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.
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.
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.
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.
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?