Ray’s Reviews – Spirited Away

As part of our Screen Queens initiative (all about feminist + queer film discussion) we put on regular movie nights and run a great podcast. We received some funding from Brisbane Pride Festival’s Kal Collins Memorial Fund which allowed us to program 3 special films to play on Friday nights at Metro Arts in 2017, and to pay our new reviewer, Ray, to write about the films for us.

Below is Ray’s final review of the third of these three films – Spirited Away – thanks, Ray!

Spirited Away is a coming-of-age story about a young girl named Chihiro. With her parents, she discovers an abandoned city which turns out to be home to spirits and mysterious creatures come nightfall. Chihiro’s parents get transformed into pigs because of their greedy actions, and Chihiro must use a whole lot of bravery and intelligence to get them back.

Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki (the director) have done a breathtaking job with the animation in this movie, and the characters are unique and interesting. My favourites are Haku (who transforms into a beautiful Japanese river dragon) and Aogaeru (a greedy frog who works in the bathhouse) and of course, who doesn’t get a giggle out of the adorable Sootballs? You physically want to visit the places and sceneries in their films. You want to reach out and grab the steaming hot food on the screen.

Another thing I especially love about Spirited Away is the realistic and diverse body shapes. The women especially aren’t portrayed as Barbie-doll figures, as so many animated films tend to. These characters all have different face and body shapes, and unique expressions and body language as well as very individual personalities. Chihiro, and other women in Studio Ghibli films, aren’t damsels in distress, they are the heroes.

Speaking of which – Chihiro also doesn’t have any special abilities or skills. She overcomes everything with her own motivation and intelligence. At the beginning of the film, Chihiro is sullen and reliant on others but she becomes more independent and confident as the story progresses. I think she is an amazing protagonist for young women to look up to and it is inspiring to see how she uses kindness to solve her problems.

Chihiro treats everybody equally and doesn’t judge a person by how they look, helping even the stink monster when nobody else wants to. I also enjoyed how all the monsters, which appeared scary at first, ended up being nice. I found No-Face to be one of my favourite characters. His personality changes when surrounded by all the greedy people in the bathhouse and it made me think about how the people we surround ourselves affect our own decisions and actions.

Lastly, the soundtrack is both mighty and magical. My favourite track was “The Dragon Boy and The Bottomless Pit”. This movie is definitely one of my favourites and I highly recommend it to anybody who loves beautiful hand-drawn animation style films and truly interesting and fresh new story lines.

– Ray

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