Spirited Away (2001)

Spirited Away
Directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki
(number 346)

The first movie to be released in New Zealand from Studio Ghibli after Princess Mononoke, and I remember it being very exciting because it got a proper cinema release and advertising and a bunch of my friends went to see it too. I remember seeing it in the newly opened Reading cinemas on Courtenay Central, and being blown away by how beautiful this film was on their giant screens.

I’ve seen it a number of times since then, and I still am enchanted by how beautiful it is.

The story is so very freaking Japanese, a through the looking glass adventure story about a girl whose parents are transformed into pigs in the spirit world and she has to work at a bath house while trying to figure out how to save them. The Japanese culture saturates this movie but it’s still accessible to those of us who have grown up outside of Japan. The fairy tale format helps with that I think, because we sort of know what to expect from the characters (bad witch, mysterious stranger, plucky heroine) and means we can kind of try to understand the more obscure bits on rewatches.

It helps that the script for the English translation is very good as well, and the voice acting is fantastic.

The things I like about this movie are numerous, but I like the way it shows Sen/Chihiro moping around, failing to cope and complaining. She isn’t a fearless character by any stretch of the imagination, but when it comes to people she cares about then she will do what has to be done without hesitating.

I think my favourite shots are the ones over the new sea after the rain storm. The rich blue colours and the way the fish move over the drowned railway tracks. The calmness of the water as she looks out from the deck at it. Beautiful. An then the images of Sen walking over the swamped tracks, and the train ride through the water. It’s all so calm and peaceful.

Unlike the other Miyazaki movies there isn’t such a strong save the planet theme but there is a wonderfully strong theme of remembering who you are and trusting in the good in others.

Does it make me love the people? I love Lin, who in the English version is voiced by Susan Egan who did Megara in Hercules. I love Chihiro, Haku and the baby (once it’s a little rat). Haku is wonderful, I wish I could change into a dragon.

Sootballs forever. Sootballs are the best. Sootballllsssssss

Bechdel test: Lots of times! Chihiro talks to her mother about the strange place they’re in and about the food, she talks to Yubaba and Zineba and Lin. It’s brilliant.

Best line:
Well my most quoted one is the way the rat baby says ‘chu!’ but I guess that doesn’t exactly count as a line.

Lin: What’s going on here?
Kamaji: Something you wouldn’t recognize. It’s called love.

State of Mind: Lovely, that was lovely.

Watched movie count