The special A Night at the Academy Museum that aired when the long-awaited Academy Museum in Hollywood opened had all sorts of highlights. The one that really caught my eye was the gallery devoted to Hayao Miyazaki. He created beautiful, award winning animated films I’d never heard of.
To learn more, I found Spirited Away (2001) and Princess Mononoke (1997) available on HBO Max. I watched Spirited Away first and will describe it in this review. I also watched Princess Mononoke, but liked the storyline better in Spirited Away. Both were visual masterpieces.
The over 2 hour long animated adventure begins and ends in reality. The 10 year old Chihiro is moving to a new town with her parents and she isn’t happy about it. Between those bookends is an amazing, imaginative, fantasy adventure that is a brilliant work of art.
The family is whisked away into a bathhouse for spirits. There anything can happen. Humans turn into pigs. Soot carries coal. Boys become dragons. Witches become crows. Radishes walk into elevators. Babies are bigger than elephants and an old witch named Yubaba runs the place.
Chihiro’s parents need saving in this place. Luckily Chihiro makes friends who help her save them. First is Haku, a boy who tells her how to get a job from Yubaba so she can stay there and rescue her parents. Otherwise, humans aren’t allowed in this place. Haku helps her in multiple ways.
When Chihiro talks her way into the needed job, she’s put to work with Rin. Rin is another friend and helper in this world of spirits and quests.
Chihiro is timid and frightened at first. She’s afraid of everything in this strange new world. As time passes and with trials and quests to face, she finds her courage and her inner strength. She becomes the heroine in her own story.
I’m 20 years late to learn about this film and watch it, but time hasn’t dimmed the magic a bit. You may be years ahead of me in the Hayao Miyazaki appreciation department. If you’re just hearing the name, like me, I suggest you find this film and others by him available on streamers and take a look.
However, time may have affected the voice over in the trailer. You have to love these old “In A World” style teasers.