Spirited Away is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray as part of the Studio Ghibli collection (you can find details on the home video release here). You also still have the chance to see this in theaters as part of the “Studio Ghibli Anime Series,” which will showcase some of Hayao Miyazaki’s most famous feature films. The screenings will be offered in both English and Japanese audio, with each movie including GKIDS MINIFEST, which highlights award-winning animated short films from around the world. You can see the film in English on October 29th and in Japanese on November 1st.
Synopsis: Wandering through an abandoned carnival site, ten-year-old Chihiro is separated from her parents and stumbles into a dream-like spirit world where she is put to work in a bathhouse for the gods, a place where all kinds of nonhuman beings come to refresh, relax and recharge. Here she encounters a vast menagerie of impossibly inventive characters — shape-shifting phantoms and spirits, some friendly, some less so — and must find the inner strength to outsmart her captors and return to her family. (GKIDS)
Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, and Mari Natsuki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 125mins
Widely considered as a classic, this film managed to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature back in 2003. It is easy to see why but what made it so worthy back then doesn’t necessarily hold up today. There have been plenty of advances in technology in the realm of animation since then, however, this doesn’t make it a bad film by any means compared to the films of today.
The story is about a young girl named Chihiro (Hiiragi) who, along with her parents, stumble onto and then become trapped within a spirit world where she is put to work in a bathhouse where all kinds of beings come to refresh, relax and recharge. The film world should not come as much of a surprise to fans of Anime. It was both vast and imaginative while the various characters within it were weird, not gratuitously weird for the most part but weird with purpose.
In order to save her parents, Chihiro had to navigate this magnificent world and its characters. She and her progression as a character were fun to watch as she found the strength within herself with the help of a boy she met along the way named Haku. It was interesting to learn about this spirit world but because of this, the story slightly veers off course a little too much. The world may have been kind of interesting, however, it was sometimes difficult to connect with the other characters. Although the story was compelling, it doesn’t quite resonate by the end.
The film is also slightly long, clocking in at just over 2 hours, and may feel long at times although some won’t mind. As mentioned, the film may not quite hold up today but the level of animation found here was still excellent and rivals a lot of the films of today. The beautiful film world and its different characters were depicted with great color and detail. The voice acting, albeit in Japanese (I obviously don’t speak Japanese), was very good, especially Hiiragi as Chihiro.
Overall, this was a good animated film that may be slightly too long and with excellent, imaginative animation that can still rival a lot of the films of today but the story doesn’t quite resonate.