Fantasy
Spirited Away
.
Dir: Hayao Miyazaki
Star: (voices) Daveigh Chase, Michael Chiklis, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Lauren Holly
Cert / Year: PG / 2001
Format: DVD R2
'

Chihiro and her parents get lost while moving house and find what appears to be an abandoned theme park. Her parents are hungry and eat some food they find there, however the food is cursed and turns them into pigs. The theme park is a holiday resort for spirits, run by an evil witch called Yubaba. To survive there Chihiro must get a job by signing her name away. With help from a friendly dragon Haku and a slave Lyn she must fight to remember whom she is if she is to have any hope of rescuing her parents.

If you thought that Japanese animation was all about giant robots and monsters destroying cities then you will be in for a shock here. This beautiful Alice in Wonderland tale is about as far from robots and monsters as you can go. It is children's fantasy of the very old school. No cute singing candlesticks or annoying talking animals here just a finely imagined fantasy landscapes the likes of which you are unlikely to have seen before.

It is a credit to the scope and detail of Hayao Miyazaki's creative talent that such a blindingly original and startlingly unusual universe of spirits and creatures has been created. After the initially slow start the film takes you on a trip that is wonderful to behold and impossible to predict what sites you will see next. We are not talking a fantasia acid trip but a coherent yet totally strange fantasy landscape. In a land of giant babies, radish spirit, and soot creatures time is taken to explain things so you don't get totally lost.

The most striking element of the film is the outstanding animation. Computer backgrounds are flawlessly merged with cel animated characters in a way not attempted before. This leads to a cartoon of traditional style yet allows for a freedom of camera and texture not available to the style. It makes attempts like Titan A.E. and even Metropolis crude by comparison. For example check out the rolling plains of grass or the superb water effects to see how well it integrates with the characters. If traditional animation has a future then it is using these sorts of techniques.

Of course all of this is just window dressing if no attempt is made to tell a decent story. Fortunately we have a true fairytale adventure with both thrills and humor. Ok so this isn't Finding Nemo funny or Final Fantasy action packed but it is a charming and interesting film with good characters and an unpredictable storyline. Some of today's MTV kids may find it too slow, but it is a rewarding experience for those with patience and imagination whatever their age.

Spirited Away is an outstanding film. Packed with original ideas and superbly animated it just proves how far the likes of Disney have fallen behind the game. It's slow pace and lack of action is more than made up with the fantastically detailed visuals. This is a film with so much going on the screen that it is difficult to take in everything in one sitting. Don't be put off by the fact that it is a Japanese film as a superb job has been made in dubbing it into English (overseen by Pixars John Lasseter no less). This isn't really a Manga film at all and it deserves a bigger audience than that somewhat cult tag brings with it. In short this is the best new fairytale I have seen for years and a simply stunning film.

Quotes

Aogaeru: Welcome the rich man, he's hard for you to miss. His butt keeps getting bigger, so it's easier to kiss!

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
Picture 16:9 Anamorphic Nice clear picture but a little soft at times.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 A choice of Japanese with subtitles or English both are of good quality, and the English is superbly dubbed.
DISC 1
Features The Main Feature
Full feature storyboard to finished film comparison
DISC 2
Features The Making Of Spirited Away Nippon TV special
Trailers and TV spots
Voice talent featurette
Meet Hayao Miyazaki featurette
Verdict A excellent set of discs for a great film. Plenty of extras and good sound options are exactly what this feature deserved. Well worth the wait.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home