Spirited Away (2001): January Blind Spot

My very, very first impressions of Spirited Away (apart from, you know, every single person around me telling me to watch it, etc. etc.) was on the front cover of the DVD case I bought from Amazon. It read “Without doubt one of the greatest animated films I have ever seen” Jonathan Ross, 2003 Film Review. That’s nice. I’m really glad noted film critic Jonathan Ross feels that way. (*Sarcasm sign*)

This isn’t the first Studio Ghibli film I have watched, and I can tell you one thing it certainly won’t be my last. I told one of my friends that I was about to watch Spirited Away seconds before I pressed play and he replied, “You’ll love it, enjoy! It always makes me feel all happy!” He said ‘feel all happy’ instead of just ‘feel happy.’ And after 124 minutes of all the happiness, (though not without some other feelings too) I knew exactly what he meant.

Spirited Away was January's pick of classic films that I haven't seen before
© Disney Enterprises

A young girl, Chihiro, is moving to a new house and a new school with her parents. And she’s really upset about the whole thing. She is a very sensitive soul who perhaps doesn’t like change. The family get lost and their car ends up in front of an ancient looking building in a forest. Intrigued, Chihiro’s parents want to explore the area much to the reluctance of their daughter.

Okay, so far things are going along with nothing abnormal to report. Here’s where it primarily stops being a ‘Western’ cartoon and distinguishes itself severely from anything you might see in a Pixar storyboard. Chihiro finds herself without her parents and in small town of non-living creatures that come to play at night. She can’t be seen to be human in a place like this and she struggles with her loneliness and the events that unfold.

Spirited Away was January's pick of classic films that I haven't seen before
© Studio Ghibli

My initial first thoughts after watching Spirited Away was “WOAH, I’ve been watching Western/English Language films for way too long!” It was a massive shock to the system. My thoughts throughout the film were “What the HELL am I watching? What on EARTH is going on? How did this film even get MADE?”

It was scary when I’d finished watching it how I couldn’t appreciate the absurd, genuine creativity of the grotesque. And, the infinitive ideas that can sprout from absurdity. I had been so blind sided from the so-called ‘creatures’ that get approved by studios for Western films that I felt like my sights had been narrowed. And it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

Spirited Away was January's pick of classic films that I haven't seen before
© Studio Ghibli

One thing I did initially appreciate, love, feel so damn great about, was the character of Chihiro. She’s just so complex. She starts off as this small, timid, almost whiny girl who doesn’t like change. Basically, you’re average modern child. But then, she not only gets thrown into this other, scary world… she gets put to WORK. Like, she puts on a uniform and works in this town every night doing the most horrendous bizarre jobs. She shows initiative, courage, fantastic morals, forgiveness, she finds the good in people and, most importantly, she never gives up.

This is the kind of girl I want my kids to be viewing in animated feature films. And I adore the creature on her shoulder at the end of the film that gets carried around by, what was it, a fly of some kind? I mean, that’s how it travels, it’s fantastic! She pulled me through the weird and the wonderful like no other animated character has before. No, not even Dory from Finding Nemo (2003). This is a whole different kettle of fish.

Spirited Away was January's pick of classic films that I haven't seen before
© Studio Ghibli

Though this is not a review, it’s a mere collection of my thoughts and processes that arose in my viewing of this great film, I definitely recommend it. What a great start to my Blind Spot series, a film that opened my eyes and a character that, yes, makes me feel all happy.

What did you think of Spirited Away? Are you a fan of Studio Ghibli films?

This feature is part of a series of posts run by The Matinee. If you want to find out what’s coming up in my Blind Spot series, click here

Want MORE?

My Childhood Films That made me love Cinema

Seven Samurai (1954): January Blind Spot

Raise The Red Lantern (1991): September Blind Spot

Waltz with Bashir (2008): August Blind Spot


I'm the human and hair behind Almost Ginger. I'm a cinephile travel obsessive vegetarian currently residing in Manchester.

13 thoughts on “Spirited Away (2001): January Blind Spot

  • 19/01/2015 at 4:17 am

    This is my favorite Studio Ghibli film so far (I also have one on my blind spot list this year), and it was very well-made. Chihiro was a fantastic character, and her development can be seen throughout the film.

    • 19/01/2015 at 1:51 pm

      Yeah it’s really good, I was very impressed with the film! Ahh the friend I refer to in the post who loved Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke is actually his favourite Studio Ghibli film so I’d be interested to know how they compare, I’ll look out for it! I see we’ve also both chosen The Seventh Seal and Y Tu Mama Tambien for our Blind Spot Series!

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  • 28/01/2015 at 1:35 am

    I’ve seen this and Princess Mononoke. I prefer Spirited Away, though both are quite good. Love the way you write about Chihiro. She is such a wonderful character. Great write-up!

    • 28/01/2015 at 1:23 pm

      Ahh I’m glad I chose the right one then, still need to see Princess Mononoke! That and My Neighbours Totoro are next on my list. Oh thank you, she’s an easy character to write about, very interesting girl!

  • 28/01/2015 at 2:21 am

    Sen to Chihiro Kamigakushi! Always love this one, especially Haku. I’d never imagined that a children story might be this compelling and mesmerizing.

    • 28/01/2015 at 1:24 pm

      Yes, exactly! That’s what I couldn’t get to grips with initially, it was so different than any other “children’s” animation that I had seen, but the characters are so vivid there’s a lot of imagination going on there.

      • 28/01/2015 at 2:16 pm

        Yes, imagination, I like that word to describe Ghibli’s movies. Anyway, You have such a nice blog! Keep it on!

  • 29/01/2015 at 1:56 pm

    I sorta love that we both started our years off with anime selections. I made mention of it within my own post, but a few years ago when a few fellow bloggers conspired to get me into anime, this was the starting point that they agreed upon…the “gateway drug”…

    You gotta love when a film takes you in like that and shows you things you didn’t think possible!

    The amount of joy you experienced watching this really comes through in this post – hopefully you get more joy like that from your other eleven films…and from whatever other anime films you go on to watch in the future 🙂

    • 29/01/2015 at 7:14 pm

      I know, such a wonderful coincidence! I had only ever seen “The Cat Returns” with friends who consistently mentioned that it should NOT be the film in which I judge Studio Ghibli on, and they were so right. Princess Mononoke was next on my list, but I definitely want to watch My Neighbour Totoro now…

      It’s just too intriguing.

      Well thank you! I certainly hope so too, what a great start to what I hope to be a good year of viewing!

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