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Spirited Away

Review – Anime – Spirited Away

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The first time I watched Spirited Away, I came away with a so-so opinion of the film. On one hand, the animation was rather amazing and stylized, the story seemed to have some good moral messages going, it was generally entertaining; on the other hand, it was just plain weird.

It probably didn’t help that I was distracted and only half paying attention to the film. It’s still quite a surreal experience, but things tend to mesh a bit better on the second or third viewing.

The core plot follows Chihiro/Sen, a young girl, as she works her way through the bathhouse of the spirit world to save her parents. Along the way Sen learns how to live up to her fears, shows us how to appreciate others for who they are, not what they have, and generally how to keep focused on what’s right. Ok, yeah, that description comes off a little cheesy. I like to think of it as a very Japanese Alice and Wonderland. Like Alice, Sen enters her wonderland through a very large “rabbit hole” and things get really rolling along after characters eat some food that’s not quite what it’s thought to be.

One problem I have with this film is the ending. The whole story doesn’t really build up to any sort of definite ending. The events are mostly related and do lead to the expected conclusion, but something just doesn’t quite mesh. The finale comes almost out of nowhere and is fairly anti-climactic.

I suppose the cause of this effect is the large number of dominant subplots. One might really consider this to simply be a collection of smaller plots, all tied together by the bathhouse environment. On one level we have Sen trying to save her parents. Then there is No-Face, who just wants some companionship, but tries all the wrong methods to obtain it. Mixed in we have Haku and his somewhat bizarre plot to discover his true name (what was the point of this anyway). There are a few others but those three are the primary plot lines.

Another aspect of this movie: kids. I watched this movie in the company off a friend’s children the second and third time though (age 5,6, and 8). They enjoyed it a lot. There isn’t any swearing and there is relatively little violence (the attack on Haku is a bit gruesome, but nothing too horrid), it’s clean enough for kids to watch and they seem to really enjoy the elaborate world displayed before them. They didn’t get all of the parts but they seem to catch on to most aspects, probably better than I did the first time I watched it. It did leave them a bit scared at some points however, this is a somewhat frightening movie at times. The suspense in many parts is well laid out.

All in all, I’d say my opinion of this movie has only gotten better with repeated viewings. It’s not perfect mind you, but it’s quite good for what it does have.

The preceding review is based on the English Dubbed DVD version of Spirited Away.