Spirited Away (2001) Review

Spirited Away (2001) - IMDb

I know I am in the minority but I can not get on-board with Studio Ghibli. From watching my first “proper” Ghibli movie in My Neighbor Totoro, it soon become apparent that the dream-like worlds, the bizarre characters and the almost nonsensical stories do not click with me. I did think that watching Spirited Away, arguably Ghibli’s biggest, landmark movie, my views may change.

Initially, I was impressed. At a time when most animated movies are shiny CGI, Spirited Away offers some fantastic hand-drawn animation which fells like a sorely missed aspect of the modern movies. Its beautifully drawn and the characters, from the usual humans to much more creative, are all realised fantastically.

5 Best Anime Movies like Spirited Away - Japan Web Magazine

The characters within Spirited Away are designed so uniquely and suck you into this bizarre world. From the huge Yubaba who runs the magical bath-house, to the creatures and strange people that make-up this world, down to the boiler-man with enormous arms or the mud-creature who genuinely terrifies at points, this is a film full of ideas and continue to draw your attention back.

It helps that there are also some great set-pieces and key moments; beginning with our protagonist’s parents turning into pigs, through to washing a mud monster and onto saving a dragon being attacked by origami, these key scenes all hint at a great story, full of potential but unfortunately, too much of it feels random. At times I just didn’t understand what was going on.

15 Fascinating Facts About 'Spirited Away' | Mental Floss

Whether it is a clash of cultures, a lack of intelligence or just that these films are not for me, I just don’t understand the randomness of it all. A lot of what is happening doesn’t seem to make any sense and at its worst, it just feels like a random collection of scenes. Once the characters start boarding trains and visiting other more witches, I was lost to what was supposed to be happening and what any of it had to do with bath-houses and pig-parents. The style of storytelling, although beautiful, with an immersive and amazing soundtrack, was alienating.

Overall, Spirited Away is a beautiful film, with an art style that is criminally under-utilised, a great soundtrack and some engaging moments. As a whole package though, it is a confusing, bizarre and messy movie which alienates those that are not familiar with the style and feels random at times. Studio Ghibli just isn’t for me.

Rating – 2.5

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Feature: Spirited Away and Miyazaki's pitch perfect critique of capitalism

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