Sunday, May 2, 2010

Spirited Away (2001)

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Japan 2001
125 min
Studio Ghibli

Spirited Away was the first anime I ever saw, and it turned my prejudices against the anime craze upside down. Of course, there are loads of really meaningless and bad anime too, as in any film genre: but I realized that this film is an example of creativity and imagination I had never seen the like of. In the same way Tim Burton creates his own universe, so does Studio Ghibli.

The protagonist is a young girl called Chihiro, who at the beginning of the film is moving to another town. They stop at the way when they are fascinated by a strange building, and soon they end up in a pleasant little town. "Pleasant" might be the wrong word, since everything seems strange. There are no people in sight, but like any film seen through the eyes of the child, the parents do not thing anything is odd and continue to stroll along. Unfortunately the town proves to be a link to the spirit world, and when Chihiro's parents start gorging on the local town food, they turn into pigs. Chihiro is captured in the spirit world, where she is stripped off her name by the witch Yubaba. Chihiro, or "Sen" as she is now called, has to try to survive in the strange spirit world and find a way to rescue her parents, who risk getting eaten if they turn too fat.

The original title "Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi" literally means "Sen and Chihiro's spiriting away", and refers to an occurrence in Japanese folklore where a person mysteriously disappear when an angered god has taken the person away (that's the word "kamikakushi" in the title). I get a strong feeling that there are a lot more references to tales and folklore in Spirited Away and its likes - thank God there is Internet.


Alex DeLarge said...

I consider Miyazaki a filmmaker and not "just" an animator! I'm not a fan of anime but his films rise above the genre which is inundated with vampires and technobabble.

Great review and this is probably my second favorite after TOTORO, which perfectly balances the simple and sublime. Unfortunately, Disney has the US rights and I can't stomach the English dub.

Lolita said...

Do you think one can adopt Miyazaki for a storytelling grandpa? I never had one (cozy and storytelling one, that is), and he seems likable in that way.

Do you mean that the US DVD versions of Spirited Away don't have the Japanese audio track at all? I was pissed at my edition, where I could only have Swedish subtitles (I always watch with English subs), but at least I could watch the film with the original audio!

Christopher said...

I'd grown up with anime in short form on tv and never thought I'd be interested in seeing a feature length version..but this sure changed my mind!..nothing quite like these Miyazaki films..Don't worry if you think you may not like it...You WILL!

Robert said...

This is my favorite movie ever. I saw it when I was an impressionable child, and my eyes were opened so wide! Such beauty.

Lolita said...

Now that you mention it, I HAVE seen anime before Spirited Away - I grew up with Swedish dubbed Starzinger, haha. I actually have the intro song as a cell ring tone (in Japanese, of course)!
I have seen Princess Mononoke and Totoro of the other Ghibli films, and I loved them too. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to all sorts of films!

You were lucky to experience this as a child! As I mentioned to Christopher, the anime I saw as a child was Starzinger dubbed to Swedish on an almost broken VHS tape - sounds like East Germany!

Guillermo Biasini said...

Yeah, I think everyone has watched anime since very young but people did not differentiate at that time what was Japanese Animation from the rest of the world's animation.

I remenber i was on denied of anime until I saw Rurouni Kenshin in the middle of the 90s.

But even before that, as a child of the 80s, i watched stuff like Mazinger Z, and speed racer to name a few.

BTW, my favorite of Gihbli have to be Kiki. Such a beautiful film. I recommend it to all of you, guys.

Grey Roamer said...

Like Alex, I'm no great fan on anime, but a little while ago the SBS (an Australian TV network which shows primarily European and Asian films) telecast a Miyazaki festival with all seven of his films. I instantly became a fan - I thought Nausicaa and Howl's moving castle were absolutely brilliant.

Great blog, by the way.