Movie Review: Spirited Away

Hello dear movie watchers, I have a confession to make.

Before Spirited Away, I had never actually seen a Studio Ghibli before. I had heard about them and I heard that everyone loved them, but I just never gave them much attention.

I decided to change that and I watched Spirited Away. Least I can say is that I will be making my way through the Ghibli catalogue very quickly now.

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Title: Spirited Away
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: ★★★★★

10-year-old Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents (Takashi Naitô, Yasuko Sawaguchi) stumble upon a seemingly abandoned amusement park. After her mother and father are turned into giant pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino), who explains that the park is a resort for supernatural beings who need a break from their time spent in the earthly realm, and that she must work there to free herself and her parents.


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The Story

Spirited Away’s story is a bit all over the place. A girl and her parents get stuck in the Spirit World and she tries to get them back and get back to the land of the living. To do that she needs to get a job, save a swamp monster, and a half dozen other things.

The story comes and goes. It has its highs and lows, but it all flows together in a way.

Still, the story is a lot of fun and cheerful, and it did a subtle, but good job of showing the growth of the main character Chihiro. She starts the movie as a shy, scared, and not confident 10-year-old, but as the movie progresses, we see her grow because of her experiences.

The movie doesn’t make a point of telling you that outright, but if you watch it carefully, you notice small changes.


The Design Work

Spirited Away was made in the early 2000s, so the animation work is nowhere near as good as it is today. That doesn’t mean it’s bad though.

I actually found it rather charming. In some scenes it’s very simple, with some trees and a character or two. In other scenes the screen is filled with pillow, spirits, bathhouse walls, and everything that is needed to make it more complete.

If it was made today, I don’t know if it would have the same feeling that it does now. I think being made in the early 2000s is a part of its charm.


The Musical Score

I thought that the music and the sound effects in this movie were perfect. The music was so beautiful in some moments, perfectly portraying what was happening on screen. Uplifting moments were accompanied by peaceful, uplifting music. Scarier, darker moments had fast paced, blood pumping scores.

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The sound effects weren’t anything special, but they were good. They fit perfectly, and they never felt too excessive or not enough. I thought that this really added to the movie for me. It wouldn’t have been as good of a movie without the music.


Final Thoughts

Spirited Away is fantastic. It is great as both a coming-of-age and also an adventure movie. Discovering the Spirit World is one of my favourite ideas in any story telling, and I have to say Spirited Away is does a great job of telling a good story for kids and adults both.


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