Spirited Away

spirited away 3I don’t know if I need to turn in my Asshole card for saying this but I’m not into Japanese animation. To be fair, I don’t know much about it. All I know is that Howl’s Moving Castle didn’t do it for me and neither did Ponyo, even though I know they should. Part of the problem, as Jay pointed out, is the rock and hard place in which we’re caught between reading subtitles or enduring bad dubbing. Recently though, I was on a date with someone who said that I absolutely had to see Spirited Away and next time- in the event of an uncomfortable silence- it would bespirited away nice to have “So, I finally saw Spiritied Away…” in my back pocket.

I was a little discouraged to discover (shows how little I know about the wonderful world of Japanese animation) that both of the above-mentioned films I had so little interest in were from the same master of the medium (Hayao Miyazaki) as Spirited Away. Not a great sign that this was going to be the movie that finally turned me on to anime.

Even though most who have seen it tend to regard it as a modern masterpiece, I was still spiritied away 2surprised how much I enjoyed it. I chose to watch the dubbed version, which being supervised by Pixar’s John Lasseter wasn’t nearly as distracting as usual. I made the right choice, partly because the English-language script was specifically written to match the lip movements on screen and was supported by well-cast voice actors. Mostly though, the images are often so bizarre, so imaginative, so exquisite that I would have hated focusing my attention to just the bottom of the screen even more than I susually would.

The plot centers around a bathhouse where dirty spirits can come to relax and the cast of characters include talking forgs, giant babies, stink spirits, and dragons. What drives it though is one human child’s journey into the unkown as she confronts her many fears to save her parents who are stuck in the spirit world. It’s like Finding Nemo in reverse set in a brothel.

Oh yeah, the brothel. Apparently Miyazaki saw Spirited Away as his commentary on prostitution in Japan. Even at a glance, the parallels are hard to miss but, after reading up on it, the metaphor is even clearer. I’m still not as enthusiastic as I am about movies like Wall-E or Up but it’s nice to see an anime film for once where I can understand what all the fuss is about.

 

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11 thoughts on “Spirited Away

  1. Jay

    Yes, I confess I liked this one too, and I even watched it subtitled! It’s beautiful and imaginative even though it’s more reality-based than space-exploring robots or balloon-flying houses.

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    1. mattasshole Post author

      Haha you threw me off there. I was about to write that I haven’t seen either of those Japanese movies and then I realized you were talking about Wall-E and Up.

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  2. Andrew

    Yeah, we just talked about this a few weeks ago during 4 Ways a Best Picture to…mixed reviews. Kevin loathed it, Britt loved it and I was somewhere in the middle. Japanese animation can be jarring because the themes presented can feel very foreign to US audiences, and the way they craft their animation is so different…but some of them can be truly mesmerizing. My Neighbor Totoro is an absolute masterpiece and one of my favorite films of all time.

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    1. mattasshole Post author

      Actually, yes, I remember reading that. I agree that the images take awhile to get used to and can be tough for North American audiences to relate to especially at first. I really did enjoy Spirited Away though and will keep Totoro in mind.

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  3. Brittani

    Like Drew pointed out, I loved Spirited Away. It’s easily my favorite anime now. It’s just so different from all the other ones I’ve seen.

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    1. mattasshole Post author

      It really is. I found it more visually appealing than the others I’ve seen and more importantly it felt more universal. Even if I didn’t understand all the cultural references, I felt like I understood what the young girl was feeling. I’m glad you like it too.

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  4. Pingback: Lilo & Stitch | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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