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The Great Media: Spirited Away

 
Yes, the last movie we reviewed was an anime movie, as is this one, but they are as different as night and day.  Whereas Akira is a violent fantasy set in a post-Apocalyptic world of the near future, Spirited Away is a beautiful children's movie that inspires and awes with its power and imagination. 

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Hayao Miyazaki is a gifted filmmaker.  He has produced and directed many beautifully rendered animated movies, including Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and others, but this is his masterpiece.  This is the one that will be on his headstone when he dies. 

The movie is about a child, Chihiro, who is bratty and immature at the start of the story, but when her parents are kidnapped and transformed into hideous pigs by forces unknown, she must mature quickly to rescue them.  Her adventure first brings her to a strange mansion, filled with many odd creatures and people.  To allow her to stay to continue her investigation, she gets a job in the mansion, the first semblance of responsibility she has ever had.

Her job is difficult, and she runs into both friends and enemies, including the evil (or is she?) with Yubaba, who appears to be behind the ploy that got her parents turned into pigs.  She also meets allies, including the part-dragon/part-boy Haku, who knows Chihiro from her past, but cannot explain how.

 

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Chihiro discovers Yubaba's child and somehow causes the child to be taken away from the castle, so she must go and rescue the child before Yubaba takes out her anger on everyone around her.  This adventure causes her to encounter Yubaba's nice twin sister Zeniba (who may be Yubaba herself).

Like all children's movies, it eventually wraps up in a nice little package.  Chihiro rescues her parents.  Haku remembers and reveals how he knows Chihiro.  Yubaba turns out not to be quite so bad.  And last but not least Chihiro becomes a much better person, nicer and less whiny, as a result of her adventures. 

The key here is the execution.  The story is beautiful.  It is perfectly paced.  It is unlike Disney movies in that there are no creatures singing songs, but it is also magical and entirely within the grasp of a child that is 7 or 8 years old but also appeals to older audiences.  I certainly plan on showing it to mine when she's old enough.  It is unconventional for a children's movie only in that it has such strange, foriegn-looking creatures in it. 

I saw it for the first time about 5 years ago, and I've watched it regularly since.  In fact, I think I should watch it again pretty soon.  It's been about a year.