Spirited Away is an actual family anime – no fan service, no convoluted plotline, no blood and guts and robots.
It is a good, solid story that shows a whiny annoying kid begin to take responsibility for herself and her actions – something kids need to see more of. Everything is concluded nicely by the roll of the credits, and you can actually feel like you’ve just had a complete experience, and not a “tune in when the next episode comes out.”
The visuals are nothing short of astounding. The colors are especially rich, and they’re supported by complex textures and movement. For the most part, the motion isn’t as fluid as it could have been, but the individual characters do have a nice flow to them. CGI intrusion is minimized for the most part, except for one scene of the characters running through flowers – very obvious CGI work that disturbed my suspension of disbelief.
The characters are well developed, and it turns out that the characters you made first impressions about are not what they appear. The old multi-armed boiler tender isn’t as menacing as he appeared in the beginning, and No Face turns out to be a monster, who then turns out to be just a lonely creature.
Perhaps the best part of the story is the transitions that Chihiro, the little girl, goes through. She started as a brat, bitching about every little thing, and she ends up becoming a stronger person who looks out for others. The path that she follows brings her further along in her maturity, and when she finally returns to the real world, you can see and hear the marked change in her manners and her voice.
I watched this anime with my three kids, and the younger ones were very scared when No Face started going nuts. When Chihiro finally made amends with No Face, my kids actually started talking about how only the greedy ones were suffering, and how it’s not a good thing to be greedy. That point showed me how powerful a movie Spirited Away really is. It did have several positive messages that kids could pick up without being in-your-face about it. My kids all ask to watch it over and over, and it’s my 9 year old son’s favorite movie “of all time in the whole world.”
Hmmm, a Japanese anime, with positive messages, beautiful and haunting images, and a great plot. How can you beat that?