Studio: Studio Ghibli (Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke)
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke)
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Shōjo
Release date: July 27, 2001
Runtime: 125 minutes
Spirited Away tells the fantastic story of a young girl named Chihiro. Driven to an old fairground by her parents, Chihiro becomes trapped in the spirit world when the fairground is taken over by spirits. Having lost contact with her parents, who are transmuted into pigs, Chihiro and her new friend Haku travel the spirit world in search of a way to return the girl to the real world. Haku helps her to find employment at a spirit bathhouse owned by an evil witch, at the expense of giving up her identity and becoming a maid named Sen. The film's title, "Spirited Away," derives from Chihiro's coming-of-age quest to leave her spirit prison, regain her identity, and reunite with her family. The best known of Miyazaki's masterpieces and the highest grossing film in Japanese history, this shōjo tale is a kids' classic on par with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
I won't tell you it's the best film I've ever seen. As entertaining as it is, Spirited Away may not be appealing to mature audiences. There is little action and the movie's themes, while impressively complex, may feel corny to a more mature viewer. The movie moves at a slow pace that, with over two hours of runtime, can drag on after a while. But it's a fun journey with appeal to a pretty broad base. The spirit world is colorful and the animation is completely unique, giving the film an unusual, surprisingly real feel. Technically, Spirited Away will not disappoint with its masterful visual style, well-constructed plot and effective score. The film may not keep an older audience glued to the screen as well as you might hope. But especially younger viewers, prepare to be dazzled.