The recent review in the arts section of the Daily Telegraph was very positive but contained the following description which I felt the need to share:
"One of them is Haku, an older boy so casually [pulchritudinous] that by rights he ought to be playing in a late-1960s American soft-pop beat combo"
Refreshing. A modern take on a traditional theme. Thankfully lacking the usual boring soppy love scenes which seems to plague every recent movie/anime, instead focusing on the innocent love between friends. Also it is very interesting to learn about the Japanese version of faeries. -ColinLeung
Great for kids, but can get tedious for adults because of the lack of meaningful causality: it makes many explicit references to Alice in Wonderland, and has the same feeling of events happening for no reason other than the author thought they were cool. And they are, but that isn't enough to carry what is an unusually long animated film. Kids and those with short attention spans who can just enjoy whatever is on screen at the time will love it; those trying to see a coherent whole will discover that there's nothing there beyond the sum of its parts (though they are very impressively-drawn parts, at least the ones which don't involve cars).
I recommmend BellevilleRendezvous? instead for those who wish to keep up their quota of foreign animation. The pace is tighter than a pop tart's jeans, it's by turns exciting and moving and always hilarious, and over and above all that: it swings. --ChiarkPerson
I liked it for all the references, actually. The 'world' of Yubaba's bathhouse seemed very complex and rich. It's certainly my favourite of the StudioGhibli movies that I've seen, but YMMV - SunKitten
Agreed. I also have to admit I found the version of causuality implemented to be quirky, but internally consistent, and rather charming. It certainly felt like there was an underlying order, and you could get some feel for where it was going. (I'm thinking of Zendo? here, for some reason). -- TheInquisitor
" It's a slow film; it might be thought that children in the west would find it hard", "The mainstream wants linear story structures, character arcs and epiphanies, but Miyazaki doesn't bother with any of that".. I find it interesting that he liked it for all the same reasons that ChiarkPerson didn't. - MoonShadow
Actually, I don't think children will find it hard at all, because it doesn't require remembering anything, or indeed really any work on the part of the viewer. I found it a purely passive experience: sit and watch as a glorious array of creatures and concepts are paraded in front of you. that sort of thing of course children can cope with.
I guess I'm just spoiled by studios like Pixar and DreamWorks? making cartoon films that are squarely aimed at adults as much as, or even more than, children.
On the other point, it's not that I demand linear stories or all those other structures. He's right when he says that Spirited Away doesn't bother with any of that; but neither do many great films. The problem is that Spirited Away doesn't bother with anything beyond the most simple, linear, event-follows-event-follows-event structure. Story arcs and character epiphanies are an easy way of tying that event-follows-event into a greater structure, but they're not the only way: they are many more complex ways. Take for example Pi or Divine Intervention or Adaptation. Spirited Away doesn't use the easy ways, and it doesn't use the more complex ways: it's content to just remain a sequence of events connected by the most tenuous of narrative cords.
Which is great for children, but can become tedious for the more active viewer.