By Jen P
You know me, if it ain’t got some love in it, then I’m not watching it. That being said, this one is an outlier from my usual adult romances. It’s all about the love a young girl has for her parents and her friends. There’s no romantic story here, just the power of love hard at work to better the lives of the characters around cute little Chihiro (aka Sen).
2. Stunning Artwork
Hayao Miyazaki really outdid himself in this one. Each frame is painstakingly drawn by hand with extensive amounts of love devoted to every detail. And the landscapes are absolutely gorgeous!
3. Girl Power!
This story follows Chihiro through a journey of self-discovery. She whines like a spoiled little brat in the very first scene, but by the end of the movie, she becomes a caring young woman who learns to work hard, care about others, and stand up for herself and what’s right. Miyazaki actually created this character after spending a weekend with some close friends who had young daughters. When he saw the magazine’s they were reading were all about clothes and makeup (superficial junk), he realized that he wanted to write a story about something girls their age actually cared about. A story about a girl who’s growing up and becoming something more than just designer labels and gobs of Maybelline. Go Hayao!
4. The Proof is in the Pudding.
Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history at the time of its release (it made $330 million worldwide), and even grossed more than Titanic, which was the highest grossing film up to that point. It also won the Oscar for best animated feature in 2003. Nice.
5. Voice Talents
Is that Lilo playing Chihiro? Yep, it sure is. Daveigh Chase is the voice of both the cute Hawaiian girl in the Disney film, Lilo and Stitch, and also Chihiro in the English version of Spirited Away. Keeping with the Disney alumns- Megara from Hercules (Susan Egan) voices Lin, and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast (David Ogden Stiers) voices Kamaji the Boiler Man. Remember that cute black cat with the accent on Hocus Pocus? He was voiced by Jason Marsden who lends his voice to Haku in Spirited Away. Twilight Sparkle of My Little Pony fame, and also the voice of Harley Quinn most of the time, Tara Strong, plays the giant baby Boh in this movie. Then we’ve got Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, and Suzanne Pleshette playing Dad, Mom, and Ubaba/Zaniba respectively. They all have extensive Hollywood careers! Of course these actors are all known for a lot more than I give them credit for, but these are some of the characters I remember the most.
6. A Cultural Experience
Few would argue that Miyazaki does old world Japan wrong. He captures the beauty of the culture in every frame, the grit of the city streets, the sounds of the people in the score. If you don’t believe me, take a listen. This movie probably helped kick-start my love of Japanese culture (yeah, I’m basic for not stepping outside the white girl boundaries before, but cut me some slack). Seriously though, watch the film and tell me you aren’t instilled with a serious sense of wonder afterwards. This leads right into my next point, which is…
7. That movie is crazy weird!
I’m talking people getting turned into pigs for food, greedy spirits eating everything in their path and turning dirt into gold, soot growing legs and throwing coal into a fire, paper killing dragons, babies turning into mice, and nothing being quite what it seems. Maybe you shouldn’t watch it with your three-year-old, maybe you should, I don’t know your life.
8. Interesting Characters
This film has probably the largest variety unique and strange characters you’ll find in a movie today. Miyazaki really outdid himself with this one. In the spirit world, a spider-man runs the boiler room with adorable soot sprites for helpers, Ubaba (a witch) runs the place with an iron fist and a soft spot for her gigantic talking baby, animals and vegetables relax together in the bath house, and Chihiro befriends everything from a dragon to a faceless monster named…
The face (or lack-thereof) that inspired a million cosplays. This thing gave me nightmares for weeks after watching Spirited Away the first time. He comes off as a faceless, voiceless beggar who Chihiro takes pity on and allows into the bathhouse; and soon, he’s eating everything in his path- including the other spirits- in an attempt to get Chihiro to join him in his greed. Hey, I never said the movie made sense, just that it was awesome.
10. It has a message
Miyazaki is known for loading his movies with imagery depicting the error of human ways. In Spirited Away, he tackles consumerism and gluttony with Chihiro’s parents eating so much they become pigs, talking about how they’ll pay for everything later with cash and credit cards. And No-Face feeds the greed of the bathhouse workers with false gold- not to mention his own immense gluttony. No-Face grows so big and disgusting Chihiro has to save him with her magical dumpling she was saving for her parents (back to love and doing the least selfish thing). He then proceeds to vomit up people and items until he gets back down to a normal size. Ewww. Another issue Miyazaki takes on is pollution/industrialism. Two rivers are all-but destroyed in their spirit forms (one by pollution, and one by the building of an apartment complex) and both end up getting saved by the little girl. And the last message I noticed was that you should never spoil your children! But that goes hand in hand with consumerism. Both Chihiro and Ubaba’s baby are spoiled rotten, and both become decent by the end of the movie. Yay, parenting! Actually, parenting had nothing to do with it. Chihiro fixes everything. Message: ten-year-old girls can be badasses.
Thoughts? Tell me what I missed in the comments below.