Readers’ Recommendations: “Spirited Away”

spirited_awayHey everyone, it’s Friday, time for another entry in the Reader Recommendations series!

The Reader Recommendation series is intended to help me formally pursue all the great films that commenters bring up each week in discussion which I’ve never seen. If there’s a movie that comes up that I haven’t seen, but you think I should, email me @ or let me know in the comments that you’d like to participate!
BruceThis time up, our recommendation comes from old friend and FMR commenter Bruce Hewes, who’s recommended Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”. I’ve loved all the Miyazaki movies I’ve seen so far, so I’m excited to check out another one!
Click through to see what we had to say!

My questions in bold, Bruce’s answers below!


1) Do you remember when you first saw the movie?

I honestly can’t remember when I first saw this movie but it’s been at least 8 years.

2)Why do you think that it’s recommendable? What do you like about it?

It’s great a story that is simple with a few characters that you just really like. Even Faceless becomes. A lovable character. Miyazaki creates a fantastic world with all kinds of creatures but many based from Japanese mythology with other mythologies thrown in. The movie is not hard to follow, so you can just sit back and enjoy.

3) Is the movie underappreciated, do you think? Or does pop culture have it fairly rated?

I think now that John Lassater has brought the Miyazaki films to Americas attention and they’ve been dubbed in English more people are enjoying them. The Japanese Anime has always had a decent following in the US but you had know where to look for it. This movie and Howl’s Moving Castle are great gateways to the Miyazaki world and other Anime.

4) Is there any particular reason you thought I should watch it, or were you just surprised I hadn’t seen it?

Think I answered that in question 3. But Anime is a subset of animation so if you’re not into animation and fantasy these films are easily missed.

5) Have you written about the movie yourself? (Insert plug here! LOL )


Thanks Bruce! My Review is below!


“Spirited Away” tells the story of Chihiro, a young girl who is moving with her family to their new home. On the way, they get turned off onto a dirt road… at the end is a strange building with a long tunnel. Her parents decide to explore it, in spite of Chihiro’s protests. Walking through the tunnel, the family discovers what they believe to be an abandoned amusement park. There, they come upon a food stand with an enormous variety of hot food waiting to be eaten. Chihiro is afraid, and won’t eat any, but the mother and father happily sit down and begin digging in.

Unfortunately, the place they’ve discovered is no abandoned amusement park, it’s actually an alternate reality, full of magical creatures, and they’ve happened upon a bathhouse controlled by the greedy witch Yubaba. After eating, Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs. Thankfully, she runs into a boy named Haku, who points her in the right direction in order to stay safe and begin her quest. If she ever wants to go home again, Chihiro must work for the witch Yubaba in an effort to find a way to reverse the transformation on her family.

As with all Studio Ghibli films, “Spirited Away” is gorgeously animated, and astonishingly imaginative. In her trip to the spirit world, Chihiro finds a cacophony of odd creatures that simply defy description. Walking, talking toads, bouncing disembodied heads, gluttonous ghosts in tiki masks and an enormous, pudgy, violent baby. She’s befriended by the six-armed Kamaji and his army of soot spider workers, and Haku the half dragon, half boy/living river.

As with other Miyazaki films, it’s a simple story on the highest level, but filled with so many detailed facets and intricacies via the characters and the world that it feels complicated. There are numerous themes to explore, from the greed and avarice of the evil characters in the film, to the coming of age aspect of the heroine’s journey. Chihiro begins the film as a clumsy, frightened young girl, but in order to rescue her parents and protect her new friends, she’ll find her confidence and stand up for what’s right.

Somehow, Miyazaki is able to fill his films with a warmth and heart that translate clearly to the viewer. It’s impossible to watch one and not feel the love and affection that went into making it. The lead character is highly emotive, and you simply can’t help but root for her to free her family and save the day. I’m not certain that I latched on to this one quite as strongly as I did with “Howl’s Moving Castle” or “Nausicaa”, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still an excellent, excellent film. Thanks for the recommendation, Bruce!!


Daniel Fogarty

30 thoughts on “Readers’ Recommendations: “Spirited Away”

  1. This was one of my first Miyazaki films and I still love it, though I agree with you and prefer Howl slightly. There’s a ton of beautiful imagination on display as always and it’s just a delight to watch.

    • Exactly. I think of the three I’ve seen so far, I actually like “Nausicaa” the best, though it’s close between that and “Howl’s”, but they’ve all been great. “There’s a ton of beautiful imagination on display as always and it’s just a delight to watch.” seems to fit for all of them! I hope the rest that await are just as good as these have been! 😮

  2. This was my first Miyazaki film. As you might expect, I was completely blown away. In the years since, I’ve seen all of his movies. While this is not my favorite, it is certainly near the top. Great review, Fogs, glad you liked this one.

    • Thanks Brik, I figured I would. I kind of expect that all of his movies are going to be great now. After three great ones in a row, you just naturally pencil in the rest for greatness.

      One day I’ll be able to say I’ve seen them all, too!

  3. I haven’t seen a single Studio Ghibli film but they recently showed them all on TV over here and I recorded most of them to watch at some point, this included. Can’t wait to finally sit down and immerse myself in them. Good stuff guys!

    • I’m still a neophyte, too Chris. I’ve only seen 4. 3 Miyazaki’s and then “The Secret World of Arriety” They’ve all been excellent, you wont be disappointed. Excellent animation and characters that are beyond imaginative. 😯

  4. Great review! I’ve also been recommended to see all the Studio Ghibli films, especially ‘Spirited Away’ but haven’t had the chance. Its on my watch-list 🙂

    • You should check them out Meera, they’re fascinating! Great great animation, crazy characters, fun stories, and a ton of heart. I have a hard time imagining anyone NOT liking them! 😀

  5. Glad I could help and yet another great review. I’ve loved all the Studio Ghibli films. There are still more to go. Castle In The Sky, Princess Mononoke, Whisper Of The Heart, The Cat Returns, Pom Poko (hard to find), My Neighbor Totoro to name a few more. Keep the reviews coming.

    And it’s Hewes, lol Auto correct, huh.

    • Not sure. Might have been, might have been me just not knowing how to spell it. Will fix now!

      Meanwhile, yeah, I’m definitely going to keep plowing through these, they’ve been fantastic so far! 😀 Thanks for the awesome recommendation, man, I appreciate you taking part!! 😀

  6. Nice job! I’m still catching up on Ghibli films as well, but Spirited Away is definitely one of my favorites so far (probably right after Nausicca).

  7. Although I’m in the camp that contends, “Princess Mononoke” is Miyazaki’s best film, I certainly can’t deny the brilliance “Spirited Away”.

    Actually, since you brought up participation in this, in the future, and since I’ve recommended to you, so many movies already on one the last “Tossing It Out There Post”, you did, if you were want me to participate in this series, just FB me, let me know and I’d be more than willing to. 🙂

    • No need to bring Facebook into play, Dave we can do it here. My standard warning is in play – its going to be a few months before I work my way through the queue. But if you – or anyone – want on, just let me know!

      Is “Princess Mononoke” what you’d like to go with?

      • Okay, no FB. I understand. As to what film, “Princess Mononoke” is a good one, but there’s so many movies…. Okay, here’s what I’ll do. When I’m recommending films for others, especially one whose tastes I’m still not trying to familiarize myself with, I give them a few options….

        Princess Mononoke
        My Dinner with Andre
        Before Sunrise
        Three Colors Trilogy
        Dinner Rush
        Once Were Warriors
        Wings of Desire
        Arsenic and Old Lace
        Crimes and Misdemeanors

        I know you haven’t seen at least some of these films (let me know if you have though), but they’re all films I have some kind of personal connection to, so why don’t you pick the film, from this shortlist? If you’d rather stick with your traditional protocol, and I’ll select one from the list myself, but-eh, if one of the films seems like something you’d rather watch sooner than later, I don’t see why you should be completely restrictive to my selection.

      • Thanks! I’ll go with Mononoke then. The Miyazaki recommendations have tapered off for the moment, so it’ll be nice to include another one.

        It’s gonna be a couple months, just to tell you straight, but I’ll send you off an email with plenty of advance notice, Dave!

  8. Hi, Fogs and Bruce:

    Excellent recommendation!

    I’ve always enjoyed the overblown, enchanting childlike wonder of Miyazaki’s works. And ‘Spirited Away’ has that front and center. Creating a solid foundation for an often eye popping, solid story.

    Good work, guys!

    • Thanks Jack. Yeah, its hard not to be impressed with Miyazaki’s works. “Childlike Wonder” is a good way of expressing it. They’re just beyond imaginative…. its really mind blowing, the stuff that he comes up with! 😮

  9. “He’s thrown nothing but strikes so far.” 🙂 So true. And ranking them is kind of like ranking Pixar titles they’re all so A+ it’s just a matter of taste, really, but I’m glad to see you guys putting Nausicaa at the tippy top. I thought I was in the minority there. If you’re a big fan of Nausicaa, it’s safe to say you would appreciate Princess Mononoke. There are some common themes and story elements for sure.

    Spirited Away though is a one-of-a-kind film though. Fogs, you nailed it with saying it has the simplicity of a familiar fable but the details add up to a deeper bonding with the characters and the film. Miyazaki is just a genius at moving us at a dreamy flow from one stunning landscape to another. Chihiro’s journey and her maturing as a person via the relationships she builds with the various spirit characters she meets is a wonderful core of the story.

    Thanks Bruce and thanks Fogs for more Miyazaki posts and appreciation.

    • Cool, good to hear you think Mononoke and Nausicaa are comparable, but I have a hard time imagining I wouldnt like any of them at this point. They’re SO well done. Imaginative, colorful, the stories are a trip 😀 They’re great!

      In the meanwhile, thank YOU! You’re the one that got the ball rolling. LOL. I think once everyone saw me get around to “Howl’s” they all said “Fogs will watch Anime??? 8O” and then the rush was on! LOL 😀 It’s been good stuff though, I have to admit. The contributors here have been making great, great choices so far! 😀

  10. Not much for me to say here, since I haven’t seen this one yet myself (but I’m aware of the high praise and its Oscar win). But I will chime in on the recommendations for Princess Mononoke. Saw that on its US theatrical run, and enjoyed it quite a bit.

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