Spirited Away

Spirited Away, by the Japanese director, Hayao Miyazaki, is a 2001 anime film. It tells the story of Chihiro, a young girl who is moving to a new town with her parents. On the way, they get lost and stumble upon what appears to be an abandoned amusement park. They find a food stand with hot food but no one around. Chihiro’s parents start eating, but Chihiro is frightened and runs away. When night falls, it becomes clear that the place is populated by spirits. Chihiro finds that her parent have been transformed into pigs. She runs into a boy, Haku. With his help, she gets a job working at a bath house that serves 8 million gods. It is presided over by a sorceress named Yubaba. She renames Chihiro Sen. By taking away her name, Yubaba makes it impossible for Chihiro to return to the human world. Chihiro is determined to rescue her parents and escape from Yubaba.

Spirited Away is a fantasy that touches upon themes of environmental degradation, the corrupting influence of consumerism, and the malleability of identity. In one scene, for example, Chihiro has to prepare a bath for a spirit who is covered with filth. She notices a thorn in his side. When she removes it, a stream of discarded trash (old tires, washing machines, etc.) comes pouring out. The spirit is then revealed to a river god who has been purified of the human waste that has built up in his river.

The characters are complex, none of them are completely bad or completely good, unlike your typical Disney movie. The result is that this film offers a richer and more satisfying experience than your typical fantasy adventure. Spirited Away is beautifully made. Some of the scenes are just gorgeous. At the end of it, one feels as though one has emerged from a dream.

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