I watched Spirited Away.

I consider myself to be a veteran fan of anime, manga and all things adjacent. I pride myself on having seen a lot of shows of all genres and makes. Until recently though, there was one small thing I didn’t like to admit. I had never seen a Studio Ghibli movie. I know what you’re thinking, that’s blasphemy, how could you, but hear me out.

Studio Ghibli movies have a fantastic reputation that precedes them. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a person say a negative thing about them, and they’ve come highly recommended to me many times throughout the years. And every time they did I thought to myself; I really should watch one of those movies sometimes.

Now I’m not a big movie-watcher in general. I like my entertainment in bite size portions, even if I end up consuming an unhealthy amount of those portions at once. Movies tend to feel like a task and a half, so I end up putting them off until they disappear on the ever famous plan to watch list, where they will stay for eternity. Or so I thought.

The coronavirus has thrown quite a wrench in some of my recent plans, but I did find some time to visit good friends of mine in Northern Ireland. It was a trip that lasted for a couple of days, but during this trip we ended up watching the first half of Spirited Away. The reason why we only watched the first half, was because I had to take a flight back early the next morning. The pizza we had was good though.

The protagonist Chihiro quickly realizes something is strange about this place.

After I got back home I knew I was going to have to watch this movie in its entirety. And it was one hell of a journey. The animation was gorgeous, the art style was nostalgic and aged quite well, and everything about this movie just fell into place perfectly. The bar was set fairly high by the amount of recommendations I’ve gotten over the years, so I was very worried that it would disappoint, but it did not.

I loved the characters and all their strangeness, everything seemed so weird and alien, yet sometimes there was something very human to all the craziness. Chihiro as the main character was very believable. Of course she starts out scared in this strange world, but soon she seems to find the courage to do the things she has to do. She is a very courageous character and it shows. Haku was a far less interesting character to me, but you can only flesh things out so much in one movie’s worth of story. The different strange and fascinating characters were very cool in their design, and the building that the brunt of the story takes place in looks gorgeous. All things considered, this movie was a lot better than I expected it to be. Everything fit perfectly together and with very good music, animation and art I would definitely watch this movie again on another trip to visit friends abroad.

The atmosphere and magic of it all is fantastic. The world feels alive and brimming with eccentricities.

The other day I was watching a video on the Abroad in Japan youtube channel. He talked about a hot spring that inspired the building in Spirited Away. I wasn’t aware a place like this existed, but he showed it off briefly in his video. This is definitely a new addition to my travel list if I ever get the chance to visit Japan. Which in the current global pandemic might take a while. That is definitely my reason for not going yet, and not the severe lack of money in my bank account.

If there is any note I want to end this piece on, it’s the idea to keep from watching something just because you do not want it to be disappointed. Now speaking from experience, if something comes recommended often enough, that is probably because it is worth your time. Do not let too much hype make you wary of something. Set your expectations at a reasonable level and just enjoy whichever piece of art someone reccomended to you. So if you haven’t yet, go watch Spirited Away, it’s brilliant.

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