Spirited Away | Chicago Reader

Spirited Away

Enchanting and impressively crafted, this 2002 Japanese animation by Hayao Miyazaki fulfills the twin criteria of a classic fantasy: it transports us to an alternate world with a beguiling logic all its own, and in doing so it teaches us to understand ourselves better. Chihiro, a bratty ten-year-old, is moving to a new home with her yuppie parents, and when they stop at a country inn for food, the girl is whisked away to a hot-springs bathhouse (modeled after Japanese and Mediterranean castles) where spirits of all shapes, sizes, and temperaments come for rest and recreation. What follows is a series of surreal adventures involving a spidery furnace stoker, the greedy proprietress of the bathhouse, her spoiled giant of a baby, a No-masked ghost, and a kind young man who can morph into a dragon. The hand-drawn animation from Miyazaki's studio is a feast for the eye, assimilating everyone from Monet to Kitagawa Utamaro to Henry Darger.

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