Spirits, Sootballs and Mr Miyagi…

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 Spirited Away is, to put it in the oft-quoted words of Oscar Wilde, “fuckin’ weird!”

It chronicles the tale of a spoiled girl named Chihiro who stumbles upon an abandoned theme park with her parents. They explore, but then darkness falls, and Chihiro must grow emotionally to save her parents from a piggy fate…

This tale of spirits seems like it was written when Miyazaki was really, really high. There are a whole bunch of really bizarre events and characters, such as the arachnid boiler-man and the little soot people carrying the rocks. Which is understandable, because it is a film about spirits and the growing obsession with wealth and power.

The thing I love about the film though is the little details, such as what the big baby looks like later on in the film, along with the little bird helping him fly. I also love when her parents are turning into pigs, and you can still see the trousers and how they look vaguely human in a way. Also, it’s probably just me, but I found my heart stopping when it was intended to and I really found myself laughing at the antics of the little balls of soot. Any film that makes you genuinely intrigued as to what happens next and makes you care about the characters has done its job well.

The vocals seem to be pretty well done (although not being an expert on anime I wouldn’t know, for all I know the English dub is reviled among the die-hard anime community), with the voices suiting the characters. The only other anime I’ve seen is Death Note, which was pretty good and lent itself to some truly epic moments (chips, anyone?).

The bathhouse for the spirits seems really authentic to how such a place would work in real life, with the stresses of working so hard showing in everyone’s manner and so on. I thought that the characters were really well done and the character development, not just for Chihiro but for everyone else as they come to respect her was done superbly. Okay, the character development was also formulaic in places but that’s only really obvious to the hardened movie-goers such as myself, and it’s really a fairy tale in some ways.

This is the kind of movie that everyone should watch when they’re young, as it’s definitely a coming of age movie and one that could help mould a young person into the adult they will shortly become.

Although I think that Miyazaki looks like Thunderbirds villain The Hood in disguise (seriously, have you seen that guy?), he has created a fantastic movie that will stand the test of time (which grossed more than Titanic in its native Japan when released). I for one would not be averse to watching more of his works, although I’m not the kind of person who will actually go looking for it. Much like music, I don’t explore, but I let the ones I like come to me.

Mr Miyazaki (almost called him Mr Miyagi), I was truly Spirited Away. Well done, sir.


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