Beloved for a Reason – Spirited Away Anime Review

“Stubborn, spoiled, and naïve, 10-year-old Chihiro Ogino is less than pleased when she and her parents discover an abandoned amusement park on the way to their new house. Cautiously venturing inside, she realizes that there is more to this place than meets the eye, as strange things begin to happen once dusk falls. Ghostly apparitions and food that turns her parents into pigs are just the start—Chihiro has unwittingly crossed over into the spirit world. Now trapped, she must summon the courage to live and work amongst spirits, with the help of the enigmatic Haku and the cast of unique characters she meets along the way.

Vivid and intriguing, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi tells the story of Chihiro’s journey through an unfamiliar world as she strives to save her parents and return home.” – MAL Synopsis

Runtime: 2hr 4min – Dub/Sub – Released: July 20, 2001 – MAL Rating: 8.81 – Genres: AdventureSupernaturalDrama

It took me way too long to finally watch this movie. Seeing as I’m in the midst of watching all of Gintama (which is phenomenal btw) I kinda needed to take a break and I didn’t want to post only one blog post this month so I decided to watch a so-called classic. And to me, it really did live up to the classic and highly acclaimed status that is accumulated through the years. Spirited Away was a beautiful and refreshing experience.

This movie heavily reminds me of old-school Disney movies in a lot of ways. Specifically my favorite Disney movie ever Fantasia. Spirited Away is like if you took a short from Fantasia and expanded it into a full movie. I loved the mysterious otherworldly atmosphere of the whole movie. The world and its inhabitants are super unique and memorable. Which really enhances the main story of Chihiro adapting to this new world. There are a lot of highlights in this film for me but the first 10-15 minutes are just wonderful. When Chihiro and her parents first enter the spirit world. The atmosphere was at an all-time high. The orchestral music fit perfectly and just matched the vibe of these characters venturing through this unknown vibrant world.

The reason why Isekais have always been popular in concept for decades now but at least in the anime sphere has really boomed in the past decade is that there’s a lot you can do with that concept and the main character is automatically analogous to the reader/viewer in that we’re both new to this world and discovering about it. Now this movie isn’t in that genre, but it shares some commonalities with it. That’s Spirited Aways biggest positive on the story side. As the movie unfolds seeing more and more how this spirit world operates, the hierarchy, how magic works, etc. And exploring some of the deeper mysteries of those concepts always had me hooked to this movie. There’s not a boring moment during its 2-hour runtime because we’re (the viewer along with Chihiro) constantly learning about this world and its intricacies. And in that, as I said before, this world is beautiful and fun so that’s a major positive.

The characters here are great. I loved the whole cast. From the main character to the side characters to the very minor characters they were are memorable to a point. A lot of that memorability has to do with the overall character designs being so unique. I’ve seen similar character designs in other anime but as a whole, all the characters in the movie stand out.

Sen & Haku

Chihiro is really fun as the main character. I immediately sort of related to her in the beginning as her family is on the road moving and starting a new life somewhere else. The whole conversation between her and her parents, in the beginning, felt real and was fantastic at characterizing Chihiro. I love how tough and strong-willed she is. Seeing her adapt to the situation and the world she’s in and her determination to help her parents and others felt natural and not forced, as it can feel that way in other anime with similar characters. Speaking of her acclimating to this world, the pacing of that was done really well. As a whole, this movie is paced well through its entire 2 hours.

While I really really enjoyed the other aspects of this movie. Like everything that I’ve talked about above would make this movie a 9/10. But what pushed it into borderline masterpiece range for me was the animation and music. I briefly talked about how this movie felt like a Fantasia short expanded into a feature film and it’s amazing. The music and use of music in this film are fantastic. Joe Hisaishi (the producer) found a way to convey every range of emotion and atmosphere that each scene called for perfectly within the soundtrack. I’m a sucker for orchestral soundtracks (hence why I love fantasia). So the use of those instruments made me head over heels for this soundtrack. Kudos to Joe for crafting something this great.

The animation is beautifully hand-drawn. This is one of the best-animated things I’ve ever seen. I love this art style and it being all hand-drawn once again gives me prime Disney vibes. On that note of arts tyle. Once again I loved the character and background designs. The world is just oozing with life and originality while also having a sort of familiarity in it. That being due to a lot of things and characters in this world resembling real-world animals, objects, or places but having a unique almost fairy tale or better yet Japanese folklore spin put on them. The animation and art style was, and still is to this day, top-notch. On the voice acting side. I watched the dub. Overall it was pretty good. Chihiro’s voice actor was the standout with everyone else being pretty good themselves and only like 1 or 2 characters did I feel like their performances weren’t quite up to par with the rest. But even then they were still okay.

So yeah I loved Spirited Away. The movie hooked me early on and never let go. A great story with great characters that just oozes uniqueness and atmosphere within its use of music and its overall art style. I’m not one to watch stand-alone anime movies often. I’ve really only watched less than a handful. But Miyazaki’s work under Studio Ghibli has always been lauded as the best of the best and so far with Spirited Away he’s 1/1 with a very strong start. I finally see why this movie is so beloved by not only just anime fans but people outside of this sphere as well and also why it did so well worldwide and is highly acclaimed. It was phenomenal. A really well-paced 2-hour experience with all the aspects that make animation the best artistic medium to work within, just about at their best. I’m glad I finally got around to watching this gem.

Spirited Away – 10/10

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