Blu-ray Review: Spirited Away

In Blu-Ray’s by Rebecca WrightLeave a Comment

The most successful film in Japanese history, and the winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away was the film that bolstered the reputation of director Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli in the West. Within the animation community, Hayao Miyazaki’s work is highly respected. While I’m not an expert on anime, nor a huge fan, Miyazaki’s films draw me right in.

Spirited Away will enthrall both children and adults alike, with its world of wonder, and interesting occupants. To describe it simply, it’s like a strange version of Oz. As the story begins, 10-year-old Chihiro (voice of Daveigh Chase, Rumi Hiiragi) is traveling with her parents when they get lost. They walk through a tunnel into what Chihiro’s father mistakenly believes to be an abandoned theme park. Finding wonderful things to eat, Chihiro’s parents turn into pigs. In this magical place, a witch named Yubaba (Mari Natsuki, Suzanne Pleshette) runs a bathhouse for a variety of supernatural characters. Chihiro is understandably scared. She meets Haku (Miyu Irino, Jason Marsden), who advises her the only way to survive, and perhaps escape, is to get a job.

However, that’s easier said than done, as Yabuba is absolutely terrifying. Besides, working there is far from easy. Chihiro must deal with all kinds of weird creatures and strange spirits. That while they may be misunderstood, are clearly dangerous.

Spirited Away is far from straight forward. You’ll likely find yourself wondering what the heck is going on at times. Characters appear and disappear quickly; some narrative threads are left dangling. There’s a strange sense of randomness to the whole thing, but it all works out well. It’s gorgeous to look at. The uniqueness of Miyazaki and his team is truly on display. Each creature is different, with its own set of unique characteristics. Visually, everything about Spirited Away sparks the imagination, and leaves no doubt why Hayao Miyazaki is revered all over the world.

GKids’ new Blu-ray edition presents the film in its original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio in 1080p. The presentation is sourced from the original Ghibli animation master. In comparing this image to the Disney Blu-ray, there was no noticeable difference. That said, the black lines of the character models are sharp as a tack. Colors are vivid throughout, with no distortion in evidence. Painted backdrops look stylish, with elegant details, and fine shade gradations.

As far as audio, the previous Disney Blu-ray included both dubbed English and the original Japanese in lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, along with French 5.1 Dolby Digital. The GKids disc includes these same options as well. Dialogue is clear and concise throughout, effects are convincingly engaging, and Joe Hisaishi’s score sounds full. The soundfield is fully immersive with excellent directionality, capturing every nuance. Like the transfer, the audio, is brilliant in every way.

The English SDH subtitles are included here, but you also get English subtitles for the Original Language Version (aka proper Japanese-to-English translation of the original script) as the appeared on the Ghibli Japanese Blu-ray.

The following extras are available:

  • Original Japanese Storyboards (HD, 124:35) Watch the film, comprised entirely of 1.85:1 Japanese storyboards.
  • Behind the Microphone (SD, 5:42) Jason Marsden, Daveigh Chase (Chihiro), Suzanne Pleshette (Yubaba), Susan Egan (Lin), David Ogden Stiers (Kamajii) and John Ratzenberger (Aniyaku) discuss their performances, and the recording process.
  • Nippon Television Special (SD, 41:53) (DVD only) In this Japanese television special, we visit Studio Ghibli for a look at the making of the film. Key crew members are interviewed, including Miyazaki, members of his animation team, and the Japanese voice cast.
  • Original Japanese TV Spots (SD, 3:57) Ten in all.

Movie title: Spirited Away (2001)

Director(s): Hayao Miyazaki

Actor(s): Rumi Hiiragi , Miyu Irino , Mari Natsuki , Takashi Naito , Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tatsuya Gashûin

Genre: Anime, Foriegn, Fantasy, Family, Adventure

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