Spirited Away: A Must-See Anime Film for All Ages


Anthony Fanara, Writer

Spirited Away is the critically acclaimed 2001 film by Studio Ghibli, and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, a director considered to be the master of directing anime feature films, such as Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke, among others. Well-known even to those who are otherwise not watching cinema from the East, Spirited Away is a film which can be as easily enjoyed by children as it can be enjoyed by adults.

Now, as someone who’s familiar with some works of Miyazaki, I had never seen Spirited Away, even though for the past few years I’ve watched a good number of anime films, as I’ve always loved the medium, however I’d rarely watched Miyazaki’s works. After watching this film however, I must say my interest in the rest of his works have skyrocketed.

Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro (later renamed Sen) as her and her family are on their way to a new home, however, once they make a stop at a supposed theme park, Chihiro is trapped in the spirit world as her parents are turned to pigs, and she is forced to work at a bathhouse for all sorts of strange creatures in order to receive her freedom.

Whilst the plot for the film is not the most complex –afterall, it is a film aimed at all ages–, it does go in quite a few places, as the evil witch Yubaba attempts to thwart Chihiro’s attempts at gaining her freedom. Another character is Haku, a young boy who develops a budding romance with Chihiro as the film goes on, making for quite a few adorable scenes.

As the film’s runtime continues, the character No-Face (Kaonashi, in Japanese) continues to terrorize the bathhouse, a character who continues to become more antagonistic as he consumes greedy workers of the bathhouse, however through Chihiro’s kindness, is able to return to be an adorable, groaning mask. No-Face’s arc, whilst relatively simple, is a nice theme to include in a children’s film, teaching them to not be greedy.

Whilst the plot of Spirited Away is a fun romp through a wonderful world, the world of the film itself is grand. Compared to the last film I reviewed, Belladonna of Sadness, where I said the film was “psychedelic and confusing, yet with so many beautifully drawn shots,” however I must say in terms of the art direction, Spirited Away is simply mesmerizing, with so many moving parts in the background, conveying the personalities of the most minor workers in the bathhouse. The film moves in such ways that could only be stated as masterful, with one of my favorite shots being where Chihiro runs through flowers, with some of the best movement in an animated film I have ever seen.

Regarding voice acting, I had watched the subbed version of the film, as I usually prefer them, and I can’t say I was disappointed by the voice acting in any regard. From Chihro’s voice actress’s tired delivery, becoming happier as the film goes on, or Yubaba’s voice actress, having the archetypical crone-esque voice, befitting of her witchhood. Haku’s voice was also very befitting of his bishounen –Japanese term used to describe beautiful young men– design.

Whilst I had always heard of the wonderful film that was Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, I must say that after watching it myself that the film is entirely deserving of the academy award it won in 2003 for animated feature. From the wonderful family-friendly with a fun cast the film offers, as well as the awe-inspiring direction with the animation, and the lively voice acting, Spirited Away deserves its reputation as one of the greatest anime films ever made.