Spirited Away03 May 2016
The beginning sequence of Spirited Away shows a small family moving to a new town. Their daughter, Chihiro, is in the back seat, lamenting the move, wholly unexcited about her new life. This sentiment has been explored in other films, the most recent one that comes to mind is Inside Out. But there’s something about how Miyazaki and the makers of Spirited Away capture this experience that felt hyper-real to me. Chihiro’s eye-rolls, her parents’ distant love and constant chatter, the moment the window opens and Chihiro has to seat up and deal with the reality. That scene transported me back to every move I had to make as a child. Immediately, I felt a kinship with Chihiro, an animated pre-teen girl in Japan who is about to go on a escapist, dream-like adventure in a monster theme park. That’s some magical cinema.
The rest of the film takes off from this point into new, imaginative, exciting (and sometimes exhausting) directions. There are times when some of the action or plot points make you feel like something was lost in translation, perhaps from Japanese culture, folklore or myth, but for the most part the film is full of full and fascinating characters.