Thursday, February 7, 2013
All this week I'll be blogging about my five favorite animated feature films written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, animator, manga artist and screenwriter. He also co-founded Studio Ghibli, one of Japan's most well known animation film studios.
Based heavily on the Japanese religion, Shintoism, 2001's Spirited Away is possibly Miyazaki's scariest film, but it may also be his most unique. It is his only film to win an Academy Award (2003 Best Animated Feature). 10-year-old Chihiro is a precocious little girl, whose curiosity gets the best of her when her family, during their move to the suburbs, takes a wrong turn and accidentally discovers what they think is an abandoned amusement park. From IMDB:
In the middle of her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and monsters; where humans are changed into animals; and a bathhouse for these creatures.
This is probably the most Japanese of Miyazaki's films as well. Inside the amusement park, Chihiro's parents are trapped by their own greed, and transformed into pigs. From there begins a harrowing adventure in which the young girl must attempt to escape from a bathhouse which serves as a rest stop for the spirit world. From the witch Yubaba and her sister Zeniba, to paper shikigami, to spider yokai, to a dragon named Haku/Sen, to a stink spirit, Spirited Away is filled with the most strange and wonderful cast of characters of any animated film that I have ever seen.
Though on the surface this is a story about a young girl, it's a very mature and nuanced tale. The liminal journey she takes is almost ritualistically psychedelic in nature, and I could imagine small children being quite scared by certain aspects of this film. When Yubaba steals Chihiro's true name, the innocence of her childhood is essentially left behind.
Nonetheless, this is an excellent movie. The animation and artistry alone make this one of my all time favorite animated films. An absolute must-see.