Movie Review: Spirited Away (2001)

As 2021 is the twentieth anniversary of Spirited Away, I thought it was a great idea to finally review the movie here on the blog. Woot. Spirited Away is quite possibly the most renowned of Director and Animator Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli’s works and as such has won plenty of notable awards, including the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature – something no other hand-drawn non-English-language film has ever done.

It’s also a surreal moralistic film about the dangers of greed and selfishness.

The Story

Spirited Away begins with Chihiro, a headstrong young girl who doesn’t like following instructions, and her parents, finding what looks like and abandoned amusement park. This park turns out to be an amusement park for gods, spirits, ghosts, and monsters where they can rest and enjoy themselves before returning to the mortal world.

Chihiro’s parents become trapped when they indulge in forbidden food and are transformed into pigs. The only way for Chihiro to free them is to work at the ornate bathhouse and earn back what they took. For someone who isn’t great at following instructions, this is a real challenge. But her love for her parents, and her growing like of a certain boy, Haku, push her to overcome her reluctance to do what is needed.

As she works, she learns that there is far more going on in this world than she imagined. Not knowing better, she invites an unfriendly spirit called No-Face inside who starts eating the workers of the bathhouse when they take his offering of gold. She also is given the worst job of the night, taking care of a stink spirit. When she does so without complaint, she’s rewarded a magic dumpling.

During the evening, Chihiro, now called Sen as part of a spell meant to lock her in the spirit world, witnesses a dragon being attacked and recognizes that the dragon is none other than Haku. Haku stole a magic golden seal from the owner of the bathhouse and is now cursed if he doesn’t return it.

Sen uses part of her magic dumpling to help Haku and retrieves the magic seal, resolving to return it to it’s rightful owner, the bathhouse owner’s twin sister. But, Sen still needs to save her parents who are lined up for slaughter with the other pigs. If she can identify them, they can go free.

Chihiro with Haku the Dragon

My Review

Spirited Away introduces the viewer to a fresh and magical world populated with the new and the unusual. As with all Studio Ghibli, half of the enjoyment of watching the film is in the artistry of the hand-drawn settings and characters. It’s a beautifully envisioned world. The other half is in the story, and Chihiro’s story is engaging. We know what she wants and why, but we also see that she has heart and is willing to put herself in danger if the need arises.

While there are quite a few very strange visuals, such as No-Face eating everything in his path, including some of the bathhouse staff and then throwing it all up again, and the boiler room operator who looks more like a spider than a man, they add to the intrigue and interest of the film.

Between the story, the music, and the artistry, Spirited Away shouldn’t be missed.

The enigmatic No-Face

Recommendations

This is a family friendly film best suited for kids eight and up due to mildly frightening images and several intense situations. That said, there is a good message and plenty of discussion that can happen after watching ranging from how different characters were affected by greed and how hard work paid off for Chihiro.

I rate Spirited Away 5/5 for its artistry and impact on the viewer.


Thank you for joining me as I reviewed Spirited Away today on the blog. If you enjoyed reading this review and would like to see more, please consider connecting with me by either following the blog here on WordPress, liking my Facebook page, or subscribing to my newsletter. As an added bonus, newsletter subscribers receive free books, stories, and special offers every week.

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