This is some of Miyazaki’s best work. It’s enchanting, touching, sentimental, funny, and occasionally, simply astonishing. Miyazaki has a gift for capturing the honesty and wonder of childhood yet he does so without sugarcoating or pandering.
Back when I first heard the story of Spirited Away I thought that this would never go over big in the U.S. (young girl gets lost in an abandoned amusement park populated by vacationing spirits and seeks a way to turn her parents back into humans from pigs?) I thought it would make an excellent candidate as a simultaneous theatrical/DVD release, given its probable small target audience.
This is an epic adventure interspersed with elements of Japanese folklore, magic, feral teenagers, giant wolves, strong and aggressive women, warfare, politics, terrific music, and enough related plot lines to kill a horse.
What did I like least about this film? The answer: the ending. It is too pat, too rushed, too abrupt. What do I like most? Just about everything else. In fact, I found myself smiling at what I was seeing on the screen more often than in any movie I’ve seen since The Incredibles — and that is saying a lot.
What is it about Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli that are so consistently impressive? Seeing 1984’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds for the first time reminded me of some of the answers to this question.