Monday, February 23, 2009

DVD: Spirited Away

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Voices of: Daveleigh Chase, Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly
Year made: 2001

The greatest animated adventure ever?

Hayao Miyazaki has bestowed on us an anime adventure of Tolkien-like imagination. If you buy, rent, borrow or shoplift one film this year that you wouldn’t normally try otherwise, make sure it is Spirited Away

Like Tolkien, Miyazaki has created a uniquely original, rich, textured and fantastic world in which he tells a very simple tale in simple, yet stunning, 2-D animation. Chihiro is a typical 10-year-old girl, moody, brash and stubborn. She finds herself trapped in a spirit world where her parents have been transformed into pigs, her identity erased and then she’s put to work in the spirit’s bathhouse, run by the sorceress Yubaba.

In order to escape and rescue her parents, Chihiro must find strength within herself and overcome the many challenges laid in front of her in this strange universe. Along the way she gets helping hands from an array of incredible characters that come in all colours, shapes and sizes. It is wonderfully captivating Alice In Wonderland stuff, flawlessly realised by a master craftsman.

More than his skills as an animator and director, Miyazaki’s talent lies in his storytelling and the insightfulness of the world and people therein. Blink and you will miss the subtle observations it makes in a brilliantly intelligent sleight of hand.

After two hours of dedicated viewing, and after three years’ hard work on the part of Miyazaki, you would think a better treatment would have been given to the DVD release. Picture and surround sound are magnificent; our disappointment lies in the extras, or lack thereof.

The storyboard-to-screen comparison is nice for about five minutes, at which time the novelty of flicking the angle button newly discovered on your remote will wear tediously thin. A short featurette on transferring the feature to English (which was overseen by the mighty John Lasseter of Pixar) is of little interest as it whimsically flies through the process.

And while the Nippon TV special runs to 41 minutes, it gives very little insight into the man we want to know more about and his personal take on his work. The boat has been sorely missed.

Film: 5 stars
Extras: 2 stars

Special features:
• Full-feature storyboard-to-scene comparison
• Making of Spirited Away Nippon TV special (41 mins)
• ‘Behind The Microphone’ featurette (6 mins)
• Japanese trailers and TV spots

If you like this why not try…

Alice In Wonderland
More characters than a mad hatter’s tea party and as surreal as any David Lynch movie.

This review first appeared in DVD Review issue # 63


Zja Noir said...

I totally agree with your assessment of this film. I was introduced to Miyazaki at uni when the anime club and the environmental club held a joint movie night and showed Princess Mononoke. I have been hooked ever since. He has a way of viewing the world, with both innocence and yet a canny wisdom.. looks can be deceiving (ie monsters tend to be the good guys), nature is a mystic wonder worth preserving and a joy in the innocence of childhood.

Spirited Away is one of my favourite films, and Myazaki is one of my golden calves.

Scott Henderson said...

Thanks Jacq, I'm a huge Miyazaki fan and at some point I will maybe post an extended 5,000 journal piece I wrote on his entire works. Watch out for that massive word dump!

In meantime, Spirited Away is probably one of my all time favourite films also. It holds a pretty special place in my heart.