An entrancing escape from daily life. This movie follows the life of Chihiro as she moves to a new town with her sulky attitude intact. When the appetite of her parents leads their family to a strange region with huge portions of food on display, her parents succumb to their drooling mouths and absolutely stuff their faces. You know how kids can sometimes just sense when something’s not right? Chihiro gets that feeling in the strange town and decides to wander around by herself, only to discover that her parents have transformed into…pigs! She must travel into the depths of a bath house overrun by strange spirits and magic, where as a human, she is utterly alone and an outcast. She keeps her wits about her as she strives to search for a cure to turn her parents back to normal, but will the mysterious boy Haku play the role of her saviour, or does he have other plans in mind?
The imagery is absolutely captivating. From the magnificence of the bathhouse to the variety of the various magical creatures there. The character design is so unique and distinct for each of the spirits and the characters seem as though they are a mishmash of creatures from the depth of someone’s wildest imagination. From the indignant yet softie Kamaji who is part old man, part spider human:
To the majestic but ruthless Haku, who also happens to be a dragon.
Yubaba features as the angry old bird women who is the head of the bath house and the strange faceless spirit that is unnervingly adorable and horrifying at the same time. This movie has an array of unforgettable characters.
The cascade of events in the movie allow the plot to flow very smoothly! As Chihiro ventures deeper into the world of the bath house, she must overcome feats like this:
Chihiro as a protagonist has a heart of gold and a will of steel. The perfect combination of traits which slowly, but surely wins over the reluctant members of the bath house. Even Yubaba admires the natural talent she has to offer. In her nervous yet determined way, Chihiro is able to make friends with the soot balls that are mischievous and feed on rainbow coloured star confetti, a radish spirit that is indifferently awesome and Lin, who looks strangely like an older version of herself and takes the role of her mentor.
This movie is enchanting to the eyes, has a musical score that fits each scene remarkably and has menacing and has soft-centred characters. Of course, there is a much deeper meaning below the surface. It focuses a lot on the downfall that reliance on greed will cause a person. It shows the invaluable nature of sacrifice in bringing a person true happiness. This is focused upon in many ways. The first obvious instance of Chihiro’s parents with the spirit world food, the next instance with Yubaba realising that her child is missing and she didn’t even notice because of her preoccupation with the money she was earning and another instance with the spirit No face, who tries to buy Chihiro’s friendship and the friendship of everyone at the bath house. No face is the literal manifestation of greed in this film as he chases Chihiro around, enticing her, yet her strong determination gets her through every trial thrown at her. There are certainly many! From rescuing her many friends, evading danger and recognising her parents amidst a sea of pigs, she certainly doesn’t have it easy.
The ultimate message of this movie is that real human connections are the thing that is most precious and valuable in this world, as money and treasures will never pull through for you the way a trusty, yet perhaps begrudging friend may. Chihiro sacrifices all the rewards she obtains for her hardworking nature on her friends without a second thought and that’s what truly wins her the ending that is magical, fulfilling and utterly satisfying. This is an excellent movie which masterfully combines amazing visuals and quirky, yet endearing characters with a deep message that resonates as strongly throughout the film at an extremely enjoyable and appropriate pace.
Bunta Sugawara, 16 August 1933 - 28 November 2014 RIP
Renowned Japanese actor dies aged 81. Sugawara who rose to fame in the 1970s playing wild-at-heart gangsters on the mean streets of post-war Japan also voiced my favourite character Kamaji in Spirited Away and later voiced Sparrowhawk in Goro Miyazaki’s Tales From Earthsea.