Little Chihiro is moving to a new city with her parents. On the way the family takes a detour, and happens upon what appears to be a run-down, out-of-business amusement park. When they are lured further into the park by the smell of food, things soon take a creepy turn. Chihiro’s parents are put under a spell, and she must find a way to save them.
Central to the story is the mysterious bathhouse that Chihiro discovers. There captivatingly odd spirits abound, and the workings of the bathhouse enchant the viewer. The film is filled with suspense, and yet much levity is found in the business nature of the bathhouse, which is run by the autocratic Yubaba—who is equal parts evil sorceress, and obliging hostess to her spirit-guests.
Anime may not be for everyone, but it’s possible that this film is! For its captivating visual artistry alone, Spirited Away is worth seeing. The images can stay with you for days after watching it. But if this film has managed to transcend the genre, then it’s probably because its writer and director, Hayao Miyazaki, has created such a relatable tale. At heart, this fantastical adventure is a coming-of-age story, in which a little girl gains courage and the power to sacrifice for love.