Thursday, November 20, 2014

2014 Blind Spot Series: Spirited Away

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is the story of a young girl who moves to a new neighborhood as she encounters a magical world where she encounters dark magic and hopes to find ways to free herself and her parents back to the real world. A mixture of fantasy with elements of drama and humor, the film is told in an anime style that is filled with dazzling images that play into the world of fantasy and reality. Featuring the voices of Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, and Bunta Sugawara. Spirited Away is a spellbinding and evocative film from Hayao Miyazaki.

The film revolves around a young girl who enters a fantasy world filled with spirits as she is suddenly trapped in that world, along with her parents who turn into pigs, where she tries to find ways to get out and save her parents. It’s a film that plays into this young girl not only dealing with new changes in her life but also being forced to grow up as she enters this new world that is full of mysticism and wonder. For this young girl in Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi), she has to do things by working in a bathhouse where its guests are strange creatures as it’s run by an old woman named Yubaba (Mari Natuki) in order to find a way to free herself and her parents. In this world where there’s frogs and creatures that talk along with all sorts of strange things where humans are sort of frowned upon. Chihiro would endure the struggles she takes while helping the woman’s apprentice Haku (Miyu Irino) who is trapped in his duties as he also tries to help Chihiro.

Hayao Miyazaki’s screenplay is filled with ideas of a fantasy world where it begins with Chihiro feeling sad over the fact that she’s moving to a new town as her parents are suddenly lost on their way to their new home. By stumbling into a mysterious tunnel and a place that they think is an old amusement park, things suddenly go wrong where Chihiro’s fears definitely come true as she realizes she can’t escape and is trapped. While Haku would help her and try to keep her away from Yubaba, she has trouble adjusting to her new situation as she is also given a new name where Haku has to remind her to not forget her old name. While there’s a few individuals that do provide Chihiro with some comfort, there’s also these strange creatures she encounters as it’s part of this world of fantasy with elements of reality due to the severity of the situation she‘s facing.

Miyazaki’s direction is definitely magical which sort of understates exactly what he’s trying to do. In fact, it’s beyond that since is full of dazzling images and landscapes that is created where it has this mixture of reality and fantasy all rolled into one. Much of it involve these wide shots of the locations along with compositions and angles into the world that is set which includes this extravagant bathhouse that Chihiro has to work at. With the help of animation director Masashi Ando, Miyazaki creates images and creatures that play into the world of fantasy as there’s elements that can be funny. Plus, there’s these moments that are thrilling as well as exotic in its imagery and the texture of the animation. Especially in some amazing sequences in the bathhouses that is extravagant as well as full of adventure. All of which plays into a young girl dealing with her situation and finding a way to return home. Overall, Miyazaki creates a truly sensational yet touching film about a girl who enters a mysterious world.

Cinematographer Atsushi Okui does excellent work with the lighting schemes for some of the interior sequences in the film to play into its rich look. Editor Takeshi Seyama does brilliant work in creating some unique rhythms including a few montages that play to some recurring dreams that Chihiro would endure during her journey. Production designer Norobu Yoshida and art director Yoji Takeshige do fantastic work with the look of the places that Chihiro goes to including the town and the design of the bathhouse. The sound work of Kaz Hayashi does superb work with the sound to play into the sound effects in the film along with some mixing to convey the sense of adventure that is prevalent in the film. The film’s music by Joe Hisaishi is amazing for its quaint yet majestic piano score with some lush string arrangements and traditional Japanese percussion music as it’s a highlight of the film.

The film’s voice cast is incredible as it features notable voice performances from Takashi Naito and Yasuko Sawaguchi as Chihiro’s parents, Ryunosuke Kamiki as Yubaba’s baby son Boh, Yumi Tamai as the worker Lin who helps Chihiro, Akio Nakamura as the mysterious spirit No-Face, and Takehiko Kamijo in a funny role as the bathhouse assistant manager. Bunta Sugawara is excellent as the spider-like man Kamaji who runs the boiler room as he helps out Chihiro. Mari Natsuki is superb in dual voice work as the greedy witch Yubaba who runs the bathhouse as she hopes to own Chihiro as she is also the voice of the more generous witch in Zenbiba.

Miyu Irino is fantastic as Haku as a young apprentice who helps Chihiro in coping with her situation as he tries to figure out how to help her while being trapped as Yubaba’s apprentice. Finally, there’s Rumi Hiiragi in a brilliant voice performance as Chihiro as this young girl who enters a fantasy world as she tries to get out as she later gets the courage to do whatever it takes to free herself and her parents.

Spirited Away is an absolutely magnificent film Hayao Miyazaki. Not only is it one of the finest films from Studio Ghibli and in the world of animated films. It’s also a film that manages to be so much more as it has something for everyone where it’s adventurous, romantic, and funny as it’s supported by some of the finest work in animation. In the end, Spirited Away is an outstanding film Hayao Miyazaki.

Hayao Miyazaki Films: (The Castle of Cagliostro) - (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) - (Castle in the Sky) - My Neighbor Totoro - Kiki’s Delivery Service - (Porco Rosso) - (Princess Mononoke) - (Howl’s Moving Castle) - (Ponyo) - The Wind Rises - (The Boy and the Heron)

© thevoid99 2014


Anonymous said...

This is such an awful Blind Spot for me because I know that I'm probably going to love this considering how much I adore the hell out of My Neighbor Totoro...and yet I have never found the time to actually watch this one!

Amazing review, as always.

ruth said...

This is the only Miyazaki film I've seen so far but I enjoyed it. There are some parts that got too weird for me, but I think it's kinda part of the charm. I really want to see The Wind Rises!

thevoid99 said...

@Fisti-Thanks. This film blew me away. I'm still in shock over how great it is. I'm going to add more Miyazaki to my 2015 watchlist. I want to be wowed!!!

@ruth-Go see The Wind Rises. It's really one of his finest. I like the weird stuff. I think it helped the story play into that world of fantasy.

Wendell Ottley said...

I've only seen two of Miyazaki's movies: this and Princess Mononoke. I enjoyed this one far better. It's a spectacular movie.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell Ottley-Right now, this is my favorite Blind Spot film of the year and I'm just blown away by it. I'm going to add Princess Mononoke and a few other Miyazaki films to my 2015 watchlist queue.

Chris said...

Glad you enjoyed it! Spirited Away has such an otherworldly atmosphere. For me, cleaning the mud creature was the stand-out scene.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-The mud monster was hella-cool. I just love the design of the creatures in that film. Miyazaki rules!

Aditya B said...

Amazing review! I too was absolutely blown away by this film, it was my first Miyazaki. Everything about it is just so perfect. The designs of all the creatures and characters especially are magnificent.

thevoid99 said...

@Adyita B-Thanks. I had a blast watching this film.

Roman J. Martel said...

Great review. "Spirited Away" is my favorite Miyazaki film. He's got plenty of other great films to check out, but this is still the top. Certainly check out "Princess Mononoke" and if you are looking for something more family oriented, "Kiki's Delivery Service" and "My Neighbor Totoro" are well worth checking out.

thevoid99 said...

@Roman J. Martel-I added those films to my watchlist for next year which is still a work in progress but I am definitely going to see them. Thanks for reading my review.