I admit it. I’m a Miyazaki virgin. Well, practically. I saw Princess Mononoke years ago, but really don’t remember anything at all about it. And nothing else Miyazaki has done has ever made it in front of me for some reason. I think mainly it’s because I had gone through a phase of watching quality animated films from around the world at that time, and was just moving into a more visceral period of my film appreciation development where explosions and poetic violence took center stage. Anyway, Spirited Away is generally considered to be Hayao Miyazaki‘s masterpiece. Originally released in 2001, the film went on to become the highest grossing film in Japan’s history and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, a slew of other awards, and is on the BFI list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14. That’s a real list? Huh. Roger Ebert loved it, calling it “one of the finest of all animated films.” So there you go. It’s a good one. You should see it. Your friends should see it. Your dog should see it. Your cat will probably like it better, though. If you’re one of those few weirdos like me who hadn’t seen it yet, here’s the long and short of it. Ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino is cranky. Her family is moving to a new home, she’s leaving all of her friends behind, and is generally not enjoying anything about her life at the moment. They take a wrong turn and discover what appears to be an abandoned amusement park. Despite her sense that something is seriously not right here, her parents take her exploring, where they discover a market with what appears to be free food! But if you know anything at all about fairy tales in just about every culture, you don’t eat fairy-food. As the sun sets, Chihiro finds herself trapped in magical spirit world with her parents transformed into pigs and her only hope for survival involving getting a job at a bathhouse for weary spirits. Not ghosts but elementals and magical beings who populate the Japanese mythical landscape. For Western viewers scrambling for a referential foothold, there are strong elements of Alice in Wonderland (behind the scenes, as well, considering Miyazaki was inspired to write this film by a family friend’s sullen ten-year-old daughter) and a few moments that seem to be visually referencing the work of Maurice Sendak (especially his Nutcracker), but the heart of the story is about Chihiro discovering her own inner strength and overcoming the abuses and obstacles put in her way in order to save herself and her parents. The animation is magical in and of itself. Even if the story were empty of meaning and the plot boring and derivative, the look of this film would make it more than worth inclusion on your shelf of Blu-ray classics. But, as everyone with any sort of contact with the outside world knows, the film is successful on just about every level possible. The Blu-ray release is a brilliant 1080p/AVC-encoding that presents Miyazaki’s vision in amazingly crisp and clean colors balanced with deep, smooth blacks. The handiwork of Studio Ghibli is on display in every single shot and now you can literally see everything, from the tiniest movements of the sootballs to the distinctly individual movements in the crowded windows making up the backgrounds in the spirit city. The audio features two lossless options: a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix of the original Japanese language version, and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English dub by Disney. Both sound exceptional and dynamic, but really, why bother with the English dub? What are you, savages? Extras Original Japanese Storyboards: The entire film played out with the original storyboards by Miyazaki. Interesting mainly to see just how closely they stayed to the original idea. The Art of Spirited Away (15 min.): Really nothing here about the “art” of the film. Instead, this is a short featurette about the production of the American version, with an emphasis on figuring out how to translate the film into something that an American audience would be able to follow and understand. However, the American writers come off as complete idiots, and pretty much everything about this extremely long fifteen minutes makes me never want to watch the English language dub. Behind the Microphone (6 min.): Another six minutes about the English language dub. Nothing here that makes this version any more appealing. At all. Nippon Television Special (42 min.): This is almost worth the price of admission. This special is an in-depth look at the making of the film in a television special for Japanese TV. The TV crew is allowed plenty of access to Studio Ghibli from the planning stage up through the actual release of the film, providing an exceptional look behind the curtain. There are tons of nice tidbits here about the making of Spirited Away, but my personal favorite is the sound recording, where they set up a very untraditional studio where the actors were in the same room as Miyazaki with no glass partition, making for a sometimes very entertaining experience as the actors pull reactions from the creators. There’s lots of laughing and good humor throughout, despite the intense deadline pressures. It made me want to be a foley artist. Introduction by John Lasseter. Original Japanese Trailers (18 min.) Original Japanese TV Spots (4 min.) See larger image Spirited Away [Blu-ray] New From: $27.98 USD In Stock Spirited Away (2001) Blu-ray Review Paul's Rating4.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.