Spirited Away


Photo by D. Tempesta

Starring: Peeta as Haku

My relationship with Disney is being strained because of my relationship with Miyazaki films. I have watched dozens of Disney films countless times. I have watched two Miyazaki films once each. Yet the influence from Miyazaki in my life already rivals that of Disney. There is just something special that he does that really can’t be explained. I am certainly not foolish enough to believe it is just one ‘thing’ either, as each of his films impacts different people in different ways. Actually, on second thought, that may be exactly what makes him this good…

But, to borrow the words of another great animated film (Claymation movie to be exact), and that’s just the least of it. Every single aspect of Spirited Away was exceptional at best and remarkable at worst. When I say I like Howl’s Moving Castle better than Spirited Away, it is in no way to detract from how magnificent Spirited Away is. Nor do I believe Howl’s to objectively be the better movie. I am not sure there is a “better” movie. They are different enough to be equally good, and attempting to say one is better than the other would be a bit like saying koala joeys are cuter than puppies.

The world that Miyazaki creates for us in Spirited Away feels similar to that of the world in Alice in Wonderland, and it certainly rivals Alice’s world for wonderment (got it in this time!). For those of you who know my love for Alice (easy, now), you will know how happy this makes me. The beings of each alternate realm are recognizable but not entirely familiar, because they differ from the ‘real world’. Nothing is surprising because we are open to all possibilities. A horse with spikes around its hooves to protect it from sharks? Sure, sounds good. A boy that can transform into a dragon and steals a gold seal from his witch master’s twin sister? Perfectly plausible. And Chihiro forgetting her name and having to eat to exist in the spirit world was reminiscent of Alice not being able to answer who she was and eating or drinking her way through Wonderland.

I also could not help but be reminded of The Wizard of Oz while watching Spirited Away, but this was more due to character development and storytelling than any similarity in their respective alternate worlds. Chihiro starts out as a whiny girl in the human world and a timid girl in the spiritual world. Dorothy starts out much the same. It is fun to watch each of them grow to become the people they are by the end of the film. And the characters met throughout help them on this journey. They each even travel with three other companions to go meet a witch to help repair a world that isn’t necessarily their own. There are certainly more differences than similarities; I just found it interesting that this comparison can be made.

I don’t make these comparisons to say that Spirited Away is a derivative. It is a wholly original movie and better than either movie counterpart of the other two. Though, I will say that the books of Alice have as much to offer as the movie Spirited Away, but it is delivered through a different medium. Even so, the exceptionality of Spirited Away shines from beginning to end. We are drawn into the world Miyazaki creates just as the wind pulls Chihiro herself into it. The stories and lessons throughout are profound and poignant. And the ending leaves us complete, improved, and yearning for more. I don’t hesitate to say there are few animated films in existence that can even compare to this movie.

My name is Chuck, and these are my thoughts. Now I would like to know what you think. Have you watched other Miyazaki films? Which one of his works is your favorite? So, uh, no word on the Miyazaki cult, yet…? Leave a comment down below, and we’ll talk. Enjoy the day!

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