While a young girl named Chihiro and her family are traveling, they find themselves wanting something to eat. They find an old amusement park that looks abandoned but there are food vendors with things cooking everywhere. Chihiro’s parent’s eat and eat to the point that they can’t stop. As she begs them to listen to her, they begin changing into bumbling, sloppy pigs.
Scared and needing help, she meets a young man named Haku who tells her she needs to leave the park now or she will end up like her parents. She doesn’t make it out before the parks livens up but another option is that she has can get a job at the bathhouse to please the witch, Yubaba. She runs the bathhouse and when she sees Chihiro’s hard work, Yubaba takes an interest in the girl.
SPIRITED AWAY is arguably one of the top 5 films from Studio Ghibli. It has won many awards including Best Animated Feature at The 75th Academy Awards. This gave the studio more US recognition than just the fans that have previously heard of their films. Prior to this release, the movie was only available on DVD and on Blu-ray in other countries. But now, Disney and Studio Ghibli have been working together to release these animated classics to the masses.
This was either my first or second experience with Studio Ghibli when it was released on video in the US so many years ago. It was so different from any of the animation that I had seen at the time and quickly won me over. The characters are very elaborate and make the world feel completely lived in from the guests in the bathhouse to the people who work there. They all have their schedules and duties to keep Yubaba happy. This is one of those animated movies that I could just watch over and over like so many of the animated films in Disney’s library.
The 1080p AVC transfer for the movie looks incredible. This is the best the movie has ever looked with vivid colors of the settings and clothing. Nothing looks overly saturated or too harsh on the screen. The details in the artwork are crisp with solid lines and intricacies that may have been missed in previous releases. Also, the contrasting is spot-on and never too soft. The blacks are inky and there isn’t any crushing that I could see in the transfer. Like I said, this is the best version that I’ve seen of the movie and it’s exactly what this film deserves.
SPIRITED AWAY’s mix is a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that is pristine. Like most of the Ghibli movies, the movie is mostly dialogue but the filmmakers never forget to make things as real as possible. They use the sound field to make some of the busier scenes filled with ambient sound and conversation. Two of the best scenes that use every channel are in Kumagi’s boiler room and when Chihiro first arrives at the bathhouse. There are also excellent LFEs where not only the sub but each channel plays its part in creating immersive bass. Like the video, this is an exquisite mix.
SPIRITED AWAY has an excellent amount of extras that give plenty of depth and insight from the creators/distributors.
-Original Japanese Storyboards: This is the length of the film in the original Japanese storyboards.
-The Art of Spirited Away: This nice featurette is from the original DVD including some looks behind the scenes and the release of the movie.
-Behind the Microphone: This featurette has the US voice actors going over what it takes to dub an animated movie.
-Nippon Television Special: This special is from the Japanese TV special that was made for SPIRITED AWAY. Studio Ghibli interviews creator Miyazaki about creating the movie. It runs about 42 mins.
-Introduction: This quick intro is by John Lasseter about the movie.
-Original Japanese Trailers
-Original Japanese TV Spots
2-disc set – 1 Blu-ray and 1 DVD
1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
SPIRITED AWAY is what fans have come to expect from Studio Ghibli. The creators have stretched the imaginations of the viewers into this world that is exciting and initially overwhelming. The Blu-ray is gorgeous with full, bold colors and lush scenery wherever possible. The audio matches the video with a perfect mix for the film. Also, the extras included are what we have come to expect from Disney/Studio Ghibli US releases. This is one movie I recommend to families, children, fans or anyone who is even a little bit curious about the movie. You won’t be disappointed.