Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
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.