Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Running Time: 125 mins
Spirited Away is a Japanese film about a young girl who is pulled into a world ruled by gods and monsters, and is forced to work as a slave in their community, after her parents are lost while the family are moving house.
Studio Ghibli’s many worlds of fantasy are always something to be marvelled, but there’s nothing quite like Spirited Away. It’s a film that immerses you in a bizarre and often terrifying world, literally spiriting you away just like our main character, Chihiro. For me, it’s an intense and disturbing watch, but the magic that Studio Ghibli never fails to bring is still there, and that’s what makes it so beautiful at the same time.
As far as building a convincing world that is so alien to the real world goes, Spirited Away might just be the best of all time. No matter how bizarre everything happening in this film is, you become so engrossed in this world thanks to the fantastic story and amazing animation.
I often reiterate how brilliant Studio Ghibli’s animation is, and all of its films use the style in their own special way, but in terms of a masterpiece of animation, Spirited Away is once again the best. The detail and imagination that goes into every single frame in this film to create this mythical world of spirits, gods and demons is extraordinary. Miyazaki’s classic techniques work an absolute charm in this film, and it’s pretty much impossible not to be fully captivated from start to finish.
The other thing that keeps you fully engrossed is the story. There may be a small lull period at one point, but apart from that, this is an amazingly riveting fantasy adventure. On the one hand, it’s full of beautiful imagery and some delightfully magical, happy moments that will fully enchant you, and that’s what cements it as such a magical experience.
On the other hand, however, Spirited Away has a very dark side to it. Within the first ten minutes, Chihiro’s world is turned upside down in the most harrowing fashion. The film immediately builds tension, drama, and a real sense of danger, and that makes it an immediately captivating and exciting watch.
From then on, the film feels just like the worst nightmare you’ve ever had. I personally think it’s one of the scariest films of all time, given the combination of mind-boggling fantasy and a deeply disturbing story about a young girl being forced to work in slavery, and although the animation and few happy moments do mask that, it’s the really intense and dark atmosphere in this film that will stay with me for a long time.
Overall, Spirited Away is a triumph of animation. It uses Studio Ghibli’s classic animation to the best effect, and makes a convincing and wholly immersive fantasy world for you to experience for two hours. What’s more is its hugely intelligent and captivating story, which combines pleasant fantasy with nightmarish drama and horror. It’s not Ghibli’s most pleasant film, but as far as a spectacle of imagination goes, this is absolutely spectacular, and that’s why I’m giving Spirited Away an 8.4.