Well, this is pretty much THE Ghibli title according to the rest of the world. It's as though it poses as the end all, be all of the whole collection. The most probable case for it, is that it's not only the first Ghibli Studio film to be nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, it also won. Of course, that year, its biggest competition was probably either 'Ice Age' or 'Treasure Planet'. So yeah, this totally deserved it. Since then, however, Ghibli has kinda gotten the shaft for winning those Oscars, but that's a whole other subject.
'Spirited Away' tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro Ogino (Rumi Hiiragi/Daveigh Chase) who is on her way to her new home, along with her parents. They get themselves a bit lost, taking a path towards the house, and happen upon a tunnel. They go through the mysterious tunnel, only to find themselves at what appears to be an abandoned park of some sort.
Upon smelling some delicious food, the parents locate it, eat the hell out of it, and turn themselves into pigs. It's then up to Chihiro to work for an imaginatively created bathhouse for spirits in order to save her parents, and get back home safe. The whole time she is also seemingly stalked by a mysterious spirit known only as "No-Face", who is one of the creepiest characters of the Ghibli universe, at least for my money.
There's plenty of imagination and creativity going on here, and knowing the way my mind works, it's no surprise that there's a big part of me that likes this film. It's a truly original concept for a fantasy film, it's kinda dark, and it's loaded with imaginative characters and ideas. The entire concept, at least as far as I can tell, has a lot to do with greed and the contrast of hard work in order to accomplish what you need to, and it's done quite cleverly. But if I missed the point entirely, feel free to call me out on it.
That said, I have to confess that there's a small part of me that also nags about how slow it feels at times. I really can't lie, I didn't end up finding this one terribly exciting. Its charm certainly lies most in its creative aspect, and overall originality, for which I give it full credit. I just kinda feel like there are much better Ghibli titles out there, three of which already include 'Mononoke', 'Castle in the Sky' and 'Porco Rosso' - but that's ONLY speaking for my taste, please do not come to my house with torches and pitchforks.
This one, to me, meets me right around where 'Pom Poko' did. I actually still really like it for what it is, but it just doesn't blow me away like some of the other titles. If I'm honest, I remember liking it a lot more the first time I saw it a couple of years ago. It was also my introduction to Ghibli studio films, so at the time, I was a little more mind-blown by its animation and originality than this time. Now, I've seen a bunch of other films on the list, so it's just not as crazy awesome to me anymore. But again, still very good, and still a title I'd highly recommend to anyone starting the Ghibli thing out.
As anime is an all-around untapped resource for my viewing pleasure, I have decided to explore the Ghibli titles, one-by-one. It seemed good a place to start as any. I'll be focusing on these titles throughout the month of August.