Spirited Away–Anime Review

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5 Stars
This is probably the most acclaimed anime ever made. It won the 2002 Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the only foreign-language film ever to do so. It is one of the great classics of animation, and if you haven’t seen it you probably should.

This movie shows Hayao Miyazaki at the top of his form. It is a splendid example of the art of storytelling, with a main character who is both believable and captivating. The artwork is absolutely stunning. My screen captures don’t really do it justice; you just have to see it for yourself.

  • Original Title
    Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro)
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Adventure
  • Languages
    English, French, Japanese with subtitles
  • Contents
    125 minutes plus bonus material in a 2-DVD set.
  • Director
    Hayao Miyazaki
  • Screenplay
    Hayao Miyazaki
  • Storyboard
    Hayao Miyazaki
  • Art Director
    Norobu Yoshida, Youji Takeshige
  • Animation Director
    Kitaro Kousaka, Masashi Ando, Megumi Kagawa
  • Music
    Joe Hisaishi
  • Animation Studio
    Studio Ghibli
  • Released
  • Region 1 Publisher
    Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Parental Advisory

There’s no sex and little violence here, but the premise seems calculated to give nightmares to little kids. Ages 10 and up should have little trouble with it, but parents of younger children would do well to preview it and decide whether their children are really ready to handle it. If you have any doubts it would probably be better to wait until they are older.

One good thing is that the scary stuff is concentrated at the beginning. Any child who gets through the first half without suffering a panic attack will almost certainly enjoy the second half.

Premise and Characters

Chihiro with FlowersChihiro Ogino is a ten-year-old girl, but she doesn’t seem nearly as cute as the usual anime ten year old. Right now she’s feeling grumpy and depressed about having to move to a new town and leave all her friends behind.
Family in CarHer parents are pretty much oblivious to her distress. The seem to be decent enough people, but not very sensitive. Frankly, they don’t appear terribly bright.
Old ToriiWhile driving them to their new home, her father gets lost and turns up an old dirt road that is obviously the wrong way to go.
Park EntranceThey find themselves in a strange place that appears to be an abandoned theme park. Chihiro feels uncomfortable and wants to leave, but her parents want to explore it.
Dry RiverbedThey walk across a dry riverbed and come to a street lined with colorful booths.
StreetThough they see no one around, the place doesn’t seem to be entirely abandoned. In fact, there is the smell of delicious food.
Food CounterOne of the booths has a wonderful feast laid out on the counter.
Parents EatingHer parents sit down and begin to help themselves. Chihiro yells at them that they should leave right now, but they ignore her. Furious, she stomps out of the booth and walks down the street.
BathhouseAt the far end of the street is the park’s largest building, a huge and very ornate bathhouse.
HakuShe encounters a boy dressed in old-fashioned clothing, who warns her that she is in great danger and must leave the park before nightfall.
Haku warns Chihiro
lampsandspiritsThe sun is setting and the lights are turning on. There is still nobody around, but she seems to see shadowy figures moving in her peripheral vision.
Pig ParentsShe runs back to her parents and finds that they are still gorging themselves on the food, but have turned into pigs.
Chihiro in the RiverTerrified, she runs to the riverbed, but finds it has filled with water and has grown impassably wide. There is now no way to leave.
Spirits DisembarkingThe park fills with strange, grotesque creatures.
Chiriro and HakuThe boy, whose name is Haku, finds her.
Spirits Entering the BathhouseThis park is a recreation area for the gods. It is a dangerous place with numerous spirits who would be happy to eat a human child, but Haku promises to help her survive.
Haku with ChihiroHe smuggles her into the bathhouse and warns her that if she wants to avoid being turned into a animal she must find a job. He tells her to go down to the boiler room in the basement and ask Kamajii the boiler operator.
KamajiiKamajii is a scary-looking old man with arms like a spider. He is gruff and unfriendly, but deep down he has a kindly side.
Rin and ChihiroHe introduces her to Rin, a serving girl, another gruff but basically good-hearted type. He tells Rin to take Chihiro to see the owner of the bathhouse to ask for work.
YubabaYubaba, the owner of the bathhouse, is a powerful sorceress, greedy and cruel.
BouNevertheless she is devoted to Bou, her gigantic baby.
Yubaba and ChihiroYubaba forces Chihiro to sign a contract promising to work at the bathhouse forever, and gives her the name Sen [1].
No FaceNo Face is a lonely spirit who apparently isn’t supposed to be in the bathhouse.
Stink GodThe bathhouse workers are distressed at the arrival of a “stink god”, a most undesirable sort of customer.
ZeniibaYubaba has a twin sister named Zeniiba who may be even scarier than Yubaba.

DVD Notes

Frankly, I think Disney is a bit too reverent in its handling of this movie. The first thing you see when you try to watch the movie is John Lasseter, the “Chief Creative Officer.”

“Hi, I’m John Lasseter. YOU are lucky. YOU get to see Spirited Away…”

Fer crissakes John, just let us watch the movie and form our own opinions! This sort of thing belongs under the Bonus Menu. Fortunately all it takes is a quick click of the Next Chapter button to make John go away and let the movie start.


ANN Encyclopedia entry.

Wikipedia entry (spoilers).


[1] “Chihiro” means literally “1000 fathoms” (or figuratively “very deep”), thus “Sen” (1000) is just a shortened form of her name.