Spirited Away (2001) Review

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Spirited Away (2001)
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 43 as of 01/01/2013

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Rumi Hiiragi
Miyu Irino
Mari Natsuki
Takeshi Naito
Yasuko Sawaguchi
Tsunehiko Kamijō
Takehiko Ono
Bunta Sugawara

(English dub voice cast: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Paul Eiding, John Ratzenberger)

Running time: 124 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the middle of her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into beasts.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: Japanese with English subtitles

I know the people who’ve been with me a while will know that I’ve become a pretty big Studio Ghibli fan in the couple of years that I’ve run this blog. Back in January, I started reviewing as many of these films as I could (you can find the links to all the reviews HERE) but they didn’t get a lot of attention & I wondered if Studio Ghibli was as popular amongst movie bloggers as I’d thought. So when I asked in this poll HERE which movies I should review next of all the ones I watched but never got around to, I was surprised that Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies were the two winners by quite a lot of votes. I know it’s weird that I’ve put off reviewing two of Ghibli’s biggest films but I wasn’t sure what to say about either of them. Fireflies because, well… what can be said about that? 😦 And Spirited Away because I KNOW it’s the favorite Ghibli for a lot of people (and the most highly regarded – it won an Oscar for best animated film & is the highest rated Ghibli in the IMDB Top 250 at number 34 currently) but it’s just never quite connected with me in the same way the other films have.

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Spirited Away was actually the very first Ghibli I saw back in 2001 (I think – whenever it was first shown in UK cinemas). I don’t recommend it as your introduction to Studio Ghibli as it’s far more “out there” than most the others. Unless you like “weird”… However, I do recommend it if you’re already a fan of the studio and I can see now why it’s so popular even if it’s not my very favorite. I finally re-watched this again in January to see if my opinion would be different all these years later & I can say that I definitely appreciated it a lot more now that I’ve seen so many other Ghibli films. It’s basically just a coming of age story (Ghibli style – with pigs, witches, Susuwatari soot sprites like in My Neighbor Totoro, dragons, and really large babies) & has a good, strong lead female as is often the case with these movies. I think it may be so popular as it’s from 2001 so a lot of you younger bloggers will have been just the right sort of age for it when it came out (I’m guessing it’s a popular one with those who were preteen girls at the time especially). You’ll either absolutely love this one for its weirdness or you’ll be turned off if that’s not your type of thing but it’s certainly another Miyazaki masterpiece and I want to love it as much as I do Totoro or Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind… I really did try to on the re-watch!

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Spirited Away is sort of a Japanese Alice In Wonderland. If you like that, you may also appreciate Spirited Away. It certainly has the magical quality & beauty that most the Ghibli films possess (more so, really – it may be the second biggest feast for your eyes after Howl’s Moving Castle). I do think I made a mistake putting it below Howl’s Moving Castle in my Top TenHowl’s is very pretty but the story is overcomplicated while Spirited Away has a much stronger and more straightforward story & themes.

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With most Ghibli films, there’s usually a small character that I really latch onto. With Princess Mononoke, it was the Kodama. With Castle In The Sky, it was the Laputan robots. With My Neighbor Totoro, it was of course Totoro. While Spirited Away has very rich characters, I didn’t end up loving any of the lesser characters. No-Face was pretty cool, I suppose, but oh so strange. The girl (Chihiro), as I said, is another great female Ghibli character which is a huge part of the reason why I’m such a big fan of the Ghibli films. This is another movie I want my kid to see someday BUT I myself wouldn’t recommend it to those under probably about 10 or 11. For the very young, the witch is too scary as is the entire, cruel spirit world that Chihiro finds herself trapped in plus it’s just far too odd & the themes would be lost on the young. More than anything, they just wouldn’t appreciate this one until they were a little older so I think it’s probably best to wait before introducing them to this one.

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Summary:

I’m really glad I re-watched this one again after watching more Studio Ghibli films. I wish I could love it in the same way others do and in the same way I love some of the other Ghibli films but I certainly appreciate Spirited Away and think it’s deserving of all the praise & recognition it has received. I’d certainly watch it once (or twice) again and know it’s one that would grow on me. Spirited Away should be seen by all film lovers but I’d recommend testing out a couple other Studio Ghibli films first before delving into this one if you’re new to them.

My Rating: 8/10

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49 thoughts on “Spirited Away (2001) Review

  1. Nice write up! 🙂

    Spirited Away was my introduction to non-Pokemon anime and it I didn’t find it weird or off putting at all – quite the opposite in fact! It opened my eyes not just to the other end of the artistic scale of the genre but to the sheer wonder, intelligence, warmth and creativity of the story telling too.

    So, while I get what you are saying about some of the slightly darker and esoteric aspects, I personally wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anime newbies – although the caveat here is that they are also starting at the top so it’s all downhill from there! 😛

    • Thanks for the comment! It’s great seeing all the love for this one – I got a lot of great comments on this review. 🙂 It always makes me happy to hear someone talk about a movie they really love & what it means to them. I CAN understand why people love Spirited Away. Not sure it would all be downhill from this one, though! Have you seen Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind?? 🙂

      • I have seen Naussicaa. In fact the only Miyazaki film I’ve not seen is Porco Rosso. There are only a couple of other Ghibli films I’ve not seen either. You can’t be an anime fan and not love Ghibli films! 😉 😛

      • Hey – I’ve seen Porco Rosso! Wow – I’ve seen one you haven’t! 😉 Yeah… I should have figured you’ve seen most the Ghiblis. 🙂 The only Miyazaki I’ve not seen is The Wind Rises & the only non-Miyazaki ones I’ve seen are Grave Of The Fireflies & From Up On Poppy Hill. I’ll watch them all eventually. 🙂

  2. Great review my love! Very fair. I can understand why it’s not your most, most favourite.

    This was the first Studio Ghibli film I watched too and it blew me away! I thought it was absolutely incredible. I watched it on DVD around 2003 I reckon and had never seen anything like it before. After that I didn’t watch many more until I met my boyfriend. He’s not really into films that much but he LOVES Studio Ghibli! That’s how I’ve come to watch a lot of them now.

    My favourites are Spirited Away (of course!), The Cat Returns and Porco Rosso. The Cat Returns is the only one I ever watch in English because I LOVE Tim Curry as the Cat King. He calls people “babe” !!!! It’s hilarious! He says “hey babe” in this low voice ha ha ha. I watched Arietty recently too and thought it was so lovely!!!!!!! The story was very up my street.

    Can’t wait for the next review tomorrow 🙂 though slightly fearful as I know how sad it is 😦

    • Great to hear from all the lovers of Spirited Away! I can totally understand the love for it even if it’s not MY favorite. But all Ghiblis are awesome! Of yours, I have yet to watch The Cat Returns but I do have it so I’ll get around to it eventually. I’m definitely not stopping watching all the rest of the Ghiblis! 🙂 Although I know I’ve watched all the most famous ones now…

  3. Great review. this is the first Ghibli movie I showed my 8 year old Niece at the time(she is 12) ad she loved it I later showed her Tortoro and Howl’s moving Castle . Great post

    • Thanks! 🙂 I’m always interested to hear what kids think of Ghibli films as I of course want mine to see them all eventually. 🙂 I’ve only shown her Ponyo & Totoro so far but they were BIG hits. We’ll get to Spirited Away someday! 🙂

    • Thanks! 🙂 I think we’re alone in this one not being our favorite… People do love this one! I can see why even if it doesn’t QUITE work for me in the same way. Princess Mononoke is the one that really got me wanting to watch all the rest of the Ghiblis. 🙂

      • You are not alone. I totally agree with your review, and can say from experience that this film’s weirdness can definitely turn off anime newbies, like my parents. Like you, I’ve come to appreciate it more, but it’s far from my favorite. I mean, a giant baby? Really?

  4. I see your point of view. I think what makes Spirited Away special to me is how different it is. So many movies I basically know what’s going to happen but this was a complete surprise from beginning to end. I’d describe it as an animated Pans Labyrinth.

    • Thanks! I can understand that comparison… I thought Pan’s Labyrinth was amazing. I do appreciate the unpredictability of films such as this one, especially as I watch so many movies that nothing is ever a surprise and very few seem original. That certainly can’t be said of the Ghibli films! 🙂

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    • Lol! No – it doesn’t sound crazy at all. Well, maybe to normal people… but not to another movie geek. 😉 I felt sort of the same way about Stand By Me! We were all buddies. Lol 🙂

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    • It’s great seeing all the love for this movie (and all the other Ghiblis). 🙂 I definitely appreciated this one much much more after re-watching it. It’s one that I think will continue to grow on me. 🙂

  7. I love this film precisely because it is so weird. I can imagine it being a lot to take in if it’s your first Studio Ghibli though.

    • Yeah – I certainly appreciate it more NOW. I’ve only watched it subtitled – I think it would be a strange one to watch in English as it would lose that special foreign weirdness… 🙂

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  9. Great review. I watched this last week. Still not quite sure what to make of it but y initial reaction is that it’s not my cup of tea. Maybe I should go back to crap horror films!

      • Ohhh. Ohhh! Okay, don’t get me started. I LOVE Ghibli!!! Hmm. I think you may actually go for something like Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Maybe. Or… Not. I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea! Spirited Away is one of the more “odd” ones, though. It’s good but not my favorite.

  10. Great write up! This was the first Ghibli I ever watched and I thoroughly enjoyed it because it is so damn strange, but I have never been able to sit down and watch it again. Truly, I am a nightmare to get to watch anything animated/anime/animation… I just battle too much with it!

    • Hehe. I wonder why that is?? I adore animated films! 🙂 Well, when they’re good. Like the Ghibli stuff & Pixar. Glad you at least enjoyed this one! If you go for the “strange” Ghiblis, Howl’s Moving Castle may be the next one you should try. Someday. 🙂

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