Okay well I was never really much of an Anime watcher, aside from watching Pokemon and Digimon religiously as a kid. But I do respect it as an art form and how different it is from Western Animation. I haven’t seen many Anime films (Pokemon and Digimon again) but this was something my Art teacher showed us once in class. I found it bizarre, confusing and a little creepy. I loved it!
Our main hero is a ten year old girl called Chihiro who is on her way to moving to a new town. She and her parents decide to stop at an abandoned carnival, and the parents also decide to stuff their faces with the food that is mysteriously laid out there. They end up getting turned into pigs and Chihiro discovers that they’ve become trapped in the spirit world and her only chance of surviving is to go and work in the bath house for the various spirits. The movie follows all the adventures she has in the spirit world for the next three days.
This is easily one of the most trippy and bizarre films I’ve ever seen. It plays out almost like Japan’s answer to Alice in Wonderland with how random and crazy most of the stuff that happens is. But this works in the film’s favour as it is one of the most beautifully animated and adventurous family films ever made.
The animation is spectacular and you can tell the artists went all out when designing the spirit world. The bath house is one big elaborate art piece and I’d dread to think what a set designer would do if this film was in live action. Two of the more elaborately designed places are the office of the witch Yubaba who runs the bath house, and the room with the huge bath tub that’s only reserved for huge customers.
There are two versions of this, one being the original Japanese language edition and the other being the English dub. I watched the dubbed version, mainly because I watched a film with subtitles two days ago and I didn’t feel like doing it again. The voice acting is still pretty good but would you believe that Samara from The Ring is actually voicing our young hero? Another voice I recognise is the same woman who played Meg in Hercules voicing Lin in the bath house. And another voice I recognise is Jason Marsden (aka Tino Tonitini for you Weekenders fans) playing Chihiro’s friend Haku. I’ve heard people say the Japanese version is better but I thought the English dub sounded fine to me but I’m easy to please. If you’re in doubt which one to watch, the English dub isn’t as bad as people make it out to be so don’t feel bad about wanting to watch something in your own language.
I think my favourite scene in the film would have to be where Chihiro takes a ride on a literal “soul train” to see Yubaba’s twin sister. It’s a beautiful sequence of her passing by all sorts of places and the music is the finishing touch. There’s also a pretty epic flying sequence of Chihiro riding on a dragon that comes shortly after this. As you can probably guess now I’m a sucker for flying scenes and it is an impressive piece of animation.
There isn’t really anything bad I can say about a film like this, except if you don’t get Anime, you probably won’t like this film. It’s a fun family adventure film though since Japan aren’t as uptight as the Americans you’ll find a few graphic scenes and a bit of blood in it as well. You’ll also be forgiven if you get scared by the creepy demon No-Face.
So that’s it for today and my exploits in Japan. I’ll be returning to Asia a couple more times on the list but it’ll be for live action films. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.