Reviewed by Alexandra Seidel
Spirited Away is an Oscar-winning production from Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Miyazaki Hayao. It was released in 2001 and shall be reviewed here, as spoiler-free as possible.
Spirited Away is a classical to-Fairyland-and-back adventure. All the elements we love so well are there: bravery, friendship, shape-changing, and the discovery of the main character’s inner strength (that was just sitting there, ready to be discovered all the time). There is of course also a little bitterness in this, for those who visit Fairyland will eventually have to go home again.
The main character is Chihiro, a young girl (on a personal note, seeing a strong female main character makes me just love this anime that much more). She gets inadvertently pulled into the fairy realm (not European Fairyland, this is the home of the Japanese gods and spirits) where she works hard to save her parents who foolishly ate fairy food and got turned into pigs as a result.
Now, Spirited Away is full of all these little details that we know and fervently love from myth and folktale. For example, we will find the evil witch/good witch dichotomy here that so many fairy tales contain, the magic of one’s own name, the trials of the hero, and how she always finds her own creative ways to come through in the end.
Spirited Away combines these well-known elements with its very own visual flair. Settings and characters are created with love and great care for detail. The bathhouse Chihiro finds herself in would just be highest on my list of places to visit if I ever got the chance to travel to Fairyland.
To summarize, Spirited Away is a lovely tale, something that you can watch as a child, and then re-watch as you grow older just to see new things in it every single time. This anime is just like a good book that way, and really, that should be saying everything.
Alexandra Seidel is a Rhysling nominated poet, writer, and editor. She has a powerful affection for the unreal and strange, the weird, the wicked, and naturally, the beautiful. She loves speculative writing because all these things come together there with the power to create universes. Oh, she also likes tigers, who doesn’t.
Alexa’s work has appeared in Jabberwocky, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and elsewhere. Her first book, “All Our Dark Lovers,” is forthcoming in 2013 from Morrigan Books. She is the poetry editor for Niteblade and the managing editor of Fantastique Unfettered. You can read her blog (which she really tries to update once or twice a month) at www.tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Alexa_Seidel.