Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

Title:Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Chihiros Reise ins Zauberland (German)
Spirited Away
千と千尋の神隠し (Japanese)
Keywords: , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Studio Ghibli
KAMIJOU Tsunehiko
KAMIKI Ryunosuke
NAITO Takashi
ONO Takehiko
R1 License - GKIDS
Tara Charendoff
Chihiro, a rather listless 10-year-old girl, is on her way to her new home with her parents when they take a wrong turn into what appears to be an abandoned theme park. However, it turns out to be a bathhouse for weary gods and spirits. Chihiro's parents are turned into pigs, and Chihiro herself becomes a bathhouse worker. She meets many strange creatures and discovers unexpected reserves of strength within herself. Can she win back freedom for herself and her parents?
[Movie, 2001, 124 min; R1/USA license by GKids]

2001 Mainichi Award - Animation Grand Award.
2001 OSCAR winner - Best Animated Feature.

0:31min Movie Trailer - YouTube Video
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Rent 10 10 9 7 7 Ggultra2764 [series:452#1552]
Compared to Miyazaki's earlier works like Kiki's Delivery Service and Mononoke Hime, I didn't feel much of his old charm in this animated feature in terms of plotting and characters.

Spirited Away is a fantasy adventure that mixes in a coming of age concept in Chihiro's journey to win her freedom from Yubaba and get her parents back. At the start of the movie, Chihiro is a bratty 10-year old not happy with her parents' decision to move away as she cares for her own needs. But once her parents are turned into swine and she is forced to work for Yubaba, Chihiro has to learn the values of independence and caring for the needs of others while caring for each of the guests coming to the bathhouse and evading Yubaba as she tries finding a way to gain her freedom with help from Haku. The premise to this plot is simple enough to follow and isn't too complicated.

The problem for me though is that the approach to this anime isn't from the Studio Ghibli films I admired from the 80s and 90s. It was hard for me to connect with Chihiro thanks to how whiny she was throughout much of the movie. She lacked the strong willed qualities of earlier Miyazaki heroines like Nausicaa and San. Yubaba felt like an "evil" antagonist with her greed and threatening presence towards Chihiro and others working in the bathhouse. Many of Miyazaki's earlier works were unique in that either there was no antagonist or the so called enemy was merely an opposing view to the main theme of a movie where that character believed what they were doing was truly right.

Drawing influence of its plot through Eastern mythology, the bathhouse for the gods used as the main setting for the movie made for a mesmerizing environment. Featuring plenty of bright colors, great detail, and characters that looked out of the ordinary, the environment wowed me as I seen a world that was grand and befitting for the gods and spirits that visited Yubaba's bathhouse. It was quite clear Studio Ghibli made a great effort at making the artwork for this movie as elaborate and unique as possible to go along with the environment of the bathhouse.

While I did like the mythic feel for Spirited Away, the differences in which the movie is approached compared to earlier Miyazaki works didn't bring me back for second watches. I watch it on occasion whenever it appears on TV. But, I wouldn't consider adding it to my collection.

Last updated Wednesday, August 06 2008. Created Wednesday, August 06 2008.
Buy Violet D [series:452#1393]
A must see for all ages. There is fantasy and magic all through the movie. It reminds me of the story of Alice through the looking glass. The two sisters she runs into, how one is good and one is not so nice and of course the baby that belongs to one of the sisters. An intriguing story and the character design isn't normally someone you are going to see unless you see them in a fairytale. But that is what fairytales are about. You have the ordinary and not so ordinary and lets not forget the wonderful end of the tale.

Last updated Thursday, June 09 2005. Created Thursday, June 09 2005.
Buy Stretch [series:452#628]
I read somewhere that Gainax and Studio Ghibli were the only producers of anime who could be relied upon to be both truly original and outstanding. Though I'm familiar with a number of Gainax productions, I was under the impression that Ghibli anime would be "fairy tales", probably lacking action and excitement, and therefore best suited to children. I once bought a copy of Kiki's Delivery Service, but it has remained on the shelf, unwatched, because something that seemed more "adult" was always available to watch instead. Then, while visiting my sister and brother-in-law, I was offered a chance to watch a DVD of Spirited Away which they had purchased for their two pre-school sons. As it turns out, it was a fairy tale after all, but a completely new and intriguing one (suitable for adults, too), not another rehash of, say, Cinderella or Snow White, which have already been done to death (and aren't nearly as complex and sophisticated to begin with). Perhaps one major difference between this story and Western fairy tales is that characters are not depicted as all-good or all-evil. It was hard to predict who could be trusted and was genuinely on Chihiro's side. Keeping track of characters was also tricky as they changed forms or had twins. What was the significance of the swarm of birdlike paper airplanes? Why did "No-Face" aid Chihiro? Because she was the only one who had been kind to him without expecting some gold in return? In spite of these minor problems, when the movie was over I just knew I'd watched a great work (and I wasn't aware it had won an Oscar). Perhaps my favorite moment was when the coal-carrying "bugs" in the furnace room realise there might be a way to get Chihiro to help them do their jobs. Also intriguing was the Japanese documentary on the making of Spirited Away--such as how Studio Ghibli personnel went to a veterinarian to get tips on how to animate a dragon being forced to swallow something. Now that I'm home from my trip, where is that Kiki's Delivery Service tape?

P.S., I wonder what a more direct translation of the Japanese title would be, since I see it contains both Chihiro's original name and the one she's assigned in the bathhouse...? "Chihiros Reise Ins Zauberland" seems to be German for "Chihiros trip to (or in?) magic land".


Last updated Monday, March 17 2008. Created Monday, October 11 2004.
Buy 9 9 10 6 8 DillonSOB [series:452#1352]
miyazaki's typical exceptional artwork, animation, unique characters, and fanciful storytelling. on the dvd, i really liked the japanese tv bit about the making of the movie. going behind the scenes and seeing he and his army of nerds :) making the story boards until 2 AM and eating noodles.
i liked this one more than mononoke cuz it was not so overwhelmingly moralistic, but the mundane main character chihiro was so real. i guess that's a testament to her substance and believability, she's no james bond. but the movie ended so abruptly that i didnt really absorb the completeness of her 'transformation' into a more confident, capable girl.
i know nothing of japanese mythology, and i havent seen miyazaki's earlier works to get a sense of his style, but i didn't really get the big picture. all the overwhelming fantasy immersion was reminiscent of 'alice and wonderland', and the edifying nature of each character was like 'le petit prince'. but to a cynic, all the random, wild characters and artwork could be construed as 'lets make an acid trip into a kid's story.' of course miyazaki movies are not only for kids, but you know what i mean. actually, because the movie was so complex and frustrating is probably why i like it. this ain't no snow white story.
of course i wonder how much of the imagery is symbolism and how much is just random bizarro. sure the river god with all the trash is a critique of man polluting nature. maybe the lonely 'no face' giving gold and consuming everything is a comment on alienation and capitalistic identity/abuse. i have no idea about the rest. also, the question 'why'? why is there this parallel world, how did lin/haku get there (since they're the only other anthropomorphic humans), who are the 2 witches, how do they all relate to the human world?
but overall an excellent anime, but NEVER ruin it by watching in english dub.

Last updated Thursday, August 05 2004. Created Thursday, August 05 2004.
Rent 8 9 8 7 8 8 Devil Doll [series:452#752]
[Score: 79% = minimum "Rent+"]
  • Drama: Med (child has to rescue her parents from a monster world)
  • Comedy: Low (more cute than funny, and the suspense is always there)
  • Action: Low (occasional scenes, no visible wounds)
  • SciFi: High (monsters, dragons, witches - everything a fairy tale can offer)
  • Ecchi: None (clean, recommended for children)
A beautiful fairy tale for the younger audience, the 'Disney consumers'. Predictable enough to see the interesting elements coming, but weird enough to provide lots of little surprises and story twists. And there are many interesting side characters.
Like every good fairy tale, the hero has to be brave and good at heart, then she will get support and succeed in the end. The interesting elements are where and when Chihiro receives support, and how she decides whom to trust, as of course everything is not what it seems.
Art and Animation are the usual Ghibli quality I already knew from Mimi wo Sumaseba and Mononoke Hime (which are both for an older audience); the music wasn't really dominant. But I have to praise the German dub that I used when watching this movie, although this of course reduced the Japanese element and strengthened the impression of another Disney show.
The narration style of this movie is not that different from Mononoke Hime, only that this story here is really for the kids (while Mononoke did contain a lot of violence); I didn't consider the monsters to be that scary (I remember Grimm's fairy tales contain much more violence and horror). On the other hand, from the hero's message Mimi wo Sumaseba might be closer related to this story.
Overall, a nice movie. If you feel young enough, then give it a try!

As for the original title: The Japanese "to" particle translates to "and" (forming a pair of items), the "no" particle indicates a possessive relation (like genitive in English). So if I were to translate the original title I would suggest "The Kamikakushi of Sen and Chihiro" (which would make them appear two separate persons while physically they're only one - talk about "playing with identity", as Kaitou Juliet pointed out).
A Kamikakushi (translating to "mysterious disappearance" or "spirited away", both describing an event) in Japanese seems to mean a magical being ("kami" translating to "god") or location that makes you temporarily leave the world you are living in, normally based on your own request but sometimes without your consent. Note that while staying in the world of a Kamikakushi time may flow differently compared to your "real" world, so you may stay there for a week but when you return years may have passed in your world. (In western myths and legends, e. g. the pied piper of Hamelin might be considered a Kamikakushi.) Note also that the Rahxephon anime makes use of this concept (the fansubber's explanation there is where I remember this notion from), despite being not a fairy tale at all.
And yes, the German translation means "Chihiro's journey into the magic land".

Last updated Wednesday, August 10 2011. Created Wednesday, January 28 2004.
Watch dhrachth [series:452#962]
Lots of eye candy, then nothing happened, and that's all I have to say about that.

Last updated Thursday, September 11 2003. Created Thursday, September 11 2003.
Buy 10 8 10 10 10 MasterYoshidino [series:452#598]
A beauty of art, brought by Studio Ghibli and Hayao. The region 2 dvd is mastered almost perfectly, with telecine flags rather than hard encoded NTSC frames. The actual image quality is perfect, due to the whole animation being shot digitally. The only thing that held the dvd down was that it is an interlaced DVD and not progressive. The music is also a must hear, with no bad tones or spots in the AC3 tracks. Definately worth the $60 USD for the region 2 version.

Last updated Monday, September 08 2003. Created Monday, September 08 2003.
Buy 10 10 7 9 9 AstroNerdBoy [series:452#436]

Chihiro is a girl who's ticked at having to leave her friends behind as her family moves to a new town. Her father misses the turn to take them to their new home and they end up on a "road" of sorts in the woods, which he believes will take them around to their home. Instead it leads them to a tunnel which Chihiro doesn't want to go into. But her parents are more interested in exploring than getting to their new home, so through the tunnel they go and find what appears to be an abandoned theme park. There's one open Japanese-style resteraunt with all sorts of food being served, so even though there's no one there to serve them, the parents help themselves and are turned into hogs. This is a spirit world and Chihiro is soon forced to work in the bathhouse which is run by the witch Yubaba, where gods and spirits come to relax. While life is hard, she has friends, including Haku, the humanoid/dragon character, Kamaji, the man with several arms who runs the boilers, and Lin, who becomes her guardian in this world. Now she has to survive her new life as a slave while finding a way to save her parents.

As is expected of a Miyazaki film, this one is very good, more so in the Japanese version to me. There is some preaching in this movie which is also not unexpected from a Miyazaki film. However, in this instance, it didn't really play a part in the overall story, just a side-event to show the evils of poluting our rivers. It's not "in your face" with it and thus is OK, even if the scene was put in just to preach.

Character wise, we have a memorable cast. However, I thought we might see more of Haku since he is the lead male. We didn't. And I still don't know why Kaonashi ("No-Face") did the things he did, both good and bad. Maybe I missed something. :-/ The only other complaints were a couple of changes in the English dub script which actually change the nature of the movie somewhat (I'll let you see for yourself). Also, while Disney does an OK job with the subtitled version, this too gets an American treatment which I find unfortunate.

Bottom line: Another classic from the Miyazaki-sama and best seen in the original Japanese. It is easy to see why this won an Oscar.

Last updated Saturday, July 26 2003. Created Saturday, July 26 2003.

Rent 9 10 8 9 7 Lonesome Summoner [series:452#860]
The movie was very nice. The animation and art are very well done and I was impressed, but as for the plot, I was not. The plot follows an Alice in Wonderland kind of feel and I thought it was alright but not too great. It is aimed more at childern so renting it would be nice.

Last updated Tuesday, July 22 2003. Created Tuesday, July 22 2003.
Buy 10 10 5 9 10 Midnighter [series:452#94]
I was very impressed by Spirited Away. I caught it at a local movie theatre so I got to witness it on the big screen as it was meant to be seen.
What can I say? Miyazaki continues to impress me, and I feel this is his best anime yet. Excellent animation approaches Disney level, and the sets and backgrounds are absolutely breath taking. (It's a shame there is some clumsy computer animation, but oh well)
And while we get to see a Miyazaki anime's ugliest character designs to date, they are animated in a very lifelike manner that soon sweeps the audience along on a magical experience with style and heart.
I think one of the problems with domestic "all ages" fare is that the makers don't give kids in the audience enough credit, so they dumb everything down to slapstick or fart-humor and such. Miyazaki's films do not do this. They are appropriate for kids without alienating adults. This is the magic that nearly all current domestic kiddie-fare lacks.
Spirited Away manages to tell an enchanting and intelligent tale with subplots and sophistication making it enjoyable for any age.
Like Mononoke, Spirited Away reflects the creator's personal morals and beliefs, including messages embracing environmental harmony, and against greed and self-absorbtion, which may annoy some veiwers, but I did not have a problem with it (since I agree).
A strong and seamless English dub (including Tara Charendoff...yay!) makes this an almost perfect anime experience and a good introduction to new fans. I highly recommend Spirited Away to anyone, not just anime fans.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21 2003. Created Tuesday, January 21 2003.
Buy 10 9 8 10 10 9 Sesen Kelader [series:452#471]
Recently Miyazaki-directed animes seems to be more "ordinary." Earlier main characters in Miyazaki's animes more or less bears the idea that main character should be different than normal people. But in Spirited Away, the main character, Chihiro/Sen is a very very common girl that one would find everywhere on the street (at least in Japan). One of the astonishing idea Spirited Away has is that hero/heroine does not have to be "abnormal." An ordinary person can be a hero/heroine in every sense.
Chihiro and her parents mysteriously enters the world of "Kami" and is trapped there. To find the chance to rescue her turned-into-pig parent (because their greed of eating) and with the help of a young man Haku (actually he's a river god, who, under the spell of the food house owner, forgot his name and then is trapped to server the owner) Chihiro decides to stay in the food house which serves "kami's" and ghosts. Various events happen in the food house including the "no-face incident," which eats ppl who are greedy. Finally Chihiro finds help from the owner's kind, older sister and resuces not only her parents but also Haku and herself.
Spirited Away shows how overflowing of desire cause self-destruction, and how an ordinary has the ability to turn things around. Also it greatly involves one's search of identity. For example, Haku forgot his identity so he's trapped within the food house. And Chihiro is given a new name by the owner, "Sen(which is the stand-alone pronunciation of the first Kanji in her original name)." Yet she does not forget her "true" self, so she has the ability to rescue Haku and her parents and to escape. Playing with identity is a thoughtful and inspiring part in Spirited Away.

Last updated Thursday, January 02 2003. Created Thursday, January 02 2003.
Buy 10 10 10 10 Kaitou Juliet [series:452#137]
I saw a "sneak preview" of this movie over a week ago (September 2002), and it's still stuck in my head. Beautiful artwork, exciting story, haunting images. It's scarier than My Neighbor Totoro or Kiki's Delivery Service, but still appropriate for children. The summary above only scratches the surface. A must-see!

Last updated Thursday, September 19 2002. Created Thursday, September 19 2002.

Other Sites
"Spirited Away" page at
An excellent introductory site, with more being added all the time. Includes a transcript of an interview with Miyazaki regarding the film.
Wikipedia (English) movie posting
ANIDB Mainichi Awards Listing

Community Anime Reviews

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