Monday, June 2, 2014

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001) Review

I've been making the effort to try and to the cinema every week (yeah, everything is more expensive in London EXCEPT cinema tickets. X-Men for 3 quid? Yes please!) and you may remember that I reviewed The Wind Rises as a result. Again, it's no secret that I love Studio Ghibli and this is the one that is considered their greatest achievement. Is it truly worthy of that title? Let's find out. 

Chihiro (Daveigh Chase) and her parents are moving home to a small Japanese town out in the country even if Chihiro doesn't want to. On their way to their new home, the family find themselves lost in the woods and discover a seemingly abandoned village. Chihiro is separated from her parents when she meets a boy named Haku (Jason Marsden) who warns her that she and her parents are in danger. Chihiro returns only to discover that they were turned into pigs. She is forced to work in a bath house, the centre piece of the town, run by an old witch named Yubaba (Suzanne Pleshette). Chihiro now has to rise up, face Yubaba and return to the real world with her parents

It's no secret that Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest creative minds out there, especially in the film industry where we have peaked in unoriginality (Mrs Doubtfire 2? Really?), and Spirited Away is often heralded as his best. It's very clear to see why. Firstly, this is the best animation I've seen in a Studio Ghibli scene. I will admit that I prefer the character designs of previous and later films, the animation itself is gorgeous. Miyazaki creates a fascinating setting with a wonderful design that is a marvel to watch. It will be a dark day if Studio Ghibli ever submits to CGI animation like Disney did as you just can't capture this many imaginative and beautiful designs yet keep your own style.

The story is also fascinating. While it may get a tad depressing at times, it leaps out with satisfaction and is accompanied with likable characters. Chihiro is our gateway into the world of Spirited Away, serving as the only sane person who we can relate with. This means that we aren't alone in our reactions and thoughts on the bizzare oddities we encounter. She is more than just a narrative tool as she does display strong emotion that allow us to empathise with her.

Spirited Away is a beautiful film. From the amazing animation to the marvelous soundtrack, it's a wonder from start to finish. While I still believe The Castle of Cagliostro to be Miyazaki's magnum opus, this doesn't straggle too far behind. I think it just lacks the charm that the latter has. It's imaginative, wonderfully crafted and uses Chihiro as a gateway into the well devised and thought out world of Spirited Away. An essential watch.

Imaginative, wonderfully put together and uses good narrative techniques to construct a memorable world.

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