Chihiro and her parents are moving to a small Japanese town in the countryside, much to Chihiro’s dismay. On the way to their new home, Chihiro’s father makes a wrong turn and drives down a lonely one-lane road that dead-ends in front of a tunnel. Her parents decide to stop the car and explore the area. They go through the tunnel and find an abandoned amusement park on the other side, with its own little town. When her parents see a restaurant with great-smelling food but no staff, they decide to eat and pay later. However, Chihiro refuses to eat and decides to explore the theme park a bit more. She meets a boy named Haku who tells her that Chihiro and her parents are in danger, and they must leave immediately. She runs to the restaurant and finds that her parents have turned into pigs. In addition, the theme park turns out to be a town inhabited by demons, spirits, and evil gods. At the center of the town is a bathhouse where these creatures go to relax. The owner of the bathhouse is the evil witch Yubaba, who is intent on keeping all trespassers as captive workers, including Chihiro. Chihiro must rely on Haku to save her parents in hopes of returning to their world.
Mystical, engaging, wonderful!
Spirited Away is one of the most perfect movies I have ever seen. The least I can say about it is that there was not a single moment during it that my attention wasn’t completely focused. The plot was fantastic and full-bodied. Each character was given so much personality, even the little soot spiders weren’t treated as two-dimensional.
In a way the whole film felt like a dream, in that it is seamless. It flows, effortlessly, from scene to scene, from emotion to emotion – straight from terror and tragedy to comedy – without the subtle bump that wakes you up, that lets you know that the makers of the movie and the creator of the script had wanted you to be crying but now you really should be laughing. It was so LIFELIKE. Sometimes in real life the most grim moments contain honest elements of comedy that do not seem out-of-place. But trying to put that sort of convoluted emotion into a film creates a very thin line that too many have fallen off of.
There was no part of the film that felt fake, or rushed, or shaky; the intensity of the story line and the determination of the lead character was obvious throughout. More than causing interest, this movie made me FEEL. I was sucked into the drama. I can rarely say that a movie made me laugh and cry without feeling like an idiot, but the caliber of this picture is so high that I don’t even feel embarrassed. I laughed. I cried. And you will too.