When you think of Studio Ghibli, what immediately comes to mind?
I am pretty sure that at least 90% of you instantly thought of Spirited Away, the 2001 Hayao Miyazaki film that is hailed as being one of the greatest anime of all time.
I remember watching Spirited Away once when I was very little, but I had not watched it since then so the film was definitely a new experience for me, going in.
And what did I think?
Well, Spirited Away is certainly a masterful film but I would not call it a masterpiece.
The hero of this story is the young Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi), who is thrust into a magical world full of Yokai, when her parents are transformed into pigs.
She must then find a way to save her parents and get back to the real world, all while working at a Yokai bathhouse; a strange combination, I know.
What’s striking about Spirited Away is its amount of creativity, with multiple interesting Yokai that lead to entertaining interactions between them and Chihiro.
This includes the Yokai No Face (Akio Nakamura) and, in particular, a foul smelling river spirit, in a scene that provided some big laughs through Chihiro and the witch Yubaba’s (Mari Natsuki) facial expressions.
Speaking of Yubaba, I thought that the witch would be the villain of the film, however, much like Dola from Castle in The Sky, she turned out to be a far more complex and interesting individual than I first thought.
Another surprise for me is the connection to another Miyazaki film, with the soot Yokai from My Neighbor Totoro making an appearance.
What was not a surprise though, because of how much praise the film has had, is how emotional the story gets at times.
This is mostly achieved through the great voice acting of Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro.
Along with this, the animation is also solid as it contributes greatly to the emotion of the film.
But, like I said, I do not think Spirited Away is perfect.
In my opinion, a certain storyline about the character of Haku (Miyu Irino) felt rushed and some characters befriend Chirhiro way too quickly, since they were antagonizing her a few minutes before.
It these kinds of things that keep Spirited Away from being a masterpiece, in my mind.
It is still an excellent film though, and I would probably rank it as on par with Castle in The Sky as the best Studio Ghibli film I have seen so far.