Well, this is it. This is the start of my journey into the wonderful world of Studio Ghibli. Everyone has to start somewhere, and I'm lucky that I started with one of the best ones.
You know that feeling when you want to cry, but don't know why you want to cry? Or if you feel deep and remorseful sorrow but don't know why you feel that way? That is Spirited Away. More specifically, that is the end credits of Spirited Away. Yep. This film's ending sequence, to me, holds more emotional weight than some entire films.The film itself is a lot more powerful. Don't expect the story to make sense. Just like other Miyazaki films, it appeals to the emotions more than the logical part of your brain. Worldbuilding is top priority, whereas story comes dead last. The film isn't afraid to pause entirely and show The Hero Chihiro navigate through the complex world around her, slowly navigating through the Spirit World. It sounds boring to watch, but it really isn't because of the careful detail the team at Studio Ghibli have so painstakingly put together. Every frame is crammed with detail, every bit of the world is vibrant and feel alive. Ghibli's careful attention to detail means the world feels real in a way you'll only see from them. Needlessly to say, the worldbuilding in the film is top notch.
The characters are excellent as well, and their growth is endearing and almost a textbook example of how to do Character Development. Chihiro starts out being an unlikeable, complaining girl, but slowly grows into something much more admirable. She doesn't need fancy magic powers, all she needs is a determined heart to navigate the spirit world. It's one of the films where there is no Big Bad, leading to organic interactions between everyone, as you are shown their motives and where they come from.
The story is haunting and beautiful, but also where some of my complaints lie. The film doesn't explain anything. Contrary to what you might think, this is a good thing, as it gives the film a mystical, dream-like feel. The disadvantage is that the film has no real grounding in logic; anything can happen next, and it can appear too random at times. A bunch of green bobbing heads can transform into a baby with no explanation, removing some narrative tension. A stink spirit comes to the bathhouse and a bicycle is pulled out, then the spirit flies out of an open window. It never feels like the film descends into Deus Ex Machina territory, and thanks to the good execution the story feels solid, but still, I would prefer a film where I can see some more things coming ahead of time.
Also, the film looks beautiful. It is made by Hayao Miyazaki, after all.
Overall, a solid film, and I can certainly see why many have this as their favourite Ghibli film.