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 animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.
Moving along with Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, I’ve been curious about this movie because it won an Oscar for Best Animated Film back in 2002. Having seen the trailer a few times over, the setting is absolutely curious, as are the spirits walking around and the circumstances that Chihiro finds herself in. Finally got around to watching it today (yay!), so here we go. Spoilers if you haven’t watched this movie yet?
I can see why this movie won Best Animated Film. It’s quite an imaginative tale; the setting alone and the world that Chihiro finds herself in is very interesting. As always Miyazaki’s worlds are fully-realised, but there’s this moody atmosphere to this novel that not only adds to the mystery of the place but also adds to the overall story. It feels darker in a way, especially as Chihiro is a very young character (perhaps younger than most of the characters I’ve met so far in Miyazaki’s movies) who finds herself alone and lost in this very strange world and you don’t know whether the spirit you meet next is out to cause harm or not. And there’s some weird ones out there, smelly ones too, and tricky figures. Chihiro has to quickly learn to navigate her way through Yubaba and the bath house staff if she is to survive intact, save her parents and get out of the spirit world. But going back to the setting, as the audience you really feel the unknown in this movie, whether it be paths going into the darkness or goodness-knows-what in Yubaba’s bath house.
But as creepy as some of the characters look or seem at first, they quickly turn out to be very charming and interesting in their own way. Kamaji, the little soot figures, Rin, No-Name…they all play a role in Chihiro’s adventures through the spirit world. It’s quite lovely how everyone ends up on Chihiro’s side at the end, rooting her on. Not everything is resolved by the end of the story with regards to their own day-to-day travails but at least the audience is left knowing that there’s more to these characters than their greed or their hardships or whatever else they had prior to Chihiro’s arrival.
The adventure itself was a very entertaining one. There wasn’t a moment that was dull or extremely frustrating (well, minus Chihiro’s parents decisions at the beginning of the movie) and everything is explained quite succinctly in a way that didn’t leave me wondering “Oh, they never explained this or that.” The pacing was just right and there were a lot of interesting developments throughout the movie that were just a delight (despite some of my moments of “Chihiro, get out of there! D=”)
Amidst of all of the things Chihiro has to do and the occasional bout of creepiness lurking at the corners thanks to the spirits, there’s also some really funny moments, like when Zaneba turns the baby into the size of a mouse and said baby later with the help of the soot figures had to lift the curse (It was a funny, silent moment). Oh, and the projectile vomit headed in Yubaba’s direction (old crone deserved it for all of the misery and tyranny she directed towards others). And one of the bath house worker’s was singing this rhyme that nearly had me choking in laughter (thank goodness I wasn’t eating then):
Welcome the rich man, he’s hard for you to miss!
His butt keeps getting bigger, so there’s plenty there to kiss!
The music to this movie is gorgeous, as always. Joe Hisaishi is quickly becoming another favourite soundtrack composer as mine as he perfectly captures the flavour and atmosphere of Miyazaki’s movies. I can’t quite decide which is my favourite track from this movie, the main theme song:
or the track “Sixth Stop” (which has a bit more of a melancholic sound):
Overall, I really enjoyed watching Spirited Away, it was such an entertaining and wonderful movie. I find the themes featured in this movie were a lot more subtle compared to his other movies but they are nonetheless present and very telling to Chihiro’s journey. I admit, minus Chihiro’s occasional bout of shouting things out, she’s quite a smart girl who actually listens to people when they say don’t do this or that (which, in other stories, the main character doesn’t listen to the advice, to the detriment of their safety). I’m so glad to have finally watched this movie, it was just stunning and amazing from start to finish.