Spirited Away is a Japanese animated film, which may just be the most beautifully animated film of all time. I saw the film numerous times during my childhood, but I hadn’t seen it in a very long time until I watched it over Christmas break. I was blown away by the masterful animation. The film is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also drew most of the film by hand. Each shot is meticulously crafted with beautiful precision and it is done almost completely without the use of computer animation. The film is also unbelievably creative with many creatures and beings created by Miyazaki and his production team that are unlike anything else.
The film is about a young girl named Chihiro, who while moving to a new area with her parents stumbles upon a spirit world in an abandoned amusement park. While exploring the deserted amusement park her parents come across a food stand and can’t resist devouring all the food in sight. To both the audience and Chihiro’s horror, her parents are transformed into pigs. Chihiro is then forced to sell her name to the evil Yabuba in return for a job at a magical bathhouse, so she can remain in the spirit world until she can rescue her parents and return home. Along the way she encounters fantastical spirits, and helps the bathhouse and the spirit world as a whole.
The story is entertaining, but what really separates this film from other animated films is the beauty and detail in every frame. Miyazaki includes so many amazing details in each scene that don’t necessarily add anything to the story, but are included because Miyazaki wants to showcase his vast imagination and create a setting unlike any other. Many of Miyazaki’s spirits are very minor characters, yet contain unique features and are drawn with the same amount of care as the major characters. The image below shows the immense detail that goes into every inch of the frame.
Directors such as Stanley Kubrick are often praised for the detail they put into each shot and their films are often considered the most beautiful of all time and deservedly so, but this film and many of Miyazaki’s others should be given similar praise to many live-action films in terms of beauty. If you were to pause Spirited Away at any moment you would be impressed with the animation. It is a fantastic film, which has received a ton of praise including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but I still believe it could receive even more acclaim and appreciation.
This review does a good job of describing the film and Mayazaki’s film making style.