Friday, October 03, 2003


A Film Review of "Spirited Away" also known as "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi"

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. He brought us Princess Mononoke and Kiki's Delivery Service as well as one of my personal favorites Laputa: Castle in the Sky. Prior to those he worked on "Lupin" and "Nausicaa" for Japanese television. The animation is second to none - vastly superior to anything Disney (who distributed this feature in America by the way) has done lately.

Spirited Away is the story of a little girl named Chihiro who wanders away from her parents at an abandoned amusement park and becomes the workslave for spirits and demons in an extra-dimensional bathhouse. Did I mention her folks have been turned into pigs? No. Really. I couldn't make that up.

It comes off as an anime version of Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz. The fun stuff comes when Miyazaki takes the idea of the lost little girl in another world and then throws in everything including the kitchen sink. We get every kind of spirit, demon and monster you can imagine and more. Really.

In the world of Japanese legend they are known as yokai or spirits who can transform and our little heroine encounters many in her time at the bathhouse. The most memorable are the radish spirit, the stink spirit and Master Haku who becomes a flying Chinese dragon. My favorite is the unfathomable No Face. He switches from lonely to hungry to dangerous to friendly with the randomness of the wind.

The voice talent involved is unequaled. Michael Chiklis ("The Commish") and Lauren Holly ("Picket Fences") cameo as little Chihiro’s parents. Suzanne Pleshette is delightfully menacing as the evil bathhouse mistress Yubaba. John Ratzenberger (Cliff from "Cheers") however is the comedic highlight as one of the frog foremen.

Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is a wild ride and a fun ride (long too, your butt will get numb). It doesn't always make sense to the uninitiated but it's definitely worth the price of admission. And besides it's always a thrill to see anime on the big screen.

The above is a revised version of a review previously posted elsewhere on the net.

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