My Thoughts: SPIRITED AWAY (2001)

spirited away

Wow! I mean…wow! A movie hasn’t amazed and delighted me like this movie has in years! I don’t even know where to begin in praising this movie; I don’t even know how to begin talking about this epic from Studio Ghibli.

The film is about a young girl named Chihiro, voiced by Daveigh Chase in the English version, who’s moving to a new house with her mother and father. Like all young kids, she’s scared of the move and of anything strange/new.

Well, I don't blame her for being scared of her father driving like a maniac through a desolate jungle!
Well, I don’t blame her for being scared of her father driving like a maniac through a desolate jungle!

While driving to their new home, Chihiro’s parents take a detour to explore what appears to be an abandoned theme park where they readily marvel at the abandoned buildings and indulge in the eateries.

Is it just me or does the father look like he's about to light his sausage-cigar?
Is it just me or does the father look like he’s about to light his sausage-cigar?

Chihiro feels that they should leave as she senses that they shouldn’t be there. And how right she is! Because as night falls, the theme park turns into an area visited by all kinds of creatively animated and haunting spirits.

And you thought Alice had it bad with the Cheshire Cat?
And you thought Alice had it bad with the Cheshire Cat?

Not only that, but her parents get transformed into pigs!

This is like the Pleasure Island kids turning into donkeys...perhaps it's better.
This is like the Pleasure Island kids turning into donkeys…perhaps it’s better.

Frightened out of her life, Chihiro is encouraged by another human who appears out of nowhere named Haku, voiced by Jason Marsden in the English version, to take a job working in the “spirit bathhouse”. The bathhouse is run by a witch named Yubaba, voiced by Suzanne Pleshette (in her last film role) in the English version.

Yep, you heard that right! Zira and Kovu are together again in a movie!
Yep, you heard that right! Zira and Kovu are together again in a movie!

Yubaba also is the one who’s transformed Chihiro’s parents into pigs. So while working for her, Chihiro tries to find a way to free her parents all while meeting new friends, getting over her fears, and maturing out of her state of innocence. There’s so much more to this film, but I can’t give more than this away…in fact, I fear that I’ve given too much away already!

"Run away from the spoilers! RUN AWAY FROM THE SPOILERS!!!!"
“Run away from the spoilers! RUN AWAY FROM THE SPOILERS!!!!”

What can I say about this film?  It is a masterpiece! At its center, it’s a coming-of-age story that’s so beautifully told. We see Chihiro as she “suffers” in the bathhouse; we see her as she gets scared with every step of the way through her journey; we see her as she conquers her fears and matures into a brave, young girl. 

This film is also beautifully animated. The animation is gorgeous and the characters are so tremendously creative!

spirited away spirits2

spirited away soot

spirited away man

spirited away radish king

spirited away yubaba

spirited away paper

Also, this film is jam-packed with plot and subplots that all connect and intertwine with each other, yet manages to balance them all out and not overcram the movie with too much plot. That’s an incredibly hard task for any movie to accomplish, but this one does it magnificently!

I’m not really a fan of anime. In fact, the only anime-related things I’ve watched were 4 other Studio Ghibli films (“Ponyo”, “The Secret World of Arrietty”, “Castle in the Sky”, and “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) and “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland” (if that counts as an anime). So I’m EXTREMELY glad that I forced myself to watch this film! This is definitely Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus, at least from the films of his that I’ve seen, but I strongly doubt any other film of his can top this one!

"Thanks...I think!"
“Thanks…I think!”

I can totally see why everyone loves this film. This isn’t just one of my favorite animated films ever, rather this is one of my favorite films ever! If you haven’t seen this film yet, I DOUBLE-DOG DARE you to watch it today! It’s a DOUBLE-DOG DARE, so you can’t ignore it!

spirited away ranking

39 thoughts on “My Thoughts: SPIRITED AWAY (2001)”

  1. Personally, I prefer Princess Mononoke, but that’s mostly because I am not really into “Alice down the rabbit hole” stories. I feel about Spirited away similar to how I feel about movie like Pinocchio or Bambi: I honestly appreciate the artistry, but it’s not a movie I would watch multiple times.

      1. Oh, btw, looking at the list of animes you watched so far…Little Nemo is the result of development hell (multiple screenwriters worked on this mess). Kiki’s Delivery Service while popular is targeting a younger audience – it’s similar to Aristocats in that regard, either you have seen it at a young age and developed a nostalgic connection to it, or you won’t like it. Ponyo is impressive in terms of animation, but I can’t get into that movie either…all the characters act so crazy. Or not crazy enough. I wouldn’t be so calm if I had to face a flood. I haven’t seen the other two yet. But those are really not the best pick to give you an idea what anime can be…not that I am that into anime myself, but you need a broader selection and I bet that there might be some gems you’ll like.

      2. True, I don’t really have a good grasp of anime. Regarding the ones I’ve seen in the order that I did:

        Ponyo: I found extremely weird.
        Arrietty: I found extremely boring.
        Kiki’s Delivery Service: I actually really enjoyed and I saw this movie last year (I’m in my 20’s).
        Castle in the Sky: Good, but Kiki was better.
        Little Nemo: I actually enjoyed and don’t get all the hate for it.

        I do intend to watch all of the films of Studio Ghibli; I’m just in no rush to.

  2. Yes, I’m a huge fan of this film as well. The emotional range it can inspire is pretty remarkable, I think — from the revulsion and anxiety at watching the parents turn into pigs and the shadow creature swallow everyone up, to the more heartwarming aspects of the main character’s maturation.

  3. Although I agree that ‘Spirited Away’ is Miyazaki’s masterpiece, you should at least see ‘My Neighbor Totoro’ once. This film is much more modest in scale, but no less close to perfection.

  4. So glad you enjoyed it! It’s one of my favorite movies of all times, not just anime movies. Maybe try Howl’s Moving Castle? It’s not as creepy, but I think you might like it a lot! 🙂

  5. I LOVE this movie! It’s one of my favorites! There isn’t a single thing I don’t like about it.

  6. “Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland” (if that counts as an anime).

    Yes and no, most people don’t consider it to be, but I heard Hayao Miyazaki did work on it briefly. As for the rest of Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen the majority and can suggest all of them except Tales from Earthsea and Pom Poko.

    I think Princess Mononoke or Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind are considered his best works. You can also see the progression of the studio and Miyazaki’s personal views when you compare the two.

    If you care for non-Studio Ghibli anime movie suggestions I’ll be glad to oblige.

  7. I’m glad you liked this so much! It’s an amazing movie. Have you seen ‘My Neighbor Totoro’? That’s my favorite Ghibli (but Spirited Away is a close second)

  8. Of Studio Gibli films, I think my favorite is Howl’s Moving Castle, followed by Spirited Away, and then The Cat Returns. All of them carry a great magicalness to them.

  9. I agree Spirited Away is a masterpiece. It is one of the only movies I’ve ever seen where I had no idea what was coming up next. Was it going to be the giant baby or the white flying creature that turns into paper. It was a life changing time at the movies and I so think it is Miyazaki’s best but all of them are great!

  10. Ever since the English dub of SPIRITED AWAY was released, I had heard nothing but praise for it, so I checked it out from the library a couple of years ago– and I’m pleased to announce that it is one of my top favorite Studio Ghibli films (my other faves including WHISPER OF THE HEART, ARRIETTY, PRINCESS KAGUYA, POM POKO, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, THE WIND RISES, and KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE [at #1 spot]). All of the characters are amazingly three-dimensional, the animation is terrific, Joe Hisaishi’s score is first rate, and the acting is superbly-done. (On the subject of which, of all the English Ghibli dubs that were produced during Disney’s time as SG’s North American distributor, this one boasts the greatest number of Disney voice-acting veterans- Daveigh Chase [Lilo in LILO & STITCH] as Chihiro, Tara Strong [Melody in THE LITTLE MERMAID 2: RETURN TO THE SEA, as well as Andrina and Adella in THE LITTLE MERMAID: ARIEL’S BEGINNING], Susan Egan [Megara in HERCULES] as Rin, David Ogden Stiers as Kamajii, John Ratzenberger [from pretty much every Pixar movie ever made] as assistant manager Aniyaku, and of course the two you mentioned above- Jason Marsden [adult Kovu, and Max in A GOOFY MOVIE and AN EXTREMELY GOOFY MOVIE] as Haku, and Suzanne Pleshette as both Yubaba and Zeniba.)

    All in all, I can say that this film won that Best Animated Feature Oscar fair and square, although part of me is disappointed that it beat SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON. Oh, well…

    One last note, regarding the heavily-polluted river spirit: I am so glad that scent can’t be captured on film, because if it could be, that character’s scenes would have killed me! (Speaking as someone with a sense of smell so greatly reduced that it’s practically nonexistent, that’s a huge personal statement for me…)

  11. I remember enjoying Spirited Away. It is a great movie, but I wouldn’t call it my favorite Ghibli movie. Interestingly enough, James Marsden would also be in another Ghibli movie with the dub of Princess Kaguya (definitely one of the better new-school Ghibli movies and has the most unique animation they’ve done).

    Hold up! Yubaba in the dub was Zira? Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever noticed even though I was more familiar with the Japanese version.

      1. Certainly. Mind=blown! Hahaha!

        Good question. My favorite is Grave of the Fireflies even though it’s a very depressing watch. While I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore Ghibli fan, they’ve certainly made more good movies than not.

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