Spirited Away: Anime, Dragons, and Disturbingly Fat Babies

Our next movie is Spirited Away, a 2001 animated film from famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki.  It is the first anime film to win an Oscar, and it earns a spot at #439 on our list.

Chihiro is a sullen young girl in the middle of her move, when her dad decides to take a detour, and they end up transported to a spirit world.  I hate it when that happens.  Her parents eat food that was intended for the  gods, and they get turned into hogs.  So here are the rules: Chihiro has to get a job, or she will get turned into an animal too.  With some help from the Boiler Man and a mysterious boy named Haku, she signs a contract with the witch Yubaba, who runs the bath house for the spirits.  She takes Chihiro's name, who is now referred to as Sen.  Haku warns her that if she ever forgets her real name, she won't be able to return to the human world.

Chihiro works very hard at the bath house, and she spends the film trying to figure out a way to get her and her family back to the human world.  There's a lot of crazy stuff that happens, but you know what?  If I try to explain it, it's not going to make sense and it's just going to sound crazy and I think you should just watch it, ok?

Random Musings:

  • This dad is a terrible driver.  He's doing like 80 through a forest.  Also, I hope this doesn't sound weird or anything, but I've never seen a Japanese guy with a beer belly like he has.

  • Haven't these people ever seen a movie before?  When you come across something off, out of place, and unsettling, in the middle of nowhere, you should probably just hop back in your car and drive away.

  • Are they seriously eating all this random food that's been sitting out for god knows how long?  That might, you know, belong to someone?

  • This is some creepy shit!  The blobby ghosts and the whole parents turning into giant hogs thing!

  • And why is she all see through?  Is she like Michael J Fox in Back to the Future?  And who is this random kid with the pageboy?  I demand answers, movie!

  • "In the name of the wind and the water within thee, unbind her."  Ohhh...I figured out who he is.  This guy.

  • I make a point of not trusting anyone who is commonly referred to as The Boiler Man.

  • She has to work otherwise they'll turn her into an animal?  What gives?  Is this some kind of child labor amusement park?

  • Dude, even the spiders have to work?  I mean, whatever, I hate the little sons of bitches, but this is the worst amusement part ever.  Edit: So apparently the spiders are actually soot, and they are the cutest little buggers ever!  I love that they save her shoes.

  • The Boiler Man looks like a skinny version of the bad guy from the Sonic video games.

Maybe if Dr Robotnik, Mr Fantastic, and Aragog had a torrid love affair and somehow produced some kind of unholy offspring.  Yeah...that would be the Boiler Man.

  • OMG when I was like four years old, I had this nightmare where I was letting the cat out to use the litter box, and when I shut the door, there was this ugly green head that followed me up the stairs.  Clearly it had an impact on me, because I can still remember it vividly 20 years later.  So imagine my surprise when that asshat and two of its buddies show up in Spirited Away!

  • So at some point I really have to ask:

But in the best possible way.

  • Who is this creepy guy in the shroud and horrifying white mask?  Anytime he wants to stop showing up randomly, that would be cool with me.

  • Holy shit, so the scary bird woman stole her name, and if she can't remember it she'll forget who she is and never be able to leave?  This is seriously off-putting.  You know, this is reminding me a little bit of the old TV show Are You Afraid of the Dark.  I remember there was one episode, where this evil old witch stole the girls' faces and they were just referred to as numbers.

  • I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way, but does the bird woman remind anyone else of the really old-fashioned Jewish stereotypes?  She's got a giant nose, is obsessed with money, wants to control everything.  When I first saw her, she immediately made me think of old racist political cartoons about Jewish people.  Or the beginning of Borat, when they have the ceremonial running of the Jews.

  • I hate that freaking baby.  It is infinitely more appealing as a fat little mouse.

  • I want a word with whoever runs this train.  It can operate through a foot and a half of water?  The trains in Britain shut down when there's leaves on the tracks!  Clearly somebody needs to do a study on the spirit world and learn its secrets.

  • This whole subplot of the importance of things having their proper names is giving me waves of The Neverending Story.  I like it.

I really like the style of this film.  It's magical and full of imagination and not afraid to be a little scary.  The holy trinity of children's entertainment.  I was very invested in the story, and I loved the animation.  The only thing that I think would improve it would be watching it with subtitles instead of the English dub.  I normally avoid dubs like the plague, but for these reviews I have to make do with what I can find, and I was having trouble tracking down the non-dubbed version.  I feel like this is the kind of movie I would have loved/been terrified of when I was a kid.  And I'm always so pleased when I see kid's movies that are genuinely interesting and thought-provoking, instead of the typical sarcastic films that come out littered with pop culture references to try to draw in the adult crowd.  This is a really great, charming film, and I'm really looking forward to watching more of Miyazaki's work.

Thanks for reading, and come back next time for Strike!

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