Trying to fall in love with film again.

Everyone seems to love Spirited Away, and now I see why.

Story

During her family's move to the suburbs, Chihiro and her parents enter the spirit world where they (her parents) are subsequently turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba. To save her parents and return to the human world, Chihiro gets in a job in Yubaba's bathhouse.

Voice Acting 

Rumi Hiiragi's back must hurt from carrying this film because she exudes talent. This is one of those roles where you forget that a real person voiced the character. Her voice is so disembodied that you fully believe that you are listening to Chihiro when she speaks.

The other performance that stood out to me was Mari Natsuki. She actually plays two characters in this movie that look exactly the same, however they sound completely different. She manages to change the cadence in her voice to suit whatever character she is playing, making them feel like two distinct people.

The other voice actors made this movie feel real. They were all able to deliver performances that complete the movie and make each character both realistic and relatable.

Writing/Direction 

Much like Howl's Moving Castle, there is more to this movie than meets the eye. I didn't immediately pick up on all the themes but after some research, they make a lot of sense to me and using hindsight they're obvious without being blatant. Next time I watch this movie I'm going to watch it with said themes in mind and see if I can pick up anything I missed the first time around.
 
The layered storytelling is a testament to Hayao Miyazaki's talent. All the characters in this movie feel like real people. Especially Chihiro, the main character. She grows and evolved throughout the movie and you're with her every step of the way. You see her naivety but you also see just how smart and intuitive she is, and you see it from the beginning of the movie. It's not something that randomly pops up as plot convenience. You also get to see how sweet and caring she is while also looking at someone who is willing to adapt to whatever situation they are put in. The wildest thing about the story is that she is 10. 10??!? Now is this all a little unrealistic for a 10-year old? Maybe, however, Chihiro isn't one of those characters that has plot convenience handed to her on a silver platter and it makes her wins even more satisfying.

Another interesting thing to note is the lack of a real antagonist. Arguably Yubaba is the antagonist but she is not expressly evil. All the characters in the movie are both good and bad people even out protagonist. It depends on what lens you look at them through.

Animation

In my Howl's Moving Castle Review (which I will conveniently link here) I wrote that the movie looked unique. Here is an exact quote from that review...
When most people talk about Studio Ghibli movies, a talking point is how good the animation is and I see why. This film looks really unique. The visual style of the film is very distinct...I don't know that I have seen a movie that looks like this. It's a lot softer than the anime I have watched (honestly, it's not that many for me to make a statement like that) and the colour scheme lends itself to the more fantastical elements of the story, which make sure the tone of each scene is consistent. 

 I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this style of animation must be a style specific to Studio Ghibli because I have the same compliments about Spirited Away that I do about Howl's Moving Castle, in fact, I think I prefer the animation in this movie. It looks absolutely beautiful. The colours are vibrant, each character has a distinct animation style and range of motion. Some of them move more fluidly than others and when you have two characters with different range of motion on the screen, it makes what you are looking at more interesting. 

This is one of those movies where you can tell that it was made with love and affection. Every frame could be a picture in an of itself, from the backgrounds to the character design. Even in scenes where not much is happening, there is still something beautiful to look at.

One aspect of the animation that floored me was No- Face.

The thing about No-Face's character design that I love is the tangibility of the character. One minute No-Face looks completely see-through, and in the next, they look completely solid and immoveable. I also have to bring up No-Face'schanging shape throughout the movie. As they eat more they grow, but their overall shape and movement changes. Where they can move around with humanoid motions, they can also While being something interesting to look at it, adds more depth to the story and lore.

Also, I wanted to add in that the Chinese poster for Spirited Away is a work of ART! And I like it more than the original movie poster.

Score/Soundtrack 

Joe Hisaishi the composer, created a score that adds depth to the world while making it both realistic and fantastical. The music is embedded into the story and each score functions to not only propel the story and build the world but also serves as a way to introduce emotion to not just you but the characters themselves. The songs in this movie are beautiful and the ones that stood out to me are One Summer's Day and Always with Me (which plays during the credits.)

One Summer's Day is hopeful and nostalgic while also feeling big and cinematic. While also feeling magical. Joe Hisaishi posted a video on his YouTube channel of him and an orchestra playing the song, and I know I have already used the word beautiful, but it really fits.

Overall Thoughts

I have to say that Spirited Away is not the movie I thought it was going to be. All I knew about it was that it was a Studio Ghibli film that everyone loves, and it had a character in it called No-Face. I can confidently say that it blew my expectations out of the water. Spirited Away isn't only a gorgeous film with stunning animation, a heartwarming story and strong voice acting, it also has themes of consumer greed and environmentalism. 

Something I'm learning about Studio Ghibli movies is that you can either take them at face value or you can look for the deeper meaning. It's a movie that you can enjoy from all angles and all ages. I can also see why this movie comes up a lot when people talk about their favourite movies, it's rewatchable. 

I also now know where this gif came from.

I use it a lot around the holidays and I knew it was from Spirited Away, I just didn't know the context and I feel like I'm part of the club that can talk about this movie and laugh at the memes, now that I have FINALLY seen it. And it is an amazing movie that has an Academy Award for a reason.

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