Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, Spirited Away takes us to a far off land where magic is possible. A young girl, Chihiro is swept away to a magical world where she’s forced to change for the better by fighting for her survival.
Studio Ghibli has been producing first-class animated films since the 1980s, but Spirited Away stands in a class of its own. In my not so humble opinion, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is one of the greatest animated films of all time.
Let’s fight about it.
Through the Tunnel
When Chihiro and her parents get lost on the way to their new home, they decide to take a shortcut and end up in another world after walking through a tunnel.
Chihiro is characterized as a crybaby.
She whines when her arrogant and entitled parents sit down at a restaurant to eat food that doesn’t belong to them.
Her parents eat and eat, and they turn into giantic pigs. Chihiro runs off and meets Haku, a young boy who is also a dragon spirit. He tells her to get across the river before sunset but she doesn’t make it in time.
As night falls, the tiny river turns into an ocean and spirts of all kinds arrive on lantern-lit boats. Haku tells Chihiro that this is no place for humans and tries to hide her, but she can’t manage to hold her breath as she’s been told to.
She breaks the spell that made her invisible and is forced to try make a living for herself at the bathhouse for the spirits.
The bathhouse is run by Yubaba, an evil witch who changes Chihiro’s name to Sen and forces her into slavery. Right away, Sen is forced to confront her fears and prove herself – and through her own tenacity – she always manages to persevere.
Learning to Grow
I love a good coming-of-age story and this one has all the things. You root for Sen, you come to realize that Yubaba isn’t all that bad, and you’re mesmerized by the magnificent spirits that frequent the bathhouse.
My favorite is No-Face. No-Face is let into the bathhouse by Sen. He follows her and becomes oddly obsessed with her.
He sees that Sen and the workers go crazy for gold, so he creates his own, and begins eating the bathhouse workers and everything else in sight. He grows big and dark and sad.
Sen helps him by feeding a bit of magic that she got from a river spirit.
Once he returns back to normal he joins Sen on her journey to visit Yubaba’s sister. Sen is also accompanied by Yubaba’s infant son who’s been transformed into a mouse.
Yubaba doesn’t even realize her son is missing. Neglectful much?
But my absolute favorite part is the simple love story between Chihiro and Haku. Sen asks Yubaba’s sister to remove the spell she’s placed on Haku, once he’s better he stands up to Yubaba and remembers who he is and how the two of them met.
Sen ends up saving her parents, and regaining her name. It’s a lovely tale and it’s easy to see why it’s received so much recognition.