Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Japan| 2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 124 mins

To complement the opening of Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful new film Howl’s Moving Castle, here’s a chance to see his 2001 hit. An epic fantasy adventure with a ten-year-old girl as its central character, Spirited Away begins in everyday Japan but proceeds to go somewhere very different. For young Chihiro and her family, a mysterious tunnel and haunted town lead to the Land of Spirits, inhabited by gods and monsters and ruled by the greedy witch Yu-baba. Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs; to rescue them, she must surrender her name and serve in this world. Luckily, she finds friends and allies, including the handsome but mysterious boy Haku. Initially sulky and listless, Chihiro (or Sen, as she’s now called) finds inner strengths and establishes an identity in this world of spirits. But can she win back her name and return home?
It’s almost impossible to do justice in words either to the visual richness of the movie, which combines traditional Japanese clothes and architecture with both Victorian and modern-day artefacts, or to the character-filled storyline, with human figures, harpies, and grotesque creatures. Its look is frequently astounding, with a feel of traditional animation that humanises the movie in a way pure digital animation never can. Spirited Away is very much a Miyazaki creation—a fantasy with substance and developed characters, and a charmer that isn’t just cute for its own sake

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