with Neil Gagman's
Perdido Street Station by China
Mieville, this 2001 Japanese animated feature is probably one of the few
truly original works produced in what could be loosely be described as the
fantasy genre over the past few decades.
Spirited Away actually beat out the popular Ice Age to win an
Oscar for best animated feature in 2002, it didn't quite set the
international box office on fire. (Okay, it was the highest grossing film
in Japanese box-office history - more than $234 million - but that's Japan
for you. . .)
I suppose that audiences shied away
from it because they sensed that it was wildly surrealistic and something
wholly original - whereas cinemagoers prefer the predictable and staid
equivalent of a McDonald's burger. Something like Bad Boys 2, where
you know exactly what you're going to get.
Spirited Away one instead got something completely unexpected and
unpredictable, and I?ll be honest when I say that I peg people who didn't
like it as being unimaginative dullards (hey, so I?m unfairly judgmental
in that way).
geek-idol Hayao Miyazaki who also did Castle in
Neighbour Totoro and
Kiki?s Delivery Service
(all of them excellent), Spirited Away is probably both a
culmination and summation of this director's oeuvre.
So what's it about then?
Amazon.com supplies the
following plot synopsis: Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Lewis
Carroll's Alice, Chihiro plunges into an alternate reality. On the way to
their new home, the petulant adolescent and her parents find what they think
is a deserted amusement park. Her parents stuff themselves until they turn
into pigs, and Chihiro discovers they're trapped in a resort for traditional
Japanese gods and spirits.
I'm afraid this doesn't exactly do it justice - Spirited Away is
Incidentally, in the English soundtrack version Chihiro is voiced by
Daveigh Chase - Lilo in Disney's Lilo & Stitch ?
something I didn't quite catch even though I have seen movies quite a few
times recently. (Disney having bought the U.S. distribution rights probably
DISC: This is the Region 4 (Australia) single disc version distributed
by anime specialists Madman Entertainment. There is a limited (to 10,000
sets) two-disc version as well. That version features storyboards (five
scenes, three angles), Japanese/French/North American trailers, a
featurette, and an image gallery.
This is not that disc. All one gets here is the movie (in its proper
aspect ratio) with English and Japanese soundtracks as well as English and
Japanese subtitles for the more purist amongst us. I know some anime are
dubbed quite badly, but this isn't one of them.
Anime freaks may crucify me for this, but I prefer dubbed anime because it
allows me to focus on the animation instead of the often clunky dialogue.
Hey, let's face up to it: most anime aren't particularly noted for their
sparkling dialogue and clever and comprehensible plots.
Speaking of which, according to this
there has been some disappointment with the image quality of this particular
PAL DVD as opposed to the American NTSC DVD. While I did some fidgeting with
the default settings on my television to achieve optimal settings I must say
that the image quality was quite acceptable though unremarkable. Same goes
for the sound.
Oh, by the way, there are some trailers for other anime trailers
distributed by Mad Man such as FLCL, Robotech and the like.
Interestingly enough, even though quite a few of these titles feature
those clich? gigantic robots battling it out, the graphic styles are
quite divergent but still recognizable as being anime. One title, FLCL,
especially stands out as being something off-beat and original. Does
anyone know it? E-mail me
if you do.
Peculiarly enough, one cannot access these features except through a menu
that appears at the end of the feature!
RECOMMENDATION: Anime fetishists would probably want the feature
rich two-disc set. I however want my fifteen-month-old baby girl to see it
one day when she's older and I doubt she'd be too interested in seeing how
it was all done so this cheaper disc sufficed.
Anal high-tech fetishists would probably even want to buy the NTSC Region
1 (U.S. and Canada only) disc which has an altogether different feature
WORTH IT? If you do buy Spirited Away for your kids, then
parents should however exercise caution. It is suitable viewing for
children, but younger kids would be scared. When I saw it on the big
screen I remember a poor little tyke who got so scared during the first
five minutes or so of the movie that he practically begged his parents to
leave - which they did!
Parents should check out the movie beforehand, but the recommendation on
this particular disc that parental guidance should be exorcised for all
kids under the age of 15 is good advice. (Don't let this put you off
completely - older children would be enthralled by it.)