• Daniel Rae

Spirited Away Review

"Spirited Away", Studio Ghibli, 2001

My first Studio Ghibli film I watched proved to be one of my favourite films in recent memory. I absolutely love this film and has sparked an admiration for this type of rich visual storytelling.

This film harnesses, reflects and assesses the tropes of anime in order to tell one of the most original stories I've had the pleasure of following. It's unwavering beauty serves as a platform for it's entirely unique personality and self-reflexive approach towards the traditional fantasy genre. This is extremely effective for Miyazaki to take the diegesis into a vast array of different directions whilst remaining consistent with the themes of greed, identity and growing up, all of which are presented in refreshingly-engaging and equally-unique ways that nevertheless feels grounded despite the sporadic pacing. This is brilliantly reflected by the springy stylistic bases that it covers - every colourful change in mood serves an important job in juggling the deeply-immersive imagery and the often disturbing subtext that it holds underneath. This is where we see the consistency in the level of storytelling continue to flourish - whilst the more contemplative moments are filled with more duller colours, Miyazaki and his team understand the beautiful-yet-twisted world they are trying to create and so fill the mise en scene with rich blues and reds that ties back to the notion of fantasy and wonder. This impression of texture and detail that invites the audience to latch on to the sense of tangibility this world echoes underlines the equally beautiful-yet-twisted reality of the parallels our world shares with the world Chihiro stumbles into. The vapid transition into adulthood that the protagonist takes, despite how extraordinary it's presented being, actually highlights the emotional torment we all have in the working world. This enables the character development Chihiro goes through to feel very human, sparking a textured line of identification with the audience who can project their own memories of falling into what feels to be an alien world of adulthood. This attention to detail with the characterisation here can also be seen with everyone the protagonist comes into contact with. The different angles into identity and maturity the film presents through these different characters are encapsulated by their unique design, which are often carried by animal imagery, poignantly underlining the steady decline of individual identity with the bureaucracy that defines the 21st century.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this style of visual storytelling that enables it to swim in interesting metaphor. Whilst the film does occasionally retreat back to the fantasy genre formulas that its meant to progress forward with, such as the strictly defined roles of the characters who assist the "hero" of the story, it ultimately remains flexible in recognising the intricacies of reality and fantasy and using both worlds as a platform in order to grow as an individual.

5/5 Stars

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