Quick Hit: Perfect Animation.
When I was a young lad, I attended a smaller private school. Because I was the son of two working parents, I sometimes attended before/after care. What do kids do in those when it’s raining out? Well, typically, after you’ve exhausted your friends with playing board games that are missing a variety of pieces (“What are the hotels today? How about we use these crumbs from snack?”), the teachers usually ended up putting in a movie. Since it was a small private school, choices were pretty limited. However, that was how I first came into contact with Studio Ghibli and the wonderful My Neighbor Tortoro.
Coming out of Studio Ghibli are a variety of movies that I would recommend for anyone that is a fan of animation. However, if you want a true masterpiece, look no further than Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. The film follows Chihiro as she moves to a new town. After taking a road into the woods, she and her parents are transported into a world full of spirits. Her parents are turned into pigs, and she is left to work for Yubaba, an evil witch that owns a bathhouse for the spirits. Along her way Chihiro (renamed Sen by the witch) makes friends that range from “No Face” to Haku, who is seemingly the only one that will help her at first.
The story is frantic and quickly paced, rarely taking a breath to allow you to sink further into the world. There is always something happening, and the animation is wonderful. The story frequently bends the line into the horror territory with the different spirits – “No Face” swallows different characters and then uses their voices – but you also get some rather humorous ones as well, like the Radish Spirit, who looks rather like a cross between an elephant and a sumo wrestler.
Placed in the center of all this is madness is Kamaji, a character who seems to be a cross between a spider and an old man. The way he frequently uses his arms is extremely creative and seems to be boundless – it’s almost as if there is an eye at the end of each one to allow it to be self-sentient (almost like Doc Ock’s arms come to think of it). I see in Kamaji an analogy for the entire movie – upon first sight, it’s fearsome and strange, but with continued patience and watching, you find your heart deep inside longing for more of Miyazaki’s world. That’s rare in an animated film, especially with the spoon-fed stories that we frequently see now.
However, without Chihiro/Sen for us to fall back on, all the spirits would possibly become scary. She's our rock in this world, even when she's emotional, and she holds us to our expectations. Spirited Away is an animation that I think all people should watch. I’m giving it the top grade I can, an “A+”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"