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399 of 433 found the following review helpful:
An outstanding breath of fresh air Mar 15, 2003
By Jason Rabin
Spirited Away is yet another masterpiece from Japan's undisputed master of animation. Although I did not enjoy it as much as Princess Mononoke, I was more entertained by this film than by any Disney movie made in the past five years. Speaking of Disney, I thought I would clear up a few misconceptions that some people have concerning this film. Firstly, for those people who complain that Miyazaki's films (as well as other anime) are for adults, and not children, I should point out that Miyazaki has explicitly stated that Spirited was made for young girls. (in other words, Chihiro's age) This doesn't mean that the film can only be enjoyed by pre-pubescant girls (I myself am a 22 year old male); it just means that you should not go into this film expecting something geared towards adults, the way Mononoke was.
Now I have noticed several people on this site comparing Spirited to Disney. Everyone seems to agree that it is nothing like Disney, because it is scary. Some parents even go so far to say that Spirited is inappropriate for children. Let me just say that you are all both right and wrong on this issue. Spirited Away is nothing like Disney as it is NOW. However, if you look at classics like Snow White, and especially Pinocchio, you'll see that these films have much more in common with Spirited Away than with, say, Hercules, or Tarzan. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who claims that Spirited is too scary for children ought to remember what Disney used to be like. In Snow White, the wicked Queen ordered the huntsman to cut out Snow White's heart. Even more telling, in Pinocchio, the main character ends up on an island for wicked children, who are mercilessly transformed into beasts and sold into slavery. Can you honestly say that this is somehow more wholesome or less nightmarish than what goes on in Spirited? Anyone who remembers these films recognizes that Spirited Away's often nightmarish sense of morality and justice (parents being turned into pigs for their greed) is not novel to the American imagination, but something old, something many of us have clearly forgotten, even though we saw these very films as children! This harkens back to a time when Americans had a much clearer sense of morality, a much greater willingness to recognize an absolute line between right and wrong. For me, this is refreshing, for you it may not be. As for your children being scared, I agree it is a possibility. I was scared when I saw Snow White and Pinocchio, yet I enjoyed those two films immensely. Moreover, they are both considered to be undisputed classics of American animation. So to all those parents who think they can comfortably dismiss Spirited Away as some alien abomination, you had better look closer to home, because it may not be quite as alien as you thought.
51 of 52 found the following review helpful:
Academy Award-winning for a reason! Mar 26, 2003
By Simon Knowles
At the time of this review's writing, Spirited Away just won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, beating out Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, Spirit, and Ice Age. It also bears the distinction of being the first Japanese animation to win the award. I say, there was no contest.
Spirited Away is a fantastic and deep movie, with characters that feel very much alive, even though they're obviously animated drawings. Miyazaki, the director, deliberately instructed his animators to focus on the tiny human details of everyday actions, such as eating. The animators were actually in the studio's cafeteria, filming their coworkers. This attention to detail is what makes the movie come alive. Chihiro sits down and carefully inches her way down a steep stairway on the outside of a building. Chihiro's mother bites a strip of meat off a cooked bird, and pulls sideways with her jaw, not straight out. (The meat doesn't streeeeetch and pop, either.) It just seems REAL.
And then, of course, the movie really begins and things get somewhat surreal. The parade of creatures crossing the bridge is just the beginning: Robed figures wearing masks and holding fans in front of their faces, creatures that appear to be giant chickadees, weird monster-like creatures with tusks and horns and green hair. And they're being welcomed by humanish frogs. And that's just the beginning of the movie.
But, at the same time, with all these fantastic spirits and creatures, the movie maintains its human element: Chihiro. She is the only real human in most of the movie, and it is her ability to adapt, and to care, that propels the story. Chiriho grows. She learns that she has to make it on her own initiative if she wants to get what she needs.
If you're still with me, hopefully you're not of the mind that cartoons are just for kids. This movie has a PG rating for a reason. It's not for young children. There is some blood, and a few moments that would probably scare anyone under the age of 8 or so. However, this movie is for kids and adults not because of that, but because of how deep and meaningful its story is. Months after seeing it in theatres, I was still picking out pieces of theme from the film. There is a lot in here: Themes of identity and names, friendship, giving, family, greed, love, bravery, survival, maturity, and self-sacrifice.
Miyazaki also gave the story another aspect of realism: There is no clearly-defined "good" and "bad" guy. The heroine (Chihiro) is not perfect, though she tries hard to be strong. The 'villain' has a warm, caring side that she reserves for only one person. The mysterious character with unclear motives takes an unexpected turn. Miyazaki refuses to paint the story in extremes of black and white. What does this mean? He writes the story with all the detail and care it deserves, knowing you'll have to be paying attention.
All of this to say, watch this movie. I believe you'll thank me for it.
86 of 92 found the following review helpful:
I was Blown Away Feb 19, 2003
By Royce E. Buehler
Chihiro, a typical slightly spoiled ten year old girl, wanders off the beaten path with her parents, and is thrust into a bewildering otherworld. Her parents have soon fallen under a malign enchantment, and suddenly it falls to her, with the aid of a mysteriously familiar boy named Haku, to rescue them. She has to decide where to place her trust, as it becomes apparent that Haku is in the service of the villainous tyrant grandmother Yabubu, who rules over this otherworld.
It is Chihiro's spirit that steers her through these uncharted waters. We watch her discover in herself and exhibit, tentatively at first but with growing confidence, all of the virtues a fairy-tale hero must learn: resourcefulness, compassion, politeness (hey, this *is* Japanese!) and courage. Because we've witnessed her ordinary beginnings, we identify with and believe in all her emerging qualities. It's all done with a deft matter-of-fact touch that never cloys and never preaches. The animation is quietly dazzling. The plot is dense and full of surprises. The symbolism is as exotic as a Shinto shrine, and as familiar as the echos set up by the best fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen or old Russia.
The cream of American animation for children in recent years - films like Aladdin or Monsters Inc - have drawn in audiences with screenplays written on a double track: a simple, comforting story for the kids, and a long series of nods and winks over the kids' heads to the adults, catering to our sense of irony and patting us on the back for catching all the topical and cinematic references. And that's been fun as far as it goes.
"Spirited Away" throws all that into the dustbin, goes back to the basics, to the conventions and surprises of timeless fairy tale, to a character-based humor that appeals to all ages, and to the sense of wonder that reawakens the child in everyone. It's an hour and a half of pure, funny poetry. It hits every mark it aims for. It's an unqualified classic. And it will become the first DVD I buy for my two year old grandson, even though it will have to be held in trust until he turns six, and can watch it without being freaked out by the spooky parts.
86 of 94 found the following review helpful:
A Lesson For Disney Mar 14, 2003
By A. Liu
While Major Hollywood studios believe the audiences are tired of watching plain hand-drawn cartoons and began to incorporate more special effects into 2-D animation, yet with disappointing results (Titan A.E., Atlantis, and the most recent Treasure Planet), they have almost totally given up on traditional animation, and focus on producing 3-D computer animation. After a series of successful and charming CG cartoon, one could not help but to wonder: is this the end of hand-drawn cartoon artists? (some may argue that they could get the job as storyboard artists)
The point that they are really missing is, what is missing from the recent 2-D animation features, is not the blasting visual effects, or floor cracking sounds. The real thing that is missing from them is a "heart".
See "Toy Story", "A Bug's Life", and "Monsters, Inc." (all produced by Pixar Studio, who is, in the writer's opinion, superior than their rival competitors), while they are indeed visually revolutionary, the focus is still on story telling - story that combines humor, excitement, and ultimately family-oriented heart-warming theme.
"Spirited Away" is simply magical, enchanting, funny, and genuinely touching. In the beginning of the film some may be distracted by the in comparison lower frame-rate (i.e. the character movements may not seem as smooth compare to the Hollywood animations), but you will not be able to help but to awe at each beautifully rendered frame. The artistic level and the use of colors in the drawing are all first class. Moreover, 30 minutes into the film, you will probably forget it is drawings that you are watching, because everything inside the screen all comes alive! (Perhaps because it reaches a certain realistic level, some of the scene may be too grizzly and scary)
It did not become the highest grossing movie in Japan ever for no reason, and it certainly deserves more attention it received in the western world. The ballroom scene in "Beauty and the Beast" never fails to bring tears in my eyes, and it reminds us why we watch cartoon in the beginning. "Spirited Away" achieves in the same way, and it achieves it like a breeze among all these competitions today.
44 of 47 found the following review helpful:
Great Movie! Apr 06, 2003
I really didn't want to see this movie at first, but I forced to as it was my brother's birthday, and he is an animation fanatic.
Even though I'm fifteen and like to think of myself as above cartoon movies, this has quickly turned into one of my favorite movies, prompting a fifth visit to my local theater to see it. Everytime I see it, I notice something different about it, that I didn't before.
It has a fantastic plot, and really transports you to a different world where not everything is as it seems on the surface. It really absorbs you. There are sad parts, and well as funny parts, and you feel the emotions of the charachters.
Despite the PG rating, this movie may scare little kids, as there is some pretty weird stuff going on in the movie, such as people beng transformed into pigs, several monsters, dragons, and some animated blood.
This is definitely one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen in a really long time.
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