Spirited Away Has The Right Spirit

Bradley Hare, Centurion Staff

Here’s hoping me giving this film anything besides a 10/10 doesn’t get me spirited away.

Studio Ghibli Fest has been an annual event since 2017, being a yearly event where every month from April to December, GKIDS and Fathom Events play a movie from world renowned company, Studio Ghibli. For October, that movie was the animated classic that  won the Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2003, “Spirited Away.” For many people, this is not only one of the best films from the studio, nor even the best film from the studio, but one of the best films ever.

While trying to say this film is bad is a fool’s errand, in fact it is very good, there are a couple critiques that I do have that prevent me from seeing this film as the flawless masterpiece everyone else sees it as.

The film stars 12 year old Chihiro Ogino, who is currently in the middle of moving from one house to the next where her parents accidentally stumble across a portal to a spirit world. After her parents eat some food and turn into pigs, Chihiro finds herself stranded in this new world. With the help from Haku, she gets a job at the bathhouse run by the villainous witch Yubaba, and needs to not only find a way to save her parents, but also survive.

Firstly, the one thing that everyone and their ghostly ancestors praised; the visuals. It just looks amazing the whole way through. In a world where 2D animation is on the decline, this is just a visual treat, and it is very obvious to see just why this movie won the Oscar.

This looks like the perfect blend between 2D animation and real life physics. Grass flows in the breeze, character models are on point, there are certain scenes in the last quarter of the film that just makes everything look amazing.

To fit these wonderful visuals, a nice, peaceful soundtrack on a piano is used. When one of the songs in the movie, “The Name of Life”, eclipses the actual trailer for the movie on YouTube by over 20 million views, you probably have some amazing music on your hands. The music fits the mood when needed, being suspenseful and frantic when stepping into the new world, yet also peaceful and even a bit somber as everything settles in.

So we have some gorgeous visuals and euphoric music; all we need now is a perfect script and we can give this movie a perfect rating…

Well; that’s the thing keeping me from giving this movie a 10, or even a 9.

The director, Hayao Miyazaki, stated that he didn’t make “Spirited Away” with a script, rather he just started drawing and let the story tell itself through the image itself. It definitely shows here, with the visuals and music being the best parts here. However, this just left poor story to be the third wheel.

We are supposed to see Chihiro are bratty and irrational for not wanting to check out an old haunted amusement park, and that she doesn’t value her parents, but here’s the problem; she’s kind of right.

Her parents were not only dismissive of her complaints and fears of moving to a new school, decided they would rather leave her alone in the car just so they can explore an empty amusement park, not caring if they miss the moving vans for their stuff and keep them waiting in return, and eating food left in the open that could belong to someone else without paying.

Granted, this was to show how much like pigs they are, but this also makes them look like horrible parents, making me unable to feel any suspense with the idea of them being rescued due to just not caring about them.

There is also the fact that Yubaba makes comments about how Chihiro hasn’t experienced a day of work in her life that we are supposed to agree with. Despite this being true, the fact that we live in an age with child labor laws that legally prevent this, it’s very easy to just brush off and ignore Yubaba.

For reference sake, in America, Chihiro is 12, which labor laws states that the youngest a person can work in a paid job is 14. This is even worse in Japan, where Chihiro is 10, and the youngest age a person can get hired at is 15, making both instances legally impossible for Chihiro to work.

With that said, is the story bad? No, but when the basic premise is hard to buy, it’s way tougher to buy into the rest of the world, alongside other nitpicks, like Yubaba’s baby being scared of germs for one minute but literally coming back the next minute and saying he isn’t scared of them.

All of this said, please don’t let me saying anything bad about this film get in the way of you continuing to admire it as your favorite movie. I’m sure my favorite films have flaws I can’t see that you can. I still love the look and sound of this movie, no amount of weak story is going to change that.

In the end for me, if being shortchanged a great story means gorgeous visuals and excellent music, I am more than happy to spend another night here.

Overall Score: 7/10