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Spirited Away:
real world anime

by Wedy Peng, associate news editor


“The movie is a masterpiece, pure and simple – certainly the finest thing that the distinctive Japanese style of animation, called anime, has produced – and a film that can stand with the Disney classics of the ‘30s and ‘40s in the range of its imagination and the quality of its execution,” said Dave Kehr, a writer for the New York Times.

Spirited Away is another award-winning animation movie from Hayao Miyazaki who produced Princess Mononoke in 2000. Spirited Away has won a series of international film festival awards in several cities, including Berlin, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Tokyo.

Click on image for larger view

Born in Tokyo in 1941, Miyazaki graduated from Gakushuin University in 1963 with degrees in political science and economics, and had an interest in children’s literature. Miyazaki’s interest in animation developed after he saw Taiji Yabushita’s White Snake Enchantress in 1959.

Combining superb draftsmanship with his academic credentials, Miyazaki joined Toei Animation Company and launched his career in making animation films, according to his biography. Miyazaki has proven to be a genius animator, with his works include Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Red Pig, and My Neighbor Totoro.

Miyazaki’s films have a softer touch than other Japanese animator, and often focus, as does Spirited Away, on the adventures of teenage girls. Like most Miyazaki films, Spirited Away also contains elements of science fiction and fantasy, and often reveals humanistic, ecological themes that reject the darker aspects of human nature.

“The world in this movie is the reflection of the reality of the modern world, just more obscure,” said Miyazaki, who explained that the wounded river spirit in the movie symbolized serious pollution problems in the real world. “I think spirits of Japanese rivers are living sorrowfully and sadly, just like the one in the movie,” Miyazaki added.

Combining fascinating ideas with Japanese cultural style, the story begins with a family that is moving to a new place to start a new life. Like other children, the 10-year-old daughter, Chihiro, does not like the change. She misses her old school and friends.

The family gets lost on the way to their new home and discovers a hillside tunnel. Chihiro and her parents venture through the tunnel and find an abandoned theme park. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, Chihiro must fend for herself in a bathhouse as she encounters strange spirits and a sorceress who seek to prevent her from going back to the human world. Chihiro must overcome all the difficulties in order to rescue her parents and return to the human world.

The film comes to American audiences in a newly dubbed English language version. This is a great movie, not only for kids, but adults as well.



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