Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Rumi Hiiragi, Hiyu Irino, Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden
“I finally get a bouquet and it’s a goodbye present. That’s depressing.”
To my knowledge, I believe this to be the first feature-length anime film that I was lucky enough to see in the theater at the time of its release. To this day I can still remember walking in late and trying to find a seat in the packed theater. I remember being in awe and in wonder that the movie experience that I had. Afterwards I turned to my mom and asked her what she thought of the film. To put it lightly, she absolutely hated it.
“Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can’t remember.”
Spirited Away centers on the character of Chihiro, a 12-year-old that along with her parents accidentally stumble upon the world of the spirits. But this isn’t heaven, when her parents start to eat the food of the spirits; they are magically transformed into grotesque pigs. Now she must escape the spirit world and save her parents before it is too late. Personally I have not watched spirited away in quite a few years so to me this was like watching an entirely new film again. After 12 years of its release it still holds up very, very well.
The very first thing I noticed is, with every single frame of this film, how much imagination and wonderful ideas are bursting out into the audience. Miyazaki, is truly proven himself to be the Walt Disney of the modern age. The pacing is also really great with some scenes having an extremely fast pace while other scenes having time to breathe in between the action, but everything flows to where it never gets tiring. The characters are extremely memorable even those who have barely a name, or screen presence are still remembered at the end. I found myself pointing up to the screen several times during the film when going “hey look it’s ______”.
Animation here is some of the best that I’ve ever seen. Simple movements look incredibly lifelike and facial movement is really spot on. Even the music by Joe Hisashi is incredibly memorable and has its own stage presence in the film. Several times during my day after watching the film I would be humming the main theme and thinking about it again which is something I wish modern films will be able to achieve.
It’s really hard trying to think of something Spirited Away doesn’t get right, but if I had to nitpick, and knowing me I must, the film does drag on just a hair too long. By the end of it I felt a little bit exhausted and think it should’ve ended about 10 minutes earlier. But if you asked me which seem to cut to make it 10 minutes shorter I honestly couldn’t tell you. Every scene is important and adds to the film so to cut any out would do the film a disservice. Spirited Away is purely a masterpiece that will live on for years to come, even if my mom didn’t like it and to this day hates it.
“Hey, Boss! It’s me! I’m hungry! Why don’t you wake everyone up?”
Presented in a 1:78.1 aspect ratio, spirited away is another flawless presentation from Studio Ghibli. Colors here are striking, and the black levels are incredibly deep. Ghibli once again provides a perfect transfer, there is head and shoulders above the film print that I originally saw it on. Details on simple objects have almost a “brushstroke” quality to them making it feel very hand drawn while still being, technically, computer animated. I detected no blanding, pixelation, haloing, or any other defects other than perfection.
“It will protect you. It’s made from the threads your friends wove together.”
Presented in a Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 audio track, Spirited Away truly comes to life in a way that has never been heard before. This disc also contains a Japanese LPCM 2.0 mix, but I personally didn’t like it since it sounds restrained and more like a TV audio mix. It also contains a lossy English 5.1 mix that, while good, is limited in its bit rate. Usually I do not like 6.1 audio tracks due to my limited 5.1 setup. This usually causes either the right or the left rear channel speaker to be more lopsided and have more information coming out of it than the other, such as the Star Wars saga Blu-ray set. But with spirited away I never had such issues. The dialogue is centered in fidelity is strong, pans are extremely natural and the music really envelops the viewer. But it’s not just music that surrounds the viewer; folly fully really creates an atmosphere that is extremely believable. Rear speaker usage is good but I felt like it could have been used more in certain situations, but in by no means is that a bad thing. Spirited Away is an excellent sonic experience.
Packaging and Special Features
“Oh, my baby! Are you all right? Are you emotionally traumatized?”
Packaging for this disc comes in a lovely dark brown Blu-ray case that has a magnetic lid and is identical to the Princess Mononoke disk that I reviewed a few months ago. I must say I really do love the simplistic cover art that really makes it stand out on my shelf. Bonus features on the other hand are a little bit light for this release. There is a bonus feature that allows the viewer to read the script, in a picture in picture mode, but this is all in kanji, so I hope you know Japanese. It also contains trailers for upcoming Ghibli releases and other anime films coming out. Also included are some trailers for upcoming Blu-rays featuring Miyazaki’s life.
Overall(not an average)
”Once you’ve met someone you never really forget them. It just takes a while for your memories to return.”
Overall I would recommend this disc to anyone who wants to see Spirited Away on Blu-ray and a 1080P format with lossless audio, but at its $60 price tag, it is a steep price to pay for such a collector’s single disc item. The film itself is utterly fantastic, the video quality is superb, and the audio quality is a joy to listen to. The features are the discs only letdown and I feel when this is released in America it will have more features. But for now this is the only release, and I love having it on my shelf.