Why “Spirited Away” is the greatest animated film of all time
Studio Ghibli has become synonymous with the magic of animation in the minds of audiences around the world. Throughout its existence, the famous Japanese studio has produced multiple masterpieces like that of Isao Takahata the Grave of the Fireflies and Hayao Miyazaki My neighbor Totoro among many others. These magnificent gems provided unique immersive experiences for children and adults. It’s extremely difficult to pin down a particular Studio Ghibli film from its wonderful work, but if there was one such work that stood out from the rest, it would definitely be Miyazaki’s 2001 magnum opus. Abducted as if by magic.
Designed as a very special coming of age tale, Abducted as if by magic tells the story of Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl who navigates the labyrinths of life in a mystical microcosm inhabited by ancient spirits. During her journey to this alternate world, Chihiro learns valuable lessons about the fundamental nature of the universe as well as the importance of friendship. Through the use of soft world building, Miyazaki constructs a memorable heterotopic environment that is endlessly nuanced and densely filled with mysterious entities that we don’t really know or understand. These magical creations linger in our minds long after the film ends, shaping our own memories of the indelible experience of witnessing Miyazaki’s mastery.
The main reason why Abducted as if by magic has resonated with audiences around the world despite the existence of cultural barriers, this is because of its brilliantly designed universality. Miyazaki explained, “I created a heroine who is an ordinary girl, someone who the audience can empathize with. It is not a story that the characters grow up in, but a story in which they tap into something that is already within them, highlighted by the particular circumstances. I want my young friends to live like this, and I think they too have such a wish.
Unlike many other animated films, Abducted as if by magic does not lose its essence even when its story is translated for the “English dubbed” versions which have contributed to its phenomenal success abroad. Pixar’s John Lasseter was so moved by the film that he worked tirelessly to present Miyazaki’s masterpiece to American audiences who were blown away by Spirited away undeniable beauty.
An indispensable part of Miyazaki’s work is the intricate hand-drawn animation he employs. An additional emphasis was placed on animation rather than narrative as Miyazaki and his team began work on the former before a final draft of the script was ready. It certainly paid off because Spirited away the visual appeal is almost unprecedented and is an important part of the magic it creates for audiences of all ages. While Chihiro’s bland character design is crafted this way to create an essential blank slate for viewers to place their own experiences on, other characters like the iconic No-Face are quirky, unique, and simply unforgettable. . It is structured this way to reassure us that although we are ordinary and our lives monotonous, the world around us is full of spectacular secrets.
However, what really makes Abducted as if by magic one of the best animated films ever made is its ability to generate fascinating multiplicities that transform depending on the age of the viewer. Children can understand Chihiro’s feelings of alienation and loneliness brought on by his father’s transfer to an unknown city. They understand her innocent apprehension of the unknown, amplified by the forbidden world in which she stumbles. A more mature audience found in Miyazaki’s film an intellectual commentary on the excesses of consumerism (Chihiro’s parents literally turn into pigs). Like Miyazaki’s 1997 work Princess mononoke, Abducted as if by magic also raises eco-critical questions about the dangers to natural ecosystems through very simple but poignant methods like the stinking spirit which is an allegorical representation of pollution. In many ways, Abducted as if by magic symbolizes Miyazaki’s hope for a secret world that still exists somewhere untainted by modernity.
Spirited away The legacy is also significant because of the recognition it brought to the anime after becoming the first anime feature to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Miyazaki didn’t show up for the ceremony because he was against America’s involvement in Iraq: “The reason I wasn’t there for the Oscar was because I didn’t want to visit an country bombing Iraq. At the time, my producer shut me up and wouldn’t allow me to say that, but I don’t see it today. By the way, my producer also shared this sentiment.
20 years after its release, Abducted as if by magic is still fresh in the minds of the ubiquitous admirers who lose themselves just as much in the fascinating world of Miyazaki on their 20th visit as they do the first time.