Spirited Away (2003)
Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Confession time: This is the first Studio Ghibli film that I have seen. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to watch the dreamy animation, it’s just one of those things, but I can safely say I’ll be watching everything Ghibli from now on and hungrily devouring the back catalogue.
Spirited Away is a treat from start to finish and so endearing that it should make my twee gag-reflex kick in but it doesn’t – it just leaves me wide-eye and smiling, willing Chihiro to succeed in her quest. You see, Chihiro and her parents have inadvertently wandered into an abandoned theme park en route to unpacking at their new house and whilst Chihiro could sense something was wrong, her parents only went and stuffed their faces with sumptuous food that was mysteriously present at one of the stalls and were turned into pigs. It turns out that they’ve wandered into something beyond their control and it’s up to Chihiro to deal with some weird and wonderful characters in order to turn them back and return to their lives.
The story is amazing and, whilst bits of it are really quite scary you don’t feel afraid. You just revel in the beauty of all the spirits, that offer a taste of Japanese mythology, and will people to help the little girl on her mission. My personal highlight was the giant baby being turned into a little creature and finally leaving the confines of his mother’s imposed playroom prison.
I can’t wait to see Ponyo.