Spirits In the Material World (Spirited Away, 2001)

spirited_away_poster Chihiro is an unhappy girl moving to a new city with her parents.  Along the way, they stumble across what looks to be an abandoned town.  There they discover unattended food, and her parents start to eat it, deciding to repay the townsfolk later.  Chihiro does not eat the food, instead opting to explore the town.  She runs into a lone inhabitant, Haku.  He tells her there is great danger.  He is not lying, as she finds her parents have transformed into pig.  The town is actually inhabited by demons, ghosts, witches and gods.

Chihiro ends up working in the bath house in the town, cleaning up and starting to befriend the various creatures as she tries to figure out how to save her parents.  Spirited Away is a joyous adventure which takes Chihiro from a selfish child to a strong hero.

The animation flows beautifully filled with magical designs.  It is a masterpiece filled with dragons, masked gods, phantoms, talking frogs.  It is, in a way, a whimsy overload.  But in the most wondrous way.

The film is a classic for the family, thrilling and a visual feast.

Love In Wartime (Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004)

howls_coverA young woman, Sofi, lives in a war torn town.  One day she meets Howl, a well known but mysterious wizard.  Soon after she is cursed by a jealous and vindictive witch.  Now looking like an old woman, Sofi seeks help from Howl and his companions who reside in his walking castle.

Howl’s Movie Castle is a fun fairy tale, set in a world of witches and princes fighting in a war, where nobody is willing to compromise.  Howl is a charming, yet at times childish, wizard seeking to stay out of the war.  Nearly every character is under some kind of curse.

Much like Miyazaki’s Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle is infused with a real touch of the whimsical.  One of the interesting things is that the removal of the curse become set aside for the development of the relationships between Sofi, Howl and the other inhabitants of the castle.

That is the real heart of the film, the curse is just the excuse to bring them all together.

The backgrounds are stunning, and the animation gorgeous.  No surprise, as this is a Studio Ghibli film.  Howl’s Moving Castle is an enchanting and engaging film for almost any age.

Spiritual Neighbors (My Neighbor Totoro, 1988)

2015-11-12 17.59.31Hayao Miyazaki is a pretty beloved director with a string of classic animated films.  Many have tried to duplicate his success across the world, but often, fail to key in on what makes his stories work.

My Neighbor Totoro is a beautifully simple film.  It is the tale of Satsuki and Mei, young sisters brought to the country while they wait for their mother to get out of the hospital.  The young girls discover their new home and it’s surroundings are full of nature spirits.  They befriend a giant cat/teddy bear hybrid named Totoro.  Totoro looks big and roars a lot, but is adorable and engaging.  His relationship with these two little kids is remarkably touching, considering how little time it is given.

The film focuses mostly on the girls and their father.  This is a warm and loving relationship, and especially nice is that the father has no concerns about his children believing in nature spirits.  He engages them, telling them of a time when trees and humans were friends.

There is also plenty of attention given to their human neighbors.  There is the kindly Granny who cleans the house and Kanta, a young boy with rough edges, but actually quite generous.

The animation is enchanting, with lush painted backgrounds and fluid action.   The nature spirits are whimsical and the most ideal of imaginary “monsters”.  They are never threatening in their design.

The film is a real joy and worth watching.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑