Just this month, on July 20th, fans of Hayao Miyazaki fans were able to celebrate the 14th anniversary of the release of the fantastical animated film, Spirited Away from Studio Ghibli. This film first premiered in Japan back in July 2001 with a release in America a year later in September of 2002.
Spirited Away tells the story of young Chihiro whose family move was only the beginning of a spirited adventure. Lured by a mysterious presence at the end of a tunnel, they enter into the spirit world, which may seem like our own. Chihiro’s parents reap consequences of chowing down on spirit food and become pigs leaving the young girl parentless. With the help from a boy named Haku, a dragon spirit and some other friends she makes along the way, she is able to overcome the evil witch Baba, the strange No-Face, a large baby and more.
I know I celebrated the animated movie myself by watching it more than twice in one day. My kids, though they may love animated movies, never partake in my Hayao Miyazaki moments because, according to my oldest twin, “It’s a bit weird.” Yes, my child, it is “weird” as you say. And that’s one of the reasons why I can’t help but love it. I’m a big lover of Hayao Miyazaki films ever since watching Kiki’s Delivery Service. Ever since then, I automatically jump up and down in excitement when I find out Studio Ghibli is releasing a new film.
There’s a bit of everything for any age to enjoy in the film. First off, it’s got the mystery. Chihiro didn’t know what she and parents were getting into as they went through the tunnel. When you go to a place that seems like a ghost town — ha ha, pun — with fresh goods out, something’s up. And it continues on with each character encountered and places she goes. Second, there’s the witchy villain. Yubaba’s a completely different type of villain than what I’m used to. Sure she’s a greedy, money-hungry witch who just has to own everything, including your name, but she does have a soft spot for her baby and cares about her business (because it makes money). Third, there’s deep characters to comprehend. We meet Haku who appears as nothing but a strict, protective boy who turns out later to be some big hype of a dragon working under Yubaba after losing his status, and memory, as a river god. Then there’s Yubaba herself who seems to have a subtle split personality – be nice or not to be nice, that is the question. Of course, can’t forget about No-Face. At first he was a timid spirit who nobody cared about until Chihiro came. Seems he liked her and wanted to be closer, thus creating the bathhouse incident full of false gold and eating people, taking on their personalities. And last but not least, it’s the cutesy romance I love above all. Guess people might not call it romance unless there’s some hugs and kisses, but the strong bond created between Chihiro and Haku since the very start of the movie could make anybody say “Awe.”
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why it’s a beloved film, but the list might be never-ending on my end. Though my word alone certainly can’t convince you of the popularity it has endured within the past 14 years. It has won several awards including Best Film and Best Song at the 25th Japan Academy Award in 2002 and Best Animated Feature in 2003 at the 75th Academy Awards here in America.
If you’ve never seen Spirited Away yet, you have no idea what you’ve been missing for the past 14 years. You’ll get yourself pulled into such an adventure, you’ll wish it would never end! Go ahead and give it a shot. While you’re at, check out some other films by Hayao Miyazaki such as Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and over 20 more!!
Tell us which film you adore more!