Studio Ghibli, perhaps the most celebrated anime studio of all time, the studio that brought us such classics as My Neighbor Totoro, Castle In The Sky, and Howl’s Moving Castle brings us arguably its greatest film of all time. Created by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away is a coming of age story about a girl named Chihiro who accidentally stumbles into a world filled with spirits and has to rescue her parents, who have been turned into pigs after greedily eating the spirit’s food. To save her parents, she must work at a bath house, owned by the evil witch Yubaba. Along the way, she meets new friends and falls in love with a river spirit named Haku. This world is filled with strange spirits, like Yubaba and her nice sister Zeniba, Haku, who can turn into a dragon, Kamaji, the eight armed boiler man, Lin, Chihiro’s friend, the gluttonous No Face, talking frogs, and numerous other peculiar beings. During her time in the bath house, she has her name taken away and changed to Sen, saves Haku from dying, befriends Yubaba’s son and sister, and more. Eventually, she goes from being a whiny little brat to being a mature and responsible little girl. Oh, and she saves her parents.
I love this movie. The animation, for one, is fantastic. The gorgeous art style is hand drawn and never falls prey to generic anime clichés, such as spiky hair and gigantic eyes, yet you can still tell it’s an anime. I also love the coming of age story about growing up. The film is full of wonder and whimsy, but it is more serious than the usual Disney fare, so don’t expect random singing and dancing. Do, however, expect a wonderful score by Joe Hisaishi (I especially like the song “One Summer’s Day) that fits the movie perfectly. The end credits also feature the beautiful “Itsumo Nando Demo” (or “Always With Me”) by Kimura Yumi. The acting is great, and I would recommend watching both the dub and the sub. Simply put, Spirited Away is the greatest animated film of all time, perhaps even the greatest film, period.