Hayao Miyazaki. If you know anything about the Japanese film industry, you almost certainly know the name Hayao Miyazaki. He is widely hailed as one of the greatest animators living today.
Spirited Away is his most famous work. Since it was released in 2001, it became not just the highest grossing animated film in Japanese history, but the highest grossing film. Now that’s something. But despite being so famous, I never watched any Miyazaki films before now. But since I got the DVD of Spirited Away for Christmas, I have rectified that negligence.
The film starts out normal enough. A young girl named Chihiro is moving to a new town, and is none too happy about it. Her dad misses the turn, though, and winds up on a dirt road going through the forest. Despite objections from his wife and Chihiro, he charges forward. (Dads. Sheesh.) The road ends at what appears to be an old abandoned amusement park. The parents go on in and take a look around, but Chihiro would much rather be elsewhere.
They find a place that has a lot of fresh food. However, nobody is to be seen. The parents start chowing away, but little Chihiro seems to have a lot more sense than they do. She doesn’t eat anything, and wanders around, looking at things.
Now this is where the real stuff happens. Suddenly, Chihiro starts seeing all these strange creatures. She meets a boy, Haku, who tells her to get her parents and leave quickly, as they are in grave danger. But too late. Her parents have been turned into pigs by a spell! She meets Haku again, and he tells her to get a job in the bathhouse run by Yubaba, to prevent something from happening to her as well. The bathhouse is for spirits and things to go get washed up.
I don’t want to say too much about the story, so I’ll leave it at that. Now let’s talk about the visuals. It is clear that Miyazaki has a very active imagination. It certainly comes through in Spirited Away. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life. The closest thing I can think of is “Alice in Wonderland.” But this is different than that. A truly unique style. Spirited Away was very strange, and something even I’m not used to seeing, but I still liked the film a lot.
John Lasseter of Pixar fame is a close friend and admirer of Hayao Miyazaki. He was the executive producer on several of Miyazaki’s films for their U.S. release, also overseeing the dubbing of their English language soundtracks. The gentle forest spirit Totoro from Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro makes an appearance as a plush toy in Toy Story 3.
Purchase Spirited Away on DVD at Amazon.
Visit Xbolt’s blog at: http://blog.xboltz.net