle initially shares a lot of DNA with Spirited Away. A young woman named Sophie is thrown out of her routine life into a world of fantasy and magic when a witch’s curse transforms her into an old lady. In order to remove the curse, she has to seek help from the wizard Howl and take up residence in his titular castle – a giant, walking mass of buildings, pipes and chimneys, powered by steam from a fire demon. But once it gets past that setup the film expands to a much grander scale than Spirited Away, as Sophie is swept up in the pacifist Howl’s rebellion against a kingdom embroiled in war.
Miyazaki’s follow-up to Spirited Away makes a great companion piece for anyone who enjoyed the magical plot and characters of Chihiro’s story, but wants to see them in a wider fantasy world.
Howl’s Moving Castle | 119 minutes | U is screening at the Mockingbird Screen 1 on Sunday 1 October at 19:45.
Spirited Away is available to watch on Netflix.
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- Spirited Away at IMDB
- Spirited Away at Wikipedia
- Spirited Away at Rotten Tomatoes
- Spirited Away at Anime News Network