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Spirited Away
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 09/27/2002

Chihiro is a 10-year old girl who's supposed to move to a new house with her mom and dad. Chihiro's dad makes a wrong turn somewhere and the three find themselves in front of a mysterious tunnel with a stone statue blocking their path. Chihiro and her folks walk through the tunnel and find themselves in a quaint little town surrounded by lush greenery. Chihiro's parents spot a fully stocked food stall and promptly start eating, but Chihiro decides to go off and wander around town. Upon Chihiro's return, she is horrified to see that her parents have turned into pigs... and she has no idea how to turn them back into humans again. To top it off, Chihiro is stuck in a place where human beings aren't supposed to go to... with only an enigmatic boy named Haku as her guide.

For some reason I'm having a hard time writing this review. Right after I finished watching the two-hour spectacle that is Spirited Away, I was left quite speechless. Speechless because the whole viewing experience was so involving and immersive that I felt awed and drained at the same time.

While Spirited Away begins in modern day Japan, about 90% of the film takes place in the strange world that Chihiro and her parents unwittingly stumble upon. Right after Chihiro's parents become pigs, a fine-looking boy named Haku comes to her aid and tells her that the only way to survive in that town is to get a job. Thus Chihiro enters into a contract with Yubaba, the materialistic witch who runs the bath house. But in exchange for a job, Yubaba seizes Chihiro's name and renames her Sen. With the help of a kindly old man named Kamaji and feisty young woman named Rin, Chihiro becomes pretty good at her new job -- winning over some unlikely allies for her quest to save her parents and find her way back home. Chihiro's adventure is so incredible and engrossing that I felt I myself was spirited away.

As is the case with Hayao Miyazaki's other works ("Princess Mononoke", "Kiki's Delivery Service", etc.), Spirited Away boasts of crisp, magnificent, and painstakingly detailed visuals which capture everything -- from the hustle and bustle of the city to the serene beauty of the Japanese countryside. Character designs maintain Miyazaki's trademark simplicity. Experiencing the overall effect of the smooth and flowing character motions, realistic facial expressions (I felt really really sorry for Chihiro whenever she would cry), and glorious settings all together is the key to appreciating the art and animation to the fullest. I also found the Japanese voices to be extremely well-cast. I can't comment on the English dubbed version because I have not yet seen it at this time.

I can't reiterate enough that Spirited Away is not just an ordinary film, it's an experience. Hayao Miyazaki has really outdone himself with this gem, even displacing Titanic as Japan's highest grossing film to date. Definitely a must-see, definitely a must-have.

Like almost all other Studio Ghibli titles, Spirited Away's R2 DVD release features English subtitles.

Spirited Away
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Review Title:
Spirited Away
Alternative Titles:
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
125 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Older Children
Adventure, Drama, Romance,
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