Spirited Away

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“Once you do something, you never forget; Even if you don’t remember.”
Overview: Chihiro and her family are moving to a new house. They end up taking a detour (a “shortcut”) and Chihiro ends up getting lost in a bathhouse for spirits as her parents get turned into enormous pigs. She is trapped in this spirit bathhouse until she can rescue her parents and get out. But how to do that? The bathhouse is controlled by a large-headed witch, and the only way Chihiro can stay (and not get eaten) is if she starts working there… This film is about growth and of course the age-old theme of triumph over adversity. The animation is a combination of traditional animation with new-age computer graphic animation.
Noteworthy Actors / Actresses: Daveigh Chase (Chihiro), Lauren Holly (Chihiro’s Mother), John Ratzenberger (Aogaeru, the assistant)
Homages / References / Trivia: The original Japanese title was Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi which means “The spiriting away of Sen and Chihiro” (“kami” = Spirit, “Kakushi” = away). Chi and Sen both use the same Japanese Kanji, meaning 1000. The name ‘Sen’ is a play on the name ‘Chihiro’. The character “No-face” (the monster that Sen accidentally lets into the bathhouse) is actually “Noh-face”, which is in reference to the mask it wears. The mask is a type of mask used in Traditional Noh Theatre in Japan – English viewers will typically believe that it means “no-face” as in “he has no face so he wears a mask instead.”  Also, Haku’s real name is more than just “Kohaku River”, but that was a dub error in the movie, which changes the meaning of his name drastically.
Verdict: This movie was adorable. You have to kind of be a fan of Japanese animation to really appreciate the style, but it’s not too hard to follow. The movie’s plot reminded me a lot of video game Role-playing games — the character faces a series of tasks with escalating difficulties, and is assisted in each one by either people she met before, or things she acquired from previous tasks. This thematic is present in many media created in Japan (other movies, video games, Manga, etc.) — the idea of using what you’ve gained from your past to assist you in the present. While the movie is definitely angled towards a younger demographic, it’s still entertaining for adults, and it has a certain whimsical charm to it as well. I consider it worth seeing.
From IMDB(2001): Chihiro and her family are on their way to their new house in the suburbs when her father decides to take a shortcut along a lonely-looking dirt road. After getting out of the car and walking along a path for a while, they discover an open-air restaurant filled with food but with no workers or customers present. Mom and Dad don’t hesitate to sit down and dig in, but Chihiro senses danger and refuses. As night falls, she is terrified to see the area fill with faceless spirits, but when she runs to find her parents, she discovers that they have been turned into pigs. She is found by a mysterious boy named Haku, who promises to help her. He gets her a job working in a nearby building, which turns out to be a bathhouse for the thousands of Japan’s gods and spirits. Though the work is hard and the people strange, she does as well as she can. Her parents, however, are still waiting in the hotel’s stockyard, and Chihiro must find a way to break the spell on them before they end up as the main course of some guest’s dinner.