The empty fairground that Chihiro and her parents stumbled upon was not an ordinary one. It was already getting dark, and Chihiro decided to wander around by herself after her parents started to eat at a buffet booth. Although there were freshly made foods like steaming pork buns and mouth-watering baked duck, there was no one else around other than Chihiro and her parents. Chihiro was seriously uncomfortable with her parents gluttony as she snuck away to explore. On her adventure, she encountered a green-haired boy in front of a gigantic bathhouse. She stared at him, and his eyes became wide with surprise. You shouldnt be here, he exclaims. Leave before it gets dark! Frightened, Chihiro ran back to her parents. That was when things started to get weird. Black, shadowy spirits began to appear out of thin air, and the lanterns strung across the fair booths were spontaneously lighting up. Chihiro was horrified, but who wouldn’t freak out in this situation? When she reached the buffet booth, she was shocked to find that her parents had turned into pigsliterally.
This was the first of many journeys that Chihiro, the protagonist of Hayao Miyazakis animated masterpiece Spirited Away, has in the spirit world to save her parents. Along the way, Chihiro (voiced by Rumi Hiragi) makes friends with spirits such as Haku (voiced by Miyo Irono) the green-haired boy and faces against mean spirits such as Yubaba (voiced by Mari Natsuki)the bathhouse (which was actually for spirits) owner. Filled with both stunning artwork and rich characters, it is no wonder that Spirited Away is regarded as one of the best animated films of all time. Released in 2001 with a budget of nineteen million U.S. dollars, Spirited Away has since won a multitude of awards, including an Academy Award, and has become Japans highest grossing film in its history.
The audience follows Chihiro on her adventures working in a bathhouse amongst spirits to gain her parents back. We watch as Chihiro transitions from a scared little girl into a true heroine. There are many smaller themes such as the importance of the environment, good versus evil, and friendship that the film explores, but the one major theme Miyazaki portrays is represented through Chihiros transformation into an independent young woman, which is what makes this movie especially magical. Many consider this movie as a typical coming-of-age film, but this was certainly not the directors original vision. According to Miyazaki in an interview with Animage, he originally wrote Spirited Away for his family and friends daughters. He wanted to provide them a strong role-model that was relatable. He also wanted a story not about growing up, but a story in which [the heroine] draws on something already inside [herself]. Chihiro represents the person inside of us alla person who can be scared, sullen, happy, and strong. She is ordinary but becomes extraordinary in her particular circumstanceto gain her parents back from the malicious spirit Yubaba. Coupled with the emotion that Chihiros voice actor Rumi Hiragi conveys, Miyazaki effortlessly creates a dynamic yet relatable character. By providing a character that anyone can easily empathize with, Miyazaki places the viewer directly into the magical world of Spirited Away. Through Chihiro, Miyazaki shows how we are all capable of extraordinary actions (regardless of how ordinary we consider ourselves) when certain circumstances arise.
The vibrant animations coupled with the incredible orchestral soundtrack truly whisk the viewer, like Chihiro, into the spirit world. Through both stunning artwork and music, Spirited Away evokes powerful emotions in the viewer. Out of all the many feelings the movie stirs in its viewers, nostalgia is the most prevalent. Whether reminiscing childhood or a time in the distant past, nostalgia is magical in a sense that it can fill our minds with rich memories. Miyazaki creates a vivid story filled with many fantastical characters and settings that could have easily come out of a childs storybook. By the end, he leaves the viewer yearning for a time in the past as wonderful as the movie itself.
After winning an Oscar and receiving critical acclaim as one of the best animated films of all time, it is no doubt that Spirited Away is regarded as a masterpiece by audience and critics from all over the world. This film is my personal favourite. As a young girl, I was captivated by the world that Miyazaki created because of his creative characters and beautiful scenes ranging from the deep bright blue of the ocean that Chihiro would stare at to the intense contrasting colours of all the happy spirits in the bathhouse. Even to this day, the film still enchants me with its gorgeous animation and creativity. Of course, I can’t help but feel nostalgic nowadays as I think back to the time when Spirited Away brought me, a young girl like Chihiro, into a world where even the most ordinary of people discover something extraordinary within themselves.