Spirited Away is an anime movie, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, which proves to be the most ingenious work of his career. The film appears to be intended for a young, grade school audience, when in fact, it teaches universal lessons that are perceivable by audiences of all ages. The film redefines what one might expect from animation and captivates the audience with its visuals and content. It sucks the audience into the fictional world of ten-year-old Chihiro and her parents and keeps us enticed until the conclusion.
In the film, Chihiro and her family accidently stumble into a horrific land of spirits while moving to a small Japanese town in the countryside. After making a wrong turn, the family decides to stop the car and explore their surroundings. They discover an abandoned amusement park in a small, run-down village. Out of nowhere they see an outdoor, buffet-style restaurant that smells irresistible. Chihiro’s parents urgently dig into the food and decide they will pay later because no one seems to be around. Instead of eating, Chihiro decides to explore the theme park.
Shortly after leaving her parents, Chihiro runs into a young man named Haku. Haku tells her that she and her parents are in grave danger and must depart instantly. She swiftly races back to the restaurant to discover that her parents have transformed into pigs. Additionally, the theme park turns into a village that is inhabited by evil spirits and demonic characters. The village comes to life at night, and there is a bathhouse in its’ center for the creature’s relaxation. A character named Yubaba runs this house and turns every outsider that enters the village into his servants. Chihiro must break a spell and depend on Haku to rescue her parents and help them return home before it is too late.
The animation studio, Ghibli, who made this film come to life, put their full effort into its creation and perfected its quality to make it appealing to all audiences. This is clearly present in the major scenes of the movie, where the entire frame throbs with motion. Everything comes to life on screen and, at times, it feels more alive than most non-animated films. This detailed view of Chihiro’s world is part of what separates Spirited Away’s animation from other movies. The majority of animated films do not add extra movement to each scene, as it forces the directors to do more work. Miyazaki, however, focuses specifically on each scene no matter how irrelevant it may be to the plot. He puts emphasis on adding full scenes that are not necessary to accompany the more important ones. In this way, he doesn’t simply tell a story but creates a world for us to explore.
Miyazaki’s numerous works have a certain complexity to them that is not found in most other animated films. He draws thousands of frames by hand, instead of using computers to make his work more authentic and personal. Although animation is painstakingly difficult to create, he uses his patience and determination to make each scene one to remember. This allows him to give each character and action importance and helps to further capture the attention of his audience.
Mythical Japanese folktales, such as this, often include characters whose bodies conceal a deeper reality. Miyazaki takes advantage of this idea, and does marvelous things with his characters. For example, Chihiro is a happy-looking ten-year-old girl who is actually a lost soul in search for the comfort of her parents after they are turned into pigs. Haku is much more than just an innocent boy who accidently walked into a bad situation. He is more mature and developed than most of the characters in the film and turns out to be a very brave and special individual. Miyazaki shows his audience that there is a deeper truth behind his characters and that they are all essential to the plot.
Spirited Away also conveys meaningful messages, such as respecting the environment and greed. When Yubaba senses a “stink spirit” in the film, she evacuates the bathhouse and assigns Chihiro to the job of attendant. Chihiro cleans the spirit, which turns out to be a river god who became dirty from the pollution of rivers. She then discovers that Haku is the god of one of these rivers and is the one who saved her life when she was a kid. This shows the relationship between humans and nature to the audience. Although all people rely on nature to survive, we decide to destroy it.
The fictional spirits and humans are both greedy in the movie. It seems as though their greed is always getting someone or something in trouble and causing destruction. When Chihiro becomes greedy for the attention of her parents, she complains and cries because she feels homesick without it. Her parents’ greed tempts them to eat the food at the restaurant. As a result, they are turned into pigs and leave their daughter alone in an unfamiliar place. Haku is greedy because he is jealous that he is not as powerful as Yubaba. Yubaba’s greed is the reason Haku and the rest of the prisoners cannot return home. Greed forces these characters to be uncertain of what is genuinely important in life, and prevents them from living in complete satisfaction.
Spirited Away is the perfect example of why Miyazaki’s films are more absorbing than most other movie animation. The exceptional animation, creative content, and complexity of this film allow the viewers to concentrate on the underlying emotions that are trying to be conveyed. Miyazaki does a phenomenal job of getting his thoughts across to his audience and engulfing them in a world that he created from scratch. This allows people to connect with the movie on a deeper level and relate to its central themes and characters. As a result, the movie is one of the most critically acclaimed and popular movies of the decade.