A Scribbly on Ghibli: THE BASIC B!T¢H

Spirited Away (2001)

I know I’ve said this before about My Neighbor Totoro, but everyone (and I do mean everyone, even hermits and rock people) has seen Spirited Away. This movie was the top grossing animated film in Japan for literally fifteen years, until it was overtaken by Your Name in 2016. This movie is very often voted (debatably) the best animated feature of all time. I’m going to be honest, despite all these things, I was kind of dreading watching Spirited Away. Yes, I know about all the accolades and yes I know that it was considered the fourth best movie of the 21st century, but despite how great this movie is, it’s still a bit overrated.


I don’t want to take credit from where it is due, this movie is very good. It tells the story of Chihiro who has just moved to a new town and is expectedly anxious about the change. When her father takes a wrong turn finding their new home, they end up at a tunnel that leads to the beginning of our heroine’s adventure. Through her adventures in the spirit world Chihiro learns to be confident in herself and her abilities; she realizes she’s more competent and intelligent than anyone else gives her credit for, even herself. Our token Ghiblian heroine, Chihiro’s exceptional kindness and selflessness causes her to help those that others would just abandon and allows her to achieve accomplishments that otherwise would have gone unsolved.

One of the darkest color wise, Spirited Away takes a turn from the bright pastels that animators initially utilized and instead incorporates fun images and gothic patterns with an abundance of dark reds and purples. Even with the added intensity of the darkened colors, there are still bright whimsical scenes filled with magic and fun. Add the original score with fun wind and string compositions (especially the chase scene in the bath house) and light chimes during establishing shots really brings the story to life.

Spirited Away is a staple and it deserves many of the awards it’s garnished, however I disagree with the assumption that it’s the best Ghibli there is. In trying to articulate my argument I’ve discovered my own bias against Spirited Away…personally I prefer the stories with narrative variety. I enjoy the Ghibli’s that focus on more than a single heroine; they tend to focus on more dynamic relationships and show more complex growth. I’ve always felt Chihiro’s supposed “true love” for Haku was forced or rushed, while other’s take more time to explore the relationship between characters.

Regardless, the movie is still amazing (though not the best Ghibli).

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About the Author

Sierra Beeler is a Senior at UNCC, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Film and Women and Gender studies. Forever a daydreamer, Sierra aspires to one day monopolize an entire weeknight with her own slew of TV shows, more popular than anything Shonda Rhimes could make. On the rare occasions when Sierra is not somewhere being obnoxious, you can find her doing one of her many passions: writing, drawing, filming, screeching (also known as singing), etc.