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Spirited Away

Spirited Away -

Greed; it has no limits, no boundaries, and no antidote.

Spirited Away was Japan's most successful movie during the 00's, and it even dethroned Titanic from the number one spot at their domestic box office. To this day it still stands as the highest grossing film in Japan and, at its initial release, was lauded as one of the most successful animations ever, winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. And it is the only non-English, hand-drawn animated film to do so.

Hand-drawn animation can suffer in a number of ways when it comes to storytelling. For instance, the attention to detail, or lack thereof, can present the same story in a multitude of ways. Too little detail and we are left wondering what story is trying to be told, and too much detail can leave us reeling and failing to absorb other crucial storytelling elements, such as dialogue. Spirited Away is rare in that it maintains a fine balance between too little and too much detail, and not once does its animation detract from its storytelling. Emotion is conveyed without ambiguity, and action is presented without confusion. Yet all the while there is a secret that hides beneath its surface; a type of magic I daresay.

Spirited Away is also one of the few animated films where you surrender nothing when faced with the choice between its subbed or dubbed presentation. The English writers were, in my opinion, acutely aware of the importance behind this choice and were able to create a dubbed edition that seamlessly integrated English voice acting with the animation, and I am convinced that this was instrumental in its success with American audiences. Couple this with the fact that most of the original audio effects were left untouched, and it creates a product that is nearly timeless in its execution. I cannot help but see the significance in this bilateral perfection: it is the perfect vessel suited to Disney's greed, furthering the movie's motif.

Timeless art is rare in its execution and even more so in its marketing, but the true genius that lies beneath the surface of Spirited Away is the moral ambiguity it conveys to the viewer. Greed sneaks into and behind every line and color without once presenting itself as an evil to be avoided. Instead, it welcomes us, befriends us, and shows us that the true evil of greed is desire itself.