Note: I watched this film in Japanese with English subtitles, although an English version is available too. As a result, I will be giving my opinions on the Japanse voice actors and will mention the names of the Japanese voice actors in the character section of this review.
I'm entirely new to anime. I mean I have watched some stuff like "Yu-gi-oh!", and played Pokemon on my DS when I was younger. That was ages ago though, and I've forgotten what it's like to watch those types of programs. So watching the Spirited Away was a completely new experience for me. It was bizarre and had me saying "well that just happened" loads of times... but I actually liked it!
I had initially put off anime because its action appeared to be way over the top. It just didn't seem like my kind of movie, because I usually like to see more realistic films.
After seeing countless people recommending it online, and even having some people suggest it to me directly, I decided to take the plunge and watch it.
The story has a typical start, with nothing out of the ordinary. Chihiro and her family are driving to their new home, much to the dismay of Chihiro. That normality doesn't last, soon the family find themselves in what is said to be an abandoned theme park.
During their exploration of the theme park, they come across a restaurant with no staff, but with loads of food laid out along its storefront. The parents pig out on the buffet while Chihiro, who didn't want to steal the food, decided to look around the area. She eventually comes across a building, that we soon find out is a bathhouse.
It's at this point that stuff started getting extremely weird! Within around 10 minutes Chihiro's parents had turned into pigs, animal-like monster things were wondering about, and spirits were shooting up out of the floor.
So at this point, Chihiro is rightfully terrified, but thankfully comes across Haku. He tells Chihiro what she needs to do to get her parents back, and how avoid being turned into a monster. In that area, if humans didn't work for the monsters they'd be turned into a beast, so Chihiro has no choice but to sign a contract and work in the bathhouse.
We then follow Chihiro on her quest to get her parents back, so that she can leave the bathhouse and be free again.
My Thoughts After Watching
I did enjoy this film, even with all of its weirdness. It is a creative and unique story, with lovely characters and a good pacing to it. I didn't feel bored throughout the story, and this was a relatively long story at a runtime of around 2 hours and 20 minutes. As I'd get bored something would happen to make the film exciting again, so I was never left waiting for the next scene to come around.
The characters in this film were well made and creative. All of the main ones had very distinct designs to them, and it was easy to differentiate them from one another. The characters all visually fitted in with their actions and personalities and were all very believable.
Shown below are the main characters.
Chihiro (voiced by Rumi Hiiragi) is a 10-year-old girl who loses both her a freedom and her parents within minutes. She is a very well rounded character who changes and matures a lot throughout the story, leading to her being a very different character by the end of the story. She is very determined and is very loving to her parents, and does everything in her power to get them back, even if that means overcoming a lot of obstacles along the way.
Haku (voiced by Miyu Irino) is a dragon who can turn into a boy. He is Yubaba's second-in-command at the bathhouse who appears to have worked there for a long time. He has a good heart however and looks after Chihiro throughout the entirety of the film. Later on in the movie, Haku also has a realisation within Spirited Away and progresses well as a character.
Yubaba (voiced by Mari Natsuki), or "head in a dress" as I like to call her, is the owner of the bathhouse where Chihiro and Haku have to work. She takes control of all of all of the staff in her facility by changing their names. She also eventually makes them forget who they are. The only person that she empathy for is her big baby (I mean that literally, the baby is massive). She does make for a great antagonist.
I'm not sure as to whether I like the visuals in Spirited Away or not. In my video review (embedded at the top of this page) I said that the visuals were pretty ordinary and nothing special, but after having looked at the film again I'm not too sure. Some of the visuals, such as the bathhouse building are well made.
On the other hand, some scenes look kind of dull and don't have much to them. I mean they are mediocre and don't look bad by any stretch of the imagination, but there just isn't much there.
On the other hand, I am confident in my opinion of the character's visuals. There are lots of different, creative types of characters in this film. There's everything from ordinary looking, but distinct human characters, to well... whatever the creature in the below image is. They all look great!
The animation is also pretty great too, with this film handling very complex animations well. It is very fitting with the film's anime art style.
Despite me not being able to understand what they were saying, the voice actors did portray the required emotions well. The voices also fit their characters well and sounded believable.
The score for this film was well made and fit in well with what was happening on screen; it also helped to emphasise the emotion that the particular scene was trying to portray. It wasn't the type of score that was particularly loud or anything, but it did add a pleasing ambience.
I had no issues with the sound effects, they all fit in well.
Spirited Away was a new experience on both the story and character side of things; it's entirely different to anything else I've seen. It's super weird but is also super great! The story was engaging and was well paced; I very much wanted Chihiro to get her parents back throughout the story.
The main characters are all likeable (or hateable) and are well rounded, with Chihiro and Haku developing well throughout the story.
Visually the humans and beasts, monsters or whatever they are, were very creatively made and all looked unique. The backgrounds were detailed at times, but did seem a bit boring at times, and did feel a bit empty to me.