Ultimate Decades Blogathon Kick-off: Spirited Away (2001)

Welcome to the sixth annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon..well, the part 2 of it. Yesterday, my fantastic co-host Drew kicked off the Ultimate Decades Blogathon with his kick-off review of Bridesmaids. Today, its my turn to share my first pick as we kick off this blogathon with a slightly new format working with the decades ending in a different digit than an entire decade. As the first one, it suitably starts with years ending in 1. There’s a lot to look forward to for the upcoming entries.

First, let’s get this part 2 released as I share my review of Studio Ghibli’s 2001 Academy Award winning animated film, Spirited Away.

Spirited Away (2001)

Director (and writer): Hayao Miyazaki

Voice Cast (English Dub): Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, Susan Egan, Paul Eiding, John Ratzenberger, Bob Bergen, Tara Strong, Rodger Bumpass

During her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts. – IMDB

After much consideration, Spirited Away is an animated movie well worth a mention as it is the movie held onto the highest grossing film in Japan until 2020. It also won the Academy Awards as the only non-English and first handdrawn animation to win the Best Animated Feature award. For someone like myself that grew up with Hayo Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, it almost feels like the movie that acted as the perfect stepping stone for the world, especially those unfamiliar with anime, to finally get to know Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki.

There’s a lot to love about Spirited Away. It really does embody a lot of the trademarks and drawing style of Hayao Miyazaki as all the characters are drawn in a familiar way especially when it comes to the old lady roles, they always feel fairly similar to each other. Spirited Away is about a little girl who wanders into a world of spirits and basically goes on an adventure to rescue her parents and escape this world. This world can be mistakenly wandered in during the day but at night, the river floods the path and what they thought was an amusement park turned out to be something completely different. With a huge bathhouse as the main building and streets with stall after stall of food that spirits busily chomp away along with the colorful and odd world of the interior of the bathhouse from its boiler room to the bathhouse rooms and the big boss’s headquarters plus so much more, Spirited Away is a beautifully constructed world with so much to explore that offers a glimpse at the fantasy imagination and creativity that Hayao Miyazaki has to offer. As we follow Chihiro (or later known as Sen) go through the building looking for the job, there’s a sense of how big this world is which makes it rather impressive plus the clientele of the bathhouse are unique types of spirits.

There is an array of interesting little creatures and spirits to meet and a story that actually surfaces later on as a little twist. There’s no doubt that other than the story itself, the characters are a real star here whether its Chihiro who has to remember her name after she turns into Sen in this world or the witch Yubaba that runs this bathhouse right down to Kamaji in the boiler room and Sen’s friend Lin who works with her and especially Haku, a dragon that is Yubaba’s henchman. No Miyazaki film’s fantasy world is without its fair share of odd creatures whether its a giant baby or heads hopping around right down to another form of soot monsters (we saw them first in 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro) and so much more. Plus, the spirits themselves also have some interesting encounters that design especially for the two big parts with the Stink Spirit and another spirit No-Face who grows to have a liking for Sen.

Paired up with Joe Hisaishi’s music, Spirited Away is definitely a fun little adventure. Fantasy, magic, spirits all wrapped up into one. What makes it stand out is not only the colorful art and design and world building but the characters that they meet. While the bathhouse is a starting spot and has its own story as a foundation but the story that stems from there also adds a sense of mystery. Is it the best Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli film out there? That’s definitely debatable however, it is the movie that takes the first step for the world to know this amazing film studio with an creative director Hayao Miyazaki.

For further reading, you can check out my list ranking of Hayao Miyazaki’s work HERE.


That’s it for the kick-off post! Tomorrow we start off over at Drew’s Movie Reviews with the first guest entry. For the full list of entries, updated daily during the blogathon, you can find it HERE.