Sep 25, 2009

[Movies] Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (2001)

Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no KamikakushiAs kids, there were many things that scared us. This could be pretty much anything - the dark, noises in the middle of the night or ominous shadows crafted by clouds against the moon. Whatever it is, there's just something about the imagination of children that can turn any ordinary object into something potentially fearsome, magical or wonderful.

I was always afraid of getting lost in the mall, personally speaking. I don't know why, but I had this irrational fear that amidst the crowds of people off shopping, I could potentially disappear at any moment.

I feel that one of the greatest strengths of Hayao Miyazaki is his abilty to tap into the way children think. The world of a child is one of whimsy, wonder and magic, which can ultimately be good or bad. It's something we see in his movies time and time again but each time it remains new, fresh and interesting.

Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi was the second film to receive the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the first Japanese anime film to win an Oscar, and with good reason. This film is just brilliant in how it was brought together even though the child in me found the whole experience quite disturbing.

Haku distracts spirits to protect Chihiro in S...Image via Wikipedia

The story revolves around 10 year old Chihiro, who is moving to a new home with her parents. They happen to get lost along the way and eventually wander into this seemingly deserted town with mounds and mounds of food just sitting there. Her parents sit down to sample the food while Chihiro looks around and stumbles into a boy named Haku, who warns her to leave at once with her parents. Of course it's too late and Chihiro returns to find her parents have turned into pigs and spirits have started to enter the town. Thus she's now isolated from her parents, stuck in a realm of ghosts, spirits and gods and needs to find a way to escape, turn her parents back into humans but ultimately to stay alive.

I have to admit that the movie felt very, very disturbing to me in the beginning, especially given I've been playing a Changeling game with my partner and some friends. The way that White Wolf has managed the Changeling game experience felt all too similar to how this movie portrayed the fickle-mindedness of the deities coupled with the vast power made available to them. It's a rather lethal combination that is sure to scare anyone, quite frankly.

In many other Ghibli movies, there's tends to be a portion when things seem to settle into a rather idyllic peace of sorts similar to what one would feel in the provinces or the countryside. This one felts highly stressful for most of the movie given the constant danger Chihiro was potentially in while she was in this realm.

It really is a very striking movie and I can understand why it won so many awards. It remains to be the kind of story that everyone can someone draw connections with but at the same time still present a new face to the world that is not at all familiar but is more along the lines of the magical and the fantastic.

This is not just another cartoon and definitely not just meant for children. If you really want to see a thought-provoking piece that operates on many different levels of thought, then you definitely need to make time to see this movie.

Spirited Away gets 5 bath tokens out of a possible 5.


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