Bad Monsters and Good Sprites in Spirited Away

Spirited Away is a 2001 fantasy animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli’s most well-known film, and to no surprise, it is noteworthy for being the first ever anime (Japanese animation) to win an Academy Award. Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl who ends up discovering a secret spirit world ruled by Gods, witches and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts. The movie starts off by showing Chihiro and her parents in their car on their way to their new home in a different city. Chihiro’s parents take a detour in order to explore an abandoned theme park that they stumbled upon. After entering the abandoned theme park, Chihiro and her parents investigate and find a deserted stall piled with food and they start eating with no hesitation. They persist that Chihiro eats as well, but she does not seem to care about food. Chihiro decides to wanders away by herself since she is not interested in whatever her parents were doing. While she explores, a boy appears and warns her to leave before the night falls and runs back to the stall where she left her parents, only to find that they have turned into pigs.

As it gets dark outside, Chihiro starts becoming transparent. The boy that she met earlier, Haku persuades Chihiro to eat food from the spirit world so that she does not disappear. After getting her to a safe place, he explains that the amusement park a place for spirits who need to relax from their time spent in the real world and he gives her in-depth instructions on how to get a job in the spirit world, which is the only way to keep her alive.

The plot of the movie instantly sucked me in since moving out and leaving friends and memorable places behind was something I had gone through myself. In kindergarten and elementary school, I had move to a different place a few times due to my father's job. Just like every young dreamer, I always fantasized about being transferred to a different magical world that would have more than our current physical one regardless of the dangers or difficulties that I would have to go through. So, the whole idea of discovering and exploring new worlds is something that stuck with me for a very long time, visible in my movie and tv show choices even until this day. Chihiro's characteristics is also something else that have stuck with me since the first time I watched Spirited Away. Some could say that Chihiro expresses immerse amounts of both determination and kindness, visible in her actions and choices during the film. Her kind actions are rewarded which taught my young self and possibly millions of other kids a very important life lesson that carries on in life from start to finish, an aspect that the writer really pays attention to, with one of his most popular quotes being, “I would like to make a film to tell children 'it's good to be alive'.”

But most importantly, the one thing that helped me grow up and live my way through elementary and high-school years was something that Chihiro said to her parents as they were driving away from the theme park after everything had happened right before the film ended, which was that she will be able to probably handle a new home and school. Being a kid that had already changed a few schools and neighborhoods, that single line itself was a huge motivation and a dose of reassurance that I needed to hear during those years of my life, marking Spirited Away as my all-time favorite animated film.

Miyazaki is undoubtedly one of the few writers that have directly influenced, inspired and helped create a mold and a strong structure for my own work. Miyazaki and Ghibli Studios are very good at creating interesting, living characters that everyone can relate to and understand. Usually when producing an animated movie, the writer also has to create a storyboard to give the rest of the staff the chance to flesh out a cohesive, fully realized story. Meaning that Miyazaki puts an insane amount of work into his films doing the work of two, maybe even three people at once and that is because transferring a message or having a very strong and compelling protagonist is a hard thing to achieve in an animated film since nothing is real and everything has to be fabricated and thought out before even starting creating the film. Each and every single one of them have their own separate backstory and life, growing and revealing new aspects of themselves as the film progresses.

Ghibli is an amazing animation studio, able to create living, breathing, deep, intricate fantasy worlds, always more interesting that our living world, making its viewers dream and fantasize of what it would be like to live in one of those worlds. One of Miyazaki's goals is to transfer positive energy to his viewers, giving them hope and courage through his films. No wonder Miyazaki's works sometimes seem like the ultimate in constructive creativity. Spirited Away displays a variety of characters ranging from cute animals, to scary spirits and demons, actively showing Miyazaki's expertise in creating memorable characters Irregardless of their shape or species.

Spirited Away is well known for its simple and unique art style, something that’s very common between all Miyawaki's films. That’s a result of most of them being hand drawn, giving them a very a beautiful, natural and feel, something that differentiates and makes his films stand out from the others. Miyazaki’s ability to take basic real-life problems, dilemmas and social issues and turn them into a visual story strong enough that changes the individual's minds and perspectives about life is an astounding talent that requires more recognition. However Only a few of his films have had a great success in the Western world (more noticeably Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke) which is a big shame considering the work that goes into one of his films. His films and way of creation is something I deeply admire and think that most animation studios and producers should look up to and take notes    

07 April 2022
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