#ARequestedReview: Spirited Away [Grade: A-]

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Cast: Daveigh Chase/Remi Hiirage, Miyu Irino/Jason Marsden, Mari Natsuki/Suzanne Pleshette

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For my birthday, I received a scratch-off movie poster (my-gift.in) from a best friend. A few nights ago, this same friend was interested in scratching off a few posters for me (he was also a little inebriated, so I assumed this added to his interest LOL) and he would call out a film to confirm if I’d seen it or not before proceeding to scratch it off. There was no real rhyme or reason as to how he was picking films; he was just calling them out, or would say, “I know you’ve seen…” and then wait for me to confirm or deny. This is how we got to “Spirited Away,” a film that he figured I must have seen due to it winning an Oscar and his inebriated vouching of its amazingness due to his love for Anime. 

So I paid 12.00 on Amazon Prime to watched it, and was it bad? Not at all. BUT there is a lack of cohesion due to the non-linear plot that could have been easily fixed for my viewing taste. Now compared to the films it was up against in 2002 for Best Animated Film, it was definitely the most unique and thought provoking animation of the bunch, and I found myself torn with how the film was allegedly discovered—it was great to be seen and given the exposure, but also a little unfair and “rigged-adjacent.”

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Below are my grades for key components in #SpiritedAway that I find to be key in any story/film—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development.

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the $$, Matinee Only, Stream It, & Don’t Rush.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale. 

* * *

Theme: A

Plot: A-

Pacing: B+

Character Arc/Development: B

Entertainment Factor: For Anime & High Fantasy Lovers—Worth the $$ / For others: Don’t Rush

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The Takeaways (BOLD= Thumbs Up/Pluses & Relaxed= Thumbs Down/Missteps):

  1. The focus and theme centered around the environment was super appreciated. 

2. I really enjoyed the entire atmosphere/setting of the Bathhouse once you are fully engaged with it through the lens of the main character—the overall energy and feel was very exciting. 

3. I also appreciated the way the film developed the themes of greed and selfishness. 

4. However, to piggyback off #3, the relationship between the main character and her parents felt too forced for the sake of initiating the development of the theme. 

5. As I watched, I immediately thought of Marlon James’ book “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” due to the level of liberty with the high fantasy, and its impact on the clarity of the plot. I mean, from hopping heads, to spider-humans, dragons, talking frogs, animorphism… like, phew! There’s so much going on. LOL 

6. The overall detail and level of animation is beautifully done. 

7. I appreciated hearing an actual child do the voice over, though there were line deliveries that felt “extra,” though very much on brand with anime characterization. 

8. I liked the character “No-Face,” but also was left feeling conflicted about its development overall…something didn’t feel as clear and cohesive as it could have been, but the character definitely brings up interesting conversation with the theme. 

9. I’m sorry, but the sudden “realization” at the end with Haku… that felt rushed. I needed something in the beginning to help solidify the main character’s connection to that final realization. 

10. Additionally, to piggyback off #9, the main character went from Chuckie Finster to Doug’s Quailman too quick for me. Like the moment with the water pipe? For real? Already? Woooooow! 

* * *

Overall, it is a beautifully animated film with a great theme. There’s a fun, yet dark creepiness to the overall storyline, too. It is a little over 2 hours, but it doesn’t feel like it; albeit the moments that feel like they went on a few minutes longer than necessary, but that is also to be expected with anime sometimes. 

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