One thing I like about Asian culture is their legends are populated by some of the most bizarre creatures, Gods, ghosts and entities I have ever seen and Hayo Miyazaki’s animated movie, Spirited Away, is a good example of this. I bumped into this movie one day on cable back in the mid-2000s and was so captivated it easily became one of my favorites.
The flick is about a 10-year old girl named, Chihiro, who along with her parents, are in the process of moving to a new location. Her father eyes their new house from a distance, but unsure of the route decides to take a short cut on this rural path. The car hits a dead end, so they get out to explore and wander into what they think is an abandoned amusement park. It’s the smell of food that propels her parents deeper into this seemingly abandoned spot. Chihiro wants to leave and is mortified when her parents find where the food is being cooked, sit down and help themselves.
Wandering out on this bridge she encounters this boy named Hoku, who yells at her to get out, before it gets dark, and tries to hold “them” off (whoever “them” is) until she can get clear. Not understanding what’s about to happen to he, Chihiro rushes back to find her parents have turned into pigs and this abandoned town is now coming to life as the sun goes down. Too late to leave, Chihiro finds herself trapped in a ghost town, where she too is becoming transparent, but this Hoku finds her again and feeds her, making her solid once more, but she is still trapped and if she and her parents want to get out alive, she’s going to have to “play by the rules.” Hoku psychically implants this route into her head so she can make it to Kamaji, the multi-armed being that runs the furnace of this immense bathhouse at the heart of this ghost town. A job she is told to ask him for, and not to take no for an answer.
Eventually, she ends up coming to face-to-face with Yubaba, the old woman witch who runs this town and the bathhouse, and she is supposed to give a job to anyone who asks her for one. She steals Chihiro’s name after she signs a contract and renames the little girl, Sen. This is how she controls her subordinates, by stealing their names, but Hoku reminds Sen of her real name so as to ensure she can someday escape. Hoku cannot remember his real name and has been a prisoner of Yubaba for a long time. It’s soon revealed he’s a dragon, or at least able to transform into one at leisure, it also gets back to Sen that he supposedly does Yubaba’s “dirty work.”
Sen’s job is to cater to the various spirits that come to the bathhouse, and she goes through three personal trials while working here. The first one is helping a water spirit who has a “thorn in his side;” making amends for mistakenly allowing in a creature called, No-Face, that goes on a rampage of gluttony; and curing Hoku of his servitude. A task that also includes visiting Yubaba’s twin sister.
What I like about Myazaki’s movies is they aren’t simply tales of good versus evil. The lines may appear to be clearly drawn starting out, but they move and get grayer as the tale progresses.
Disney/Buena Vista put this out here on DVD back in 2003 and it’s taken a long 12-years to get it onto blu-ray. In fact just about all of Miyazaki’s movies have already hit blu marking this past June 16th as Spirited Away’s official inauguration into high definition here in the US.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5,1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio—English, English SDH, French
These remastered blues of Miyazakis’ movies are always great to look at. Colors are always stunning and so is the clarity.
Extras (ported over from the previous DVD release) include…
- Introduction By John Lasseter (1:09)
- The Art Of Spirited Away (15:12)
- Behind The Microphone (5:42)
- Original Japanese Storyboards (2:04:31)
- Nippon TV Special (41:53)
- Original Japanese Trailers
- Original Japanese TV Spots
My favorite Miyazaki films are Nausicca Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Nausicca is the only one I still do not own yet.