Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki

Spirited Away is a film in a league of its own – I have never seen anything quite like it and I’m not sure I ever will. I didn’t know what to expect but, at the same time, it was far from what I thought it would be. That is part of the films charm – it’s uniqueness in journeying through the unexpected.

Surprisingly, I struggled to settle into the story at first. I couldn’t find any likeability with the human characters – to some extent, I could understand the reasons behind their attitudes towards each other, but due to my dis-connection with them, I wondered if I would ever care about their journey. However, when Chihiro and her parents collided with the Land of the Spirits, the story truly started to come alive.

This is a film full of imagination and creativity in every aspect. Each character is unique and memorable and their strong individual personalities allow you to have a relationship with them – even down to the tiny Soot Sprites, who were a particular favourite of mine. The characters really make this film unique. It left me wondering about most of the characters pasts, how they came to be there and why they are that way.

My best friend Ane said “this is also another classic example of one of my favourite things with Ghibli movies. There is no one that is just bad or just good. They always show the bad guys from both sides and show that the bad side is not due to a personality trait but rather a consequence of environmental factors and pressures.”
This is especially evident with No-Face. As the spirit spent more time in the Bathhouse, the more the environment began to consume No-Face and bring out some ‘negative’ aspects. However, the distance from the Bathhouse relieved these traits and the softer side to No-Face that we first experienced began to emerge. The emerging connection and relationship between Chihiro and No-Face is very heart-warming, alongside her unexpected companionship with Boh and Yu-Bird in their resembling Rat and Fly forms.

The soundtrack was, on the most part, good but sometimes it pulled me out of the experience which was a shame. This was mainly when the score would suddenly cut in the middle of a musical phrase for the next scene to come in – this may have been purposefully put in place but it wasn’t blended smoothly enough for my taste.  Other times, the music seemed to try too hard to evoke a desired atmosphere, often coming in too soon, which resulted in the effect of the action being lost. That said, the sound effects were excellent and were well integrated in the film.

The story itself is ever-changing and evolving, ensuring there is never a dull moment! This makes for an engaging film which keeps you on your toes. It’s the kind of film that you just have to allow yourself to take it all in like a sponge. I was often wondering too many things about different characters or happenings, but they didn’t need to be fully explained because she didn’t understand either. You go on the journey with her. As the story progresses, you watch Chihiro grow and you experience the story together. It is this shared experience which allowed me to fully connect with Chihiro and the other characters, resulting in an active engagement with the story. By the end of the film, I felt like I had come a long way with Chihiro and was quite amazed by what we experienced.

The beauty of Spirited Away is that it is a film for everyone – nothing feels too ‘childish’ or too ‘adult’. It is perfectly balanced. I would certainly recommend this film and I look forward to watching it again.


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