I first saw Spirited Away, also known as Sen To Chihiro Kamikakushi, with my Japanese class. Since watching it the first time, I have watched it many times, noticing new things about it each and every time I see it. As far as I am concerned, this fascinating movie is Hayao Miyazaki at his best.
We are introduced to Chihiro and her family as they drive towards their new home. Chihiro is justifiably upset, clutching her farewell bouquet as she sulks about the move. While placating her, her parents realize that they have taken a wrong turn and have ended up in the wrong area, though they can see the road that they should have taken from their vantage point. The car faces an eerie tunnel, one which makes Chihiro very uncomfortable. Her intrigued parents, however, want to explore. She follows them, as she is but a child, and scared to be alone in the woods by herself.
As the trio explore the surroundings, they cross a dried-up stream and encounter what looks to them to be an abandoned theme park. Oddly enough, the food stalls are fully stocked, and the tantalizing scents seduce Chihiro’s parents into trying some of it. As soon as they begin eating, however, they become hooked, and cannot seem to stop eating. Chihiro will not stand by to watch this, so she decided to go off on her own.
As the sun begins to set, however, she is told to leave rather abruptly by a young man. In a panic, she runs back to where her parents remain, gorging themselves on various foods. Of course, it can never be as simple as running back and being able to get away easily, can it? Chihiro finds that her parents have quite literally made pigs of themselves. Scared of the ghostly forms that are appearing and the sudden transformation of her parents, she speeds away, heading back towards the car. However, the dried-up stream has become an ocean. Chihiro is stuck.
Chihiro has to struggle through the spirit world and meets many interesting characters, some benevolent, some much less so, through her adventures here. Some of the creepiest end up being some of the best and most interesting, even when the character has no real lines, such as the Radish Spirit.
Added to the excellent storyline and deep characters are the wonderful voice stylings, at least in the English versions, of people such as Daveigh Chase, (Donnie Darko, Stitch!), Michael Chiklis (The Shield, Fantastic Four), and Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show).
Spirited Away will take you on a rollercoaster ride through the spirit world, a surprisingly regulated place. Miyazaki does a wonderful job of maturing the character of Chihiro from a disagreeable brat into a young woman whom the audience can like and respect. A tale of friendship and wonderment, this is a movie I would recommend to everyone. ED/PUB:LM