Spirited Away

Because of the connection with The Library of Broken Worlds, I decided that I should finally get around to watching Spirited Away. It is on Netflix, after all. I realise that I am very late to this and I’m assuming that almost everyone reading this has already seen the film.

Because I am going deaf, I have subtitles enabled on Netflix. But most of the dialog was quite clear, and it was obvious that the subtitles were often quite different to what was being said. I have no idea why, but it was very distracting.

The animation is very simple, but that may be a stylistic choice and in any case things have come along way since 2001. Besides, the simple style served to accentuate the surrealistic nature of the narrative.

The story is very fairy-tale-like and heartwarming. I suspect that, if you can approach it as if you were watching something like Alice in Wonderland, you’ll be perfectly OK with it. But I spent much of the film worrying that I didn’t understand Japanese culture enough to get the subtext.

Imagine watching Alice in Wonderland and worrying that you don’t understand the English enough to get the subtext. They are, after all, strange and inscrutable people.

Having read a bit about the film online, I can see that Miyazaki has put a lot of Japanese culture into the film. Also (and this was fairly obvious), there is a lot of criticism of Western consumer culture. Chihiro’s parents are drawn to look very Western, and they drive a German car. The river spirit who arrives seeming exceptionally stinky is that way because he (and the river he represents) is full of garbage. However, how all of this plays out in a Japanese context isn’t clear to me.

I think I need to watch The Boy and the Heron, both to understand how Miyazaki’s art has developed over the years, and to see what caused Nimona to not win the Oscar it so richly deserved.

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