Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Rumi Hîragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki

Reviewer: Raj

“For the people who used to be ten years old, and the people who are going to be ten years old” is how writer and director Hayao Miyazaki described his latest film, Spirited Away, and, frankly, it's a perfect description. This film has received rave reviews from all sections of the media (including winning the Academy Award for best animated picture in 2002), and not without merit. It touched a chord in me and left me with a goofy grin on my face and feeling incredibly good about the world for an awfully long time. The story starts with a family in the process of moving house who take a wrong turn and end up at an abandoned theme park. It centres on ten year old Chihiro whose parents get turned into pigs fairly early on and focuses on her attempts to turn them back and escape from the 'theme park', which turns out to be a bath-house and general resting place for weary spirits. To do this, Chihiro is forced to work for Yubaba, the witch who runs the bath-house, in exchange for her own name.

In this film, Miyazaki has created a wonderful story that draws from both Japanese and Western mythology. It's impossible to describe the many distinctive and subtle moments in this film, including the little soot spirits that carry coal to fuel the boiler; Yubaba's three pet heads; Kamaji – the old man who stokes the boiler (watch out for his arms!) and many more. The film knows how to be funny without being farcical, touching without being sentimental and sweet without being sickly.

The animation in the film is almost entirely hand-drawn and, like all of Miyazaki's work, looks absolutely stunning. It shares touches with films such as Laputa, My Neighbor Totoro that mark it out as being a Miyazaki film and this adds much to its character. For example, the use of Japanese symbolism and the artistic style shine through much of his work.

Spirited Away was released over two years ago and has only now made it to the cinemas here (shame on the distributors!). It really deserves to be a success – maybe then we'll get to see more of Miyazaki's films.