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Spirited Away (2001) – Delving into the Magical World of Hayao Miyazaki

Chihiro with Haku in his dragon form.
Spirited Away. Photo Credit-Studio Ghibli.

“Once you’ve met someone you never really forget”-Zeniba,the money witch from Spirited Away.

Zeniba is one of the many enchanting and mystical characters created by Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki in Spirited Away. Heavily inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in the wonderland, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Carlo Collodi’s Pinnochio as well as the Japanese belief of Shinto (that there exists a parallel universe of spirits along with mortal world), the heart of the film deals with a sullen and unhappy protagonist, Chihiro. She must navigate her away through the magical tapestry of the unseen and the unknown.

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In the beginning of Spirited Away,Chihiro being whisked by her parents to her new home.
Chihiro unhappy with the turn of events. Photo Credit-Studio Ghibli.

The Plot of Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away follows the journey of 10-year-old Chihiro. She becomes entangled in the world of spirits when her parents are mysteriously transformed into giant pigs for eating recklessly from an abandoned amusement park. Though distraught and helpless at the turn of events, Chihiro receives help from Haku, who explains that the park is actually a bathhouse for spirits who need a break from their time spent at the earthly realms.

While remaining in Bathhouse, she must work in order to free herself, which means encountering spirits of various shapes and sizes and also monsters who have the ability to eat other’s souls and imbibe its follies. Chihiro accomplishes her tasks with simplicity and innocence which the other workers at the bathhouse inherently lack. But will she be able to find her way out from this spirit world before her parents permanently transform into pigs?

Chihiro frustrated and angry that her parents are eating too much in an unknown place.
Chihiro parents turn into pigs due to reckless eating. Photo Credit-Studio Ghibli.

“Once you’ve met someone you never really forget”

The Cast

The English star cast is helmed by Daveigh Chase (Lilo & Stitch) as Chihiro, Jason Marsden (Kovu in The Lion Guard) as Haku, Suzanne Pleshette as Yubaba and Zeniba, David Ogden Stiers as Kamaji, and Susan Egan as Lin. Though everybody does a commendable job, the voices of Daveigh Chase and James Marsden stands out the most. The fact that both the actors were more than double of the age of their characters and yet portrayed the voiceovers convincingly is so much more praiseworthy.

Even though the movie is anime, the voices linger in your mind several hours after you’ve finished watching it.

Haku giving food to Chihiro which has magic spell on it,which will give her strength.
Haku consoling Chihiro. Photo Credit-Studio Ghibli.

The beginning of a beautiful friendship between Haku and Chihiro

To say that Haku acted as Chihiro’s mentor and savior would be an understatement. Had it not been for Haku, I shudder to think what would have happened to Chihiro. In the beginning of the film, Haku gives her courage and strength to overcome her fear and also gives her work (indirectly) in the bathhouse. But as the story progresses, she too saves Haku from a fatal wound in a fight with Zeniba. Ultimately, it’s their friendship and love for one another which rescues them from the other world.

Spirited Away is a dazzling , enchanting fairytale which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike”

Overall Thoughts On Spirited Away

As with all of Miyazaki’s film, Spirited Away is a visual masterpiece. The painstaking attention to details, the confluence of reality and the unreal, the beautiful hand drawn characters with such depth and backstory makes it a anime magnum opus. It takes more than one or even two viewings to understand the hidden motifs in the movie.  Spirited Away has a  well etched out storyline with themes of environmentalism, social resurrection, capitalism and the transformative power of food. Though based in the fantasy world, the themes are so real that it makes us ponder about the way we treat our world and how we can handle situations in a better way.

Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting fairytale which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It’s also a wonderful choice for first-time anime watchers. Though I must warn, there will be nothing better than this. And just like all of Miyazaki’s movies, it will broaden your mind as never before.

Content note: Rated PG for mild threat and scary things.

Where to watch: Available on DVD and Netflix DVD.


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“The stuff that dreams are made of.”

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By on March 28th, 2017

About Rima

Dreamer , Reader , Believer - traits which describe her in truest way possible. Lover of period dramas and all things old fashioned , she is currently traversing the underwaters of marketing with a little help from literature . Curating her inner thoughts by writing about it all.

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