A Parent's Guide to Anime
Suitable for Family Viewing
Reviewed by Charles Peklenk:
This movie is widely available in a new edition from Disney/Buena Vista on DVD and VHS. The DVD offers Japanese and French audio tracks, English subtitles, and some worthwhile special features. The Disney-produced English version is on par with the original Japanese, with very few variations.
There is no need to review Spirited Away, a film which has alone probably amassed more mainstream reviews in America than all the anime that has ever preceded it, combined. There is certainly no need for me to recommend it either, as it is one of the highest rated animated movies of all time, winner of dozens of superlative awards worldwide including a well deserved Oscar(tm), and the highest grossing film in Japanese cinema history thus far. I'll make it very quick with a minimum of description: As the film opens we see sullen, whiny ten-year-old Chihiro wishing that her family would not move to a new house -- which is exactly what they are doing. The family encounters a gateway into a mysterious alternate world, and they are drawn into it. Her parents are detained, and Chihiro is (mostly) on her own and must very suddenly grow up, get a job, and find a way to return home. Now go see it. It's funny, peculiar, imaginative, and delightful.
Parent's Guide Rating:
green (suitable for family viewing)
The MPAA rating for this movie is "PG". It is a tame movie except for some scary scenes that are not suitable for small children. One character bleeds and suffers; some are eaten, although (oddly enough) they recover from that later. There are spirits and strange creatures roaming about, and some scary magic. There's no nudity or sex, almost no violence, and no foul language. There are some cartoonish "gross out" scenes.
In the movie's alternate world, the gods roam freely among the earthly creatures who serve them. These gods are connected with various aspects of nature. This should provoke interesting discussions about gods, creation/creator, and respect for nature. Apart from this twist, the alternate world has an obvious Japanese flavor which kids could learn a little from.
Magical spells are an important part of this movie. It is set in a world where magic is used for good and bad purposes. If you are tempted to label certain characters as good and others bad, though, the movie will confound you from time to time. There is no good-versus-bad moral to be found here, but it would make a great springboard for discussion of how we may find good and evil together in our own hearts, and how right and wrong are judged. It might even enlighten a youngster to the reality of getting a job and graduating to adult life. Chihiro quickly shows that she can be diligent, respectable, and a good role model. Spirited Away is highly recommended.