Magic. That’s the best way to describe this film. Akin to Sgt. Pepper, one of the greatest rock albums ever, Spirited Away is often seen as one of the greatest anime films ever. Akin to Sgt. Pepper, it was hugely successful, both critically and commercially on its original release. Akin to Sgt. Pepper, it’s still held in high regard to this day. But also, akin to Sgt. Pepper, there isn’t much you can say about this film that hasn’t been said already.
So I’ll just try and tell you what I think of it. Not so much a review, more a personal opinion from a guy who loves good films.
Spirited Away, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro, who becomes separated from her parents when she unwittingly enters a world of spirits and finds that her parents have turned into pigs. She acquires a job at the spirit’s bathhouse, and with the help of a magical boy named Haku, a six-armed boiler worker called Kamajii, a bathhouse worker named Lin, and several other creatures, Chihiro must find a away to defeat Yubaba, the witch and owner of the bathhouse, and return to the human world with her parents.
That’s all I say about the plot, as I’m trying to hold back all the spoilers as best I can for those who haven’t seen it yet.
I found the film to be, well, just pure magic. The story, the characters, the animation, the music, all these things and more make up for a superb cinematic treat. It has an air of subtle majesty to it. Despite all the magic and monsters that make for the film’s backdrop, the focus never detracts from Chihiro and the adventures she finds herself in.
Chihiro herself develops fabulously throughout the film as a character, starting out as a sulky little girl to a little girl with confidence, maturity and assertiveness. But throughout the film, you never forget that she is still just a little girl, separated from her parents and lost in a world full of magic and mystery, which throughout the film makes her terrified, alone, distraught, excited, loved, and happy.
And that’s how you feel as the audience. Akin to Sgt. Pepper, you’re sucked into the world of spirits just as Chihiro is. Akin to Sgt. Pepper, you find yourself stuck to Chirio, following her on her quest to save her parents and get back home. Akin to Sgt. Pepper, you stay riveted until the end. And akin to Sgt Pepper, once the film has finished, you’ll soon find yourself returning to it again, and again becoming lost, alone, terrified, excited, happy and loved.
Because this is a film to instantly fall in love with. A film that, like love, is pure magic.