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Hayao Miyazaki
Miyu Irino, Rumi Hiiragi, Mari Natsuki
Writing Credits:
Hayao Miyazaki

During her family's move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/15/2003

• Feature-Length Storyboards
• Nippon TV Special
• “Behind the Microphone” Featurette
• Trailers & TV Spots
• DVD Copy


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Spirited Away [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson & David Williams (September 1, 2022)

In 1997, Hayao Miyazaki directed the acclaimed animated movie Princess Mononoke. Not to be outdone, 2001’s follow-up Spirited Away received ample praise as well – and became the second flick to win Oscar’s then-new Best Animated Feature award.

10-year-old Chihiro Ogino (voiced by Rumi Hiiragi) and her parents Akio (Takashi Naitô) and Yûko (Yasuko Sawaguchi) move to a new home and community. It’s quite obvious that Chihiro isn’t the least bit excited about her current situation or her new surroundings and she clings to a bouquet of flowers given to her by her best friend like her life depends on it.

However, things take a turn for the mystically surreal, as the father takes a shortcut, quickly gets lost, and then the family finds themselves at the entrance to what they think is an abandoned amusement park. After a bit of exploring, the family runs across some mystical food that Chihiro refuses to eat.

After they consume these items, the parents transform into pigs and Chihiro finds herself all alone in a frighteningly beautiful world of ghosts, ghouls, monsters, gods, and spirits. It turns out that the “amusement park” is really a mystical bathhouse used by tired spirits for rejuvenation.

Chihiro realizes that there’s more to this place than meets the eye and feeling very alone, she runs in to the mysterious Haku (Miyu Irino). He helps her to understand the strange world she finds herself trapped in.

Spirited Away is a truly remarkable film and is considered by many to be one of the most significant animated features to have ever hit the big screen. The film was helmed by Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli.

Together, they have turned out other animated gems like My Neighbor Totoro, KiKi's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki has been called by many the “Japanese Disney” and whether you’re familiar with him or not, he has had a major influence on American animation/cinema.

Asian cinema has always had a great influence on American filmmaking. While Miyazaki may not have the name recognition and celebrity of someone like Akira Kurosawa, in many circles, he’s just as influential.

To handle an English dub/translation, Disney brought in the big guns - John Lasseter and Kirk Wise – to supervise the North American release and they went through tremendous pains to make sure the translation was as faithful as possible to the original. For starters, they hired top-notch voice talent and in the end, did an excellent job of dubbing the feature.

Truth be told, their work was quite impressive. As promised, Disney left the film itself alone and simply made every effort possible to make sure that the more traditional ink and paint style of Miyazaki was only enhanced by their transfer efforts.

Chihiro’s experiences at the bathhouse will astonish and astound you and Miyazaki is one of the few animators around who has the vision and wherewithal to pull it off. The imagery as well as the characters are ripe with symbolism and it’s obvious that Miyazaki has a lot to say in the film.

Much like Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, there are a multitude of messages in the film and the characters and spirits, as well as the situations they find themselves in. All hold a certain significance to the director and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways by the viewer. It’s an amazing adventure that will capture the hearts and minds of viewers young and old alike.

Spirited Away shows that there’s no match for the spunk and boundless energy of a 10-year-old girl – not even witches, ghouls, or magic curses. It’s a fairy tale adventure and a wonderful exercise in storytelling and imagination. <

It’s visually stunning and skillfully told and it just goes to show us that if we look, we can all find the strength within ourselves to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. The film becomes well worth the two-hour plus time investment for fans of fine cinema.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Spirited Away appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie offered a strong visual presentation.

At all times, sharpness remained terrific. Virtually no softness crept into the image, so we got a tight, well-defined package.

No signs of jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also remained absent.

Given its fantasy elements, Away boasted a moderately varied palette. The movie’s colors went with a nice mix of hues, all of which appeared lively and bold.

Blacks seemed deep and dark, while low-light shots presented nice smoothness and clarity. This ended up as a solid image.

Though not quite as good, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack added punch to the proceedings. Due to those aforementioned fantasy components, the mix opened up well and used the various speakers to create a lively sonic environment.

Integration seemed smooth and coherent. The soundfield fared well as a whole and added to the story.

Audio worked fine, with speech that came across as natural and concise. Music appeared vivid and full, as the score remained well-depicted.

Effects added spark to the material and showed nice accuracy and depth, with warm, tight bass. This became a satisfying mix.

Note that the disc provides DTS-HD MA 5.1 versions of both the movie’s original Japanese dialogue as well as an English dub. Though I preferred the native Japanese version, the English take offered good actors and became a credible substitute for folks who hate subtitles.

A few extras appear here, and we get an unusual option: Feature-Length Storyboards. These offer precisely what they imply and give us the opportunity to view the entire film via its storyboards. This seems like a cool addition for fans.

Behind the Microphone runs five minutes, 43 seconds and brings notes from English translation director Kirk Wise, English translation executive producer John Lasseter, English translation writers Cindy and Donald Hewitt, Disney Animation EVP Pam Coats, and actors Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette and Susan Egan.

We get some thoughts about the movie’s English adaptation. A few insights emerge but most of this feels like promo fluff.

The disc ends with eight Japanese trailers and 10 Japanese TV spots.

A separate DVD copy comes with a feature absent from the Blu-ray: a Nippon Television Special. The 41-minute, 53-second program ran on Japanese TV in advance of the feature’s release.

Despite cultural differences between the US and Japan, both countries’ PR seems very much the same. That means this supplement looks and feels very similar to other “Making Of” features we’ve seen on various Blu-rays and DVDs.

However, even though the piece remains very promotional in nature, it’s a great find for those of us with limited knowledge of the project, as well as the career of Miyazaki himself. We get an inside look at Studio Ghibli and how they prepare for a large feature such as this.

We learn about Miyazaki's inspiration for making the movie as well as meet many of the principals at Studio Ghibli and learn a bit more about the input they had on the project.

The feature covers a lot of ground and while admittedly promotional, it becomes fairly informative too. This makes it a worthwhile piece.

Spirited Away delivers an animation classic that deserved its Best Animated Feature Oscar. It provides a breathtaking film and an awe-inspiring representation of Japanese anime. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio along with a mix of bonus materials. Though the set could use better supplements, it becomes a strong representation of a quality film.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of the SPIRITED AWAY

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