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Japanese and American films have been evolving independently of one another for many years. While American films have pioneered the areas of special effects, acting, and directing, Japanese films have pioneered the realm of animation.
One might argue that films like Toy Story and Shrek have also pushed the envelope in animation, but there is one crucial difference between the evolution of American and Japanese innovation - imagination. Toy Story and Shrek were incredibly entertaining movies, but pale in comparison to the way that director Hayao Miyazaki exploited the unrestricted boundaries of cartoon cinema.
In the film Spirited Away, Miyazaki creates a fantastic world of magical adventures and supernatural characters that interact through believable emotions. Miyazaki really perseveres through the typical silly feel of some cartoons by adding depth to his characters. From the hilariously cute little soot creatures to the mysterious No-Face, many characters are unforgettable. Their animation and actions fit perfectly with their personalities.
Miyazaki uses these characters to symbolize love or evil and has a talent to seamlessly incorporate them into complex themes. For instance, one of these themes, which is also apparent in his earlier film Princess Mononoke is the corruption of good by that which is unnatural. Yet, Miyazaki also shows that this corruption can be reversed through the counteracting force of love.
Nonetheless, this is a children’s movie, and at certain times, one feels that Miyazaki could have delved deeper into some of these themes that he introduced. The ending also seems to rush the resolution.
But will the average 10 year old really care? No, and the average 20, 30, or 40 year-old will not care either. Miyazaki’s fantasy world is so engaging that the audience becomes enchanted. Even the brilliant soundtrack adds to this effect. Spirited Away is also, simply put, one of the funniest movies that I have ever seen.
Critics have already embraced this movie, but kids and teens just love it. Acceptance of this new genre of Japanese Fantasy, may usher into America a wave of Japanese Animations that were previously unmarketable. Don’t miss the cartoon renaissance. Go see one of the best films of the year, Spirited Away.