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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Porco Rosso (1992) Review

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Porco Rosso (1992)
Kurenai no Buta
Japanese: 紅の豚

Directed & Written by Hayao Miyazaki

Starring Voice Actors:
Shūichirō Moriyama
Tokiko Kato
Akemi Okamura
Akio Ōtsuka

(English Dub Voice Cast: Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Susan Egan, Brad Garrett, David Ogden Stiers, Kimberly Williams-Paisley)

Running time: 94 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot revolves around an Italian World War I ex-fighter ace, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing “air pirates” in the Adriatic Sea. However, an unusual curse has transformed him to an anthropomorphic pig. Once called Marco Pagot (Marco Rousolini in the American version), he is now known to the world as “Porco Rosso”, Italian for “Red Pig”.

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My Opinion:

Version watched: English dubbed version

I’m sorry but I have to use the word “odd” again in a Studio Ghibli review. Maybe I should buy a thesaurus. Hey, does anyone own an actual dictionary or thesaurus anymore? You can just Google everything. I think back to when I was a kid & had a set of encyclopedias… Bet no one buys those anymore! Anyway, Porco Rosso is bizarre. There, I didn’t use the word “odd”!

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First of all, I admit to only seeing the English dubbed version of this as it was on TV and I know I NEVER enjoy those as much as the subtitled versions so, therefore, I’ll probably be a little more harsh on this movie than it deserves. This is one of the “not for kids” Ghibli films. It’s hard to know who it’s aimed at… I’d say it’s the most “adult male” one I’ve seen so far. As I’m not male & really not at all interested in WWI flying aces (other than Snoopy), this movie didn’t speak to me the way other Ghibli movies have. It has quite a high IMDB rating & I’m sure plenty of people like this one. It’s just my least favorite of the Miyazaki-directed Ghiblis (I only have one left to watch – The Wind Rises. Will be interesting to see how that compares as that’s about a man who designed Japanese planes for WWII).

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Porco Rosso, at least in the dubbed version, is a “manly” man (manly pig? pigly man?). He’s a womanizer & comes across as a bit sexist. He’s voiced by Michael Keaton so it was strange watching this just after seeing Birdman. The voice Keaton uses for Porco Rosso is fairly close to his smart ass superhero “Birdman” voice. There’s a woman who is in love with his character then there’s later a 17-year-old girl who also seems very fond of him (as he seems to be of her). I won’t pretend I didn’t find that a little disturbing. Especially when the girl’s grandfather says something like “keep your hands off my granddaughter” & Porco says “just looking at her makes me tired”. Er… What a pig! 😉

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The 17-year-old girl in this, however, is another strong female Ghibli character. She’s an engineer & helps fix Porco Rosso’s plane. I think a big part of the reason I like Studio Ghibli films so much is because of the great female characters so I’m glad we got a decent one in this movie as well. She’s not the main character but she does help make up a bit for Porco’s somewhat sexist & unlikable ways and kind of brings out the best in him by the end.

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Summary:

What can I say? Porco Rosso just wasn’t really my sort of thing. I respect it in the way I do all the Studio Ghibli films but just didn’t love it in the same way I do most of the other Ghiblis. It’s definitely a more adult one and aimed more at males. It’s certainly not a bad film & still a lot better than most movies out there. I wouldn’t recommend it as someone’s introduction to Studio Ghibli but it’s definitely worth a watch for those who are already Ghibli fans. Sorry for the quick & rubbish review but I’m off to see Ex Machina right now – that seems more “me”. 🙂

My Rating: 6.5/10

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