Think you’re too cool for Japanese anime about a lost ten-year-old girl whose parents turn into snorting pigs? Get over it. Spirited Away is a tremendously original and beautiful anime film. Never underestimate an anime film at the Academy Awards. In 2003, one won the award for Best Animated Film. Care to guess which?
Spirited Away is a story about a girl named Chihiro, who, along with her parents, ventures through a tunnel that leads to the world of spirits. After a witch who goes by the name of Yubaba, turns Mom and Dad into pigs, Chihiro must find a niche in the spirit world, where humans are not well thought-of, and figure out a way to convince Yubaba to change her parents back into humans and send them all home. Let me state up front that I am neither a fan of, nor an expert on, anime. I’m just a lover of animation in general and I know when I’m in the presence of good storytelling, and Spirited Away represents that.
Spirited Away is like all the wonderful children’s books that fired my imagination as a kid. But, this come as little surprise given the pedigree set by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. It even out-grossed Titanic in Japan. But all masterpieces have flaws. One thing that perhaps got to me was the ending. It was not that the ending was bad, it just seemed to leave some unanswered questions.
And then some scenes throughout just seemed to also have some questions attached to them that could not be easily be answered by just watching the film. While most anime movies are action movies, Spirited Away is a fairy tale, and where most anime movies are harsh, Spirited Away is gentle. Spirited Away is an enchanting, layered work, populated with the stuff of dreams. Actually, to better put it, it’s almost like a nightmare that’s not at all frightening but instead marvelous in its alienness. Spirited Away investigates an important issue. We’d prefer seeing Good and Evil as completely separate entities. It’s an easier to handle concept, thinking of it as two opposing forces. But truth is, they are mixed together inside all of us. Spirited Away offers an exciting adventure, visually stunning, narratively compelling, and mythically satisfying.
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