Thursday, February 7, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki Favorites Part Four: Spirited Away


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.

22 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

I'll fess up and say this is the only Miyazaki film I've ever seen. It's also definitely one of my favorite films ever. There are a few things in the film that will definitely mean more to someone familiar with the cultural background the movie comes from, but what's awesome about this movie is that it's the kind of translation hitch that makes you curious to find out more, rather than frustrating you into shrugging it off as something you'll never understand.

It's definitely an older kid / adult kind of cartoon (fairy tale, even). The animation is simply breathtaking. The story is more layered than most cartoons. and I have forever been searching for an excuse to use the name Chihiro ever since I saw it.

Elise Fallson said...

This one looks so good!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Considering the praise for Princess Mononoke, surprised it didn't win an Oscar before this one did. I believe this is the only Anime to ever win an Oscar as well. (Full length film anyway.)

Summer Frey said...

I love this one! One of the first films hubby made me watch when we first started dating.

Eliza Tilton said...

Yup. I've seen this one. I think remember this being one of the weirder ones.

Al Diaz said...

I loved Spirited Away. The artwork and the music are extraordinary.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Loved this! I also remember my kids were riveted, which is very unusual. Since then we've watched almost all the Miyazaki releases.

Sarah Ahiers said...

god i love this movie. I love the creepiness of it, and how very japanese it is. I could watch Chihiro work in the bathhouse for hours. I don't even need a central conflict or plot.
Man, i need a Miyazaki marathon after your posts

Bryan Russell said...

You gotta love Miyazaki. And you haven't even gotten to Howl's Moving Castle or Castle in the Sky yet!

Andrew Leon said...

This is my favorite. Which is really kind of weird, because, when I try to think about the movie, it gets all jiggy in my head, and I think "whaaat?" But it's so magical while watching it. I love it every time I see it.

Michael Offutt, Speculative Fiction Author said...

I loved Spirited Away. I loved the soundtrack, but for me, the Miyazaki film that really fired my imagination was the one with the big talking magical animals. The name escapes me right now. But it had a great forest spirit and a huge primal wolf. That one was really cool.

And yes, I agree Spirited Away was a very Japanese film.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I love this movie. Wish it was on Netflix. Would love to share it with my kids.

mshatch said...

I loved this movie, too, probably almost or as much as My Neighbor Totoro, though it is MUCH scarier. The scene in which her parents turn into pigs is horrifying!

I'll be interested to see if your #5 is what I think it is...

Angela Brown said...

Miyazaki, one of my FAVES! I get a bit fangirl regarding his works.

Spirited Away is certainly different from Princess Mononoke or Nausicaa with a more environment conscious theme. This one was such a phantasm kind of tale, so many nuanced messages woven throughout.

I tried to share this one with my Chipmunk but she found it a bit scary and so I'll have to wait until she's more comfortable before sharing it with her again.

Joe Lunievicz said...

Because of the award this is the film most people have seen of his. It is spectacular. I think I know what your top choice is going to be...

Donna Hole said...

I find Japaneese anime fascinating; but I just don't buy into it. 10 year old roaming the country side, bearing weapons, saving humanity. No school, no parents, nothing but danger, weapons, magical creatures, and romantic love.

OK, I think I'm missing something here?

......dhole

Elena - Adriana Dascalu said...

Haven't seen it tet but now I just have to!

You bad, bad man! you made me give up writing to watch this beautiful animee!

the trailer got me completely!

Joe Lunievicz said...

Yes! I knew it. It was the first of his films that I saw. I dragged Karen to it and she even gave it thumbs up. I love this film.

Allison said...

I love, love this movie! It is so weird but so good. My favourite Miyazaki film.

Allison (Geek Banter)

Alexandra Shostak said...

YES YES YES YES YES

(Also, ignore one of my two comments on your other entry. My browser did something weird and I wasn't sure the first one went through.)

rik005hun said...

Amazing movie. One of my favorites of all time. Chihiro is the best character in all of animation IMHO.
I love all of Myazaki's films that I have seen. "Castle in The Sky" was really neat.....very "steampunk". My daughter and I just viewed "Kiki's Delivery Service". Quite a cute film I think.

rik005hun said...

Great movie. One of my favorites. Chihiro is simply an amazing character. I love all of Myazaki's films that I have seen. "Castle In The Sky" is very neat with the "steampunk " look to it. Just watched "Kiki's Delivery Service" with my daughter. We agree that it's a cute film.