Cara’s Blogiversary Bash: Spirited Away (2001)

The lovely Cara of Silver Screen Serenade is celebrating her first blogiversary with a big party! As a part of this momentous occasion, she called upon fellow bloggers to send in something about their most beloved films to celebrate. So, I decided to write a little review (bonus party kangaroos here) of one of my favourite films, Spirited Away (2001). Read the rest of the Blogiversary Bash posts over at Cara’s blog!

*****

spirited_away

An epic adventure story set in a magical spirit land, legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) is a Studio Ghibli classic that everyone has to see. Ten-year-old Chihiro and her family are driving to their new home, far away from the city where they used to live. On the way, they get lost driving in the forest and come across a mysterious tunnel. Chihiro’s parents decide to explore the tunnel to see what’s on the other side in a sudden fit of adventurousness, despite Chihiro’s protests. Finding a street of shops and restaurants eerily empty of people, but full of delicious food, her parents begin to stuff their faces with decadent dishes. Chihiro goes to explore the town, and when she returns, her parents have literally turned into pigs. Finding herself stranded in this town, Chihiro must discover a solution to this problem, taking her on an adventure beyond her wildest imagination.

I love Spirited Away because it’s one of those films with the power to make you feel wholeheartedly comfortable, despite its bittersweet or scary moments. All of the creative elements are absolutely stunning (more on that later), and the story is fairly light, but it has a mighty amount of substance that only serves to increase ones’ enjoyment of the film, and to draw the viewer in to its world. Spirited Away is the perfect ‘rainy day’ film because the bright colours and adventurous story cause the viewer to almost feel as though they’ve gone on an adventure, just like Chihiro has. I first watched this when I was stuck inside the house with a broken leg, and it was one of the best films to be housebound with for this very reason.

chihiro

One question that viewers might have before thinking of watching this film is whether they would want to see the original Japanese language film with subtitles, or the English dubbed film. There’s not too much of a difference between the two in terms of content, except that the English language version tends to be slightly more obvious when it comes to approaching the mysterious characters, as opposed to the Japanese version, which is more ambiguous and allows the audience to put certain puzzle pieces together themselves. The original Japanese with subtitles also seems to be a slightly more witty script. But this depends on your preference when watching foreign films – if you’re not a fan of subtitles, you would probably prefer the English dubbed version, regardless of the differences between the two. Additionally, the English dub is filled with lots of familiar voices and it’s fun to try and guess who’s who.

Spirited Away plays host to some of the most beautiful animation out of all of the Studio Ghibli films. Not only are the movements of all the characters and background elements very fluid and smooth, there is something stunning in every scene that catches the eye; whether it’s a strange creature in the background, a flash on a shiny surface, or the rhythmic tousling of a character’s hair in the wind. The strange world that Chihiro finds herself in is rendered in bright colours and filled with incongruous elements that seem at times simultaneously creepy, traditional, funny, and elegant. All of the scenes in the bathhouse are brilliantly designed, with a dreamlike aesthetic and unpredictable characters that keep you on your toes. It’s the perfect match to Joe Hisaishi’s score, which is beautiful and moving.

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Ultimately, Spirited Away isn’t just an entertaining film to pass the time – the themes portrayed within this film are so poignant, and can be easily understood by viewers both young and old; themes such as courage, loyalty, commitment, family, and love, to name a selection. You might be able to see the parallels with Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, however this isn’t just a story about a girl hoping to escape a strange situation. It’s about a courageous young girl who seeks to save those she loves, and develops a sense of personal strength in the process of doing so. As with any Miyazaki film, the creative elements are beyond reproach, and when combined with such strong storytelling, characters, themes, and music, the result is a delightful and unique film that can be watched over and over again.

4.5/5
Watch the trailer here.

17 comments

  1. “Spirited Away (2001) is a Studio Ghibli classic that everyone has to see.”
    /review. Sums up my thoughts perfectly.

    1. That probably should have been the entirety of my review! Short and sweet! 🙂

  2. I LOVE THIS FILM. I saw it in a packed cinema full of all sorts of people and we were all enthralled by the spectacle. The experience is still one of the best I have ever had in a cinema!

    The film seems so simple but it’s full of complex themes like how we interact with others, how we find our place in the world and find inner-strength to overcome difficulties that speak directly to a generation of kids represented by Chihiro. It’s so elegantly and beautifully put together that it becomes a part of an adventure that is accessible to all and enjoyable for all.

    I prefer watching with the subs because a lot cultural details like puns and parts like Chihiro’s name changing are important.

    1. I wish I had the chance to see this in the cinema, it must have been the most magical experience! You’re totally right about the subs. I remember there was a really great anime I used to watch where the subs included definitions of cultural details that otherwise would have been totally missed out on. More films should do that, I think!

  3. Great review. I do agree with your points about the subtitle vs dubbed. There is a bit more mystery in the foreign langauge version but I still enjoy the dubbed version. With animation dubbing doesnt bother me.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I tend to agree. Sometimes you get an anime dub that is hilariously bad but on the whole they’re not entirely painful to watch. On the other hand, live action dubs have the potential to go so wrong so quickly.

  4. Not my fav Studio Ghibli film but can’t deny that it’s their most artistic work to date. Nice write up, Anna.

  5. Thanks again, lady!! Wonderful review!! 🙂

    1. Thank you Cara for hosting such a fun blogiversary blogathon! 🙂

      1. My pleasure!! 😀

  6. I absolutely love this film. I saw it for the first time when I was a kid living in Japan, I’m pretty sure. It scared the living daylights out of me because of that horrifying No-Face. But I adored it all the same. Now I just need to watch “The Wind Rises”!

    1. Wow, living in Japan must have been amazing! If I had first watched this as a young one I bet I would have been scared by No-Face too, even when he’s in nice mode. So creepy. I still haven’t seen The Wind Rises either!

  7. I have never seen anime before, but this looks really cute.

    1. You should definitely see this! 🙂 It’s such a good film for both kids and adults because everyone gets something different out of it. It’s awesome.

  8. […] not only enhance the story but create an atmosphere of whimsy, magic, and danger. What results is a Spirited Away (2001) style, Studio Ghibli-esque adventure into the history of Ireland at the time and the threat […]

  9. […] Silver Screen Serenade, which has recently turned two years old! I took part in Cara’s First Blogiversary Bash last year, writing about one of my favourite films ever, Spirited Away (2001). But this time I […]

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