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Spirited Away

Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001)

I love this movie to death, and I still do.

This movie was released when I was growing up, so of course I got to watch it around the time it first got a DVD release. Back then it was love at first watch, and I used to draw occasional sketches of scenes in the movie. I could never properly get the hang of drawing all those bathhouse residents, but it didn't matter as long as I had fun. I knew I loved all of it for some reason, but my young and still developing mind couldn't get a grasp of it. Now as an adult I can now analyze and contemplate on cinema; it's wonderful whenever I visit a childhood favorite and properly realize it's brilliance.

This marks the 7th or 8th time I've seen this movie. That's mainly because whenever I got a close friend (girl OR boy) I'd show Spirited Away to her/him. It's a fun activity mainly because I get to lecture her/him if she/he doesn't like it, and I get to watch such a great film again. Never gets boring. So yeah, the first point I want to make is that this film feels like a fresh new one with every watch. Miyazaki fills the frame like there's no tomorrow. You always miss a detail or two, then upon revisiting that exact same frame you notice an amusing quirk or two. If possible, I'd really like to cover the walls of my house with all the available stills from Spirited Away, but a major drawback is that I'd not have enough space.

There's also a lot of inception going on, or as I call the suspension of suspension of disbelief. Or maybe just simply imagination inside imagination, kept hidden under the beautiful palette surrounding the film until the moment comes. Some creatures are revealed to be objects, and vice versa. A certain character seems to have this trait but it turns out it's caused by prejudice and wrong judgement, which can easily happened when you are transferred to a world built on pure imagination.

Apparently Miyazaki wasn't trying to make a family-friendly film or everyone to enjoy (in fact quite shocked by the success of one of his little projects). This film is just one of his silly, but mythical and awe-inspiring films that he's done for years. When it hit Western audiences it shook them because they had never seen an animated film with such detail. Miyazaki, like any traditional craftsmen, didn't follow the mainstream, didn't change the way he made films, and eventually became the mainstream. The following years showed a lot more detail in animated films, showing that crappy pop culture references and one-dimensional cute concepts aren't everything.

That being said, it's understandable for not liking this film, because it has a tendency to rely on fantasy elements and surreal imagery instead of a moving plot and emotional moments. But look closely and you'll see that within the chock-filled frame there are those emotions exist, floating around, waiting to be discovered by the audience. The emotion in Spirited Away is subjective. You might think this scene is said, while others might think it's happy. In other films, sadness means sadness, and happiness mean happiness. Not here.

I want to write more... but I'm so tired. To wrap things up here's the epic theme song for Spirited Away: