Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Animation director: Masashi Ando
Genre: Coming of Age/Adventure
Released by: Buena Vista Distribution (Disney)
Release Date: September 20th 2002
Chihiro Ogino and her family are moving to a new home. Chihiro doesn’t want to move at all and she makes that fact well known to her parents–she’s what we would call rude. Her parents try to make her see the good side of the change, but Chihiro won’t have any part of that. On their way to their new house Chihiro’s parents take a little detour and bump into a bizarre structure and decide to do a little investigating before movers reach their new house. Chihiro doesn’t want to go but is too scared to stay by herself so she inevitably tag along. Eventually Chihiro and her stumble onto what appears to be a carnival, except no one seems to be there. Everything is all set up and looks ready to eat but the carnival is practically a ghost town, or ghost carnival to be more precise. Well Chihiro’s parents are hungry and decide to stop and eat some of the delicious food that’s just laying there. Chihiro warns them that they shouldn’t but they say they’ll just pay the shop-keeper when they arrive. Chihiro doesn’t want to have anything to do with so she leaves them alone to gorge on the food.
Eventually night falls and Chihiro begins to notice something strange happening. The carnival is becoming crowed, but not crowed with people, oh no it’s being crowed with sprites–kinda gives new meaning to the phrase “ghost town” huh. Chihiro runs to find her parents to get out of here before who knows what happens. When Chihiro finds her parents she notices that they aren’t the same. There is something strange about, and it only gets stranger when her parents turn into pigs. Poor Chihiro doesn’t know what to do, so she does the only natural thing and that is to run. She bumps into a young boy who agrees to help Chihiro. The young boy’s name is Haku and he helps get Chihiro to safety undetected. Haku tells Chihiro that if she wants to survive in his world she’s going to have to find a job at the bathhouse. Haku sends Chihiro to Kamaji who can find her job. Things only get stranger when Chihiro finds out that Kamaji is the six armed ‘man’ that’s in charge of the boiler. Kamaji sends Chihiro to the boss herself Yubaba, who’s all the way at the top of bathhouse. Now Yubaba is a crude business woman and at first doesn’t want to give Chihiro a job, but Chihiro sticks with it and Yubaba is forced to give Chihiro a job. However in return for the employment Chihiro must give up her name and in return take the name Yubab gives her, which is Zen.
Now Zen has to become one of the workers in the bathhouse. Zen has a bit of trouble getting use her new job, mostly because most of the workers don’t really like her. However Zen shows her customer service skills when a River spirit enters the bat house in need of a bath badly and Zen does an awesome job. Over time Zen becomes more comfortable with her new life. Still Zen worries about her parents, and whether or not they have been eaten or not yet. Still Zen got to keep working. One day she bumps into Haku who gives Zen a warning to never forget her name, because that’s how Yubaba keeps the person working for her forever is by making them forget who they are.
Zen returns the favor when she saves Haku from what seems to be a Yubaba look-a-like. Unfortunetly Haku has been badly poisoned and Kamaji tells Zen that the only way to save him is to find the person who did it to undo the spell. To do that Zen is going to have a make a journey all on her own to the end of track–literally–but she finds a few friends willing to make the journey with her. However when Yubaba finds out she comes furious. Haku, who at this point, woke up strikes a deal with Yubaba, if he can bring back Zen and company Yubaba has to let her go from the bat house. Yubaba agrees but keeps one condition to the deal up her sleeve.
Now Haku is going to have to save Zen from uncertain danger and hopefully free Zen from Yubaba’s control.
Damnit this story was just too cute. Miyazaki just has a way with his films that they are so moving and wholesome. The story was different and at first glance you might think that it would be boring but it was quite the opposite. I was really into the story seeing what would happen. It was all story development and it was full of surprises. At the end of the anime you really felt that Chihiro has changed for the better.
The characters in this were so awesome. They were all different and their personalities very distinctive from each other. Each of their personalities were a perfect fit to who they actually were, especially Yubaba’s and her huge head. The character design was symbolic to the characters themselves. Even the spirit “No Face” was a symbolic, since he basically transformed to the emotions, feelings, and personalities that he was around. The characters in this film represent a wide spectrum, some of them were pretty cocky and others caring. Overall I liked the characters because it was a different spin to what I am use to seeing in anime, but that’s Miyazaki for you.
The anime looked like something out of a Children’s book. And that’s perfect for this anime. Everything is smooth, bright and beautiful, truly one of Miyazaki’s masterpieces. While the anime had that child like feel to it you could still see that a lot of work was put into it, and that the animation was simple yet eloquent.
The music is well but it’s nothing outstanding really. It’s what you would expect from Miyazaki film if you’ve ever seen any of them.
At first I wasn’t really interested in watching this film; however, it was Kiki’s Delivery Service that really changed my way of thinking that maybe the good animes don’t have to be about super heroes saving the world over and over or something that’s really over done and way to dramatic. Spirited Away was nice in the way that you had a happy joyfully. There are definitely some funny moments and some touching moments too. I liked the story I felt that it was something my 12 year old cousin could get out of it and that people my age could get something out of it too. I think when a movie can transcend the change gap it goes to show how great it is.
The style of this film will discourage some who prefer action theme movie; however, those that enjoy a touching story about growing up set in a fantasy world should really consider watching Spirited Away when they get a chance.