Retro Review: Spirited Away

Written: November 17, 2002

Japan’s version of Walt Disney Hayao Miyazaki brings his latest animated adventure to North American cinemas. Miyazaki is most famous for his breakout Japanese animated film, “Princess Mononoke” which pitted man against nature. Miyazaki returns to his natural elements in “Spirited Away”.

When a family’s car breaks down a little girl, Chihiro, winds up being lost in a dreamlike world where natural elements, demons and deities converse in a giant bathhouse. Chihiro must work for Yubaba, the matron of the bathhouse, and uncover a way to break the spell cast upon her parents. Her journey is like nothing you can imagine.

“Spirited Away” is hands down one of the best films of the year. The film draws you in from the moment it begins. You are absorbed into this mystical world and there are precious moments where you feel as if the animated universe on screen is a reality. Even with the cartoonish appearance of Yubaba, you do find realism at your fingertips.

With every Miyazaki film, I find that he has a magical energy that allows us to see the amalgamation of reality and fairy tales. I love how he cleverly weaves in humor while at the same time he is taking every fiber of his on-screen world very seriously. Miyazaki is an amazing filmmaker and one that North American animators should be aspiring to replicate or at least pay homage to.

Miyazaki doesn’t only know how to produce some jaw-dropping animation but is able to build a story around it that makes an audience cry, laugh and smile. I can only imagine the same magic was felt back in the golden age of Disney. When “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty” were flickering across movie-screens for the first time. My hat’s off to you Miyazaki.

I was shocked to find that the film runs over 2 hours especially since it doesn’t feel anything near it. There are times where the film runs a little long but Miyazaki cleverly weaves background scenes like the “fly” and “mouse” to help you through some of bigger moments. The scenes and backgrounds are electric with representation as the audience finds it doesn’t want to leave. I loved every frame of this film and I will hope to take this journey again and again.

(4.5 of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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