Brief sound clip
You're hearing a little from the tender opening theme of Spirited Away, the new animated film from the Japanese director and writer Hayao Miyazaki, which you and your family may still be able to catch at the local multiplex. Spirited Away tells the story of a ten-year-old girl named Chihiro who has been caught with her parents in the world of the spirits. Chihiro must learn the ways and manners of the spirit world in order to free herself and her family from its spell. She has help in her struggle from some unlikely sources -- a giant baby, millions of fireplace soot spirits, and a river dragon. Though this may sound complicated, in the end the film is simply about a girl finding herself in a changing world. Spirited Away has a universal appeal. After all, the great voyage of self-discovery isn't limited to a particular age or gender, especially when this tale is told, as this one is, with such amazing visual beauty.
And if you like Spirited Away, you'll easily find a number of Miyazaki's other films waiting at the local video store: films like the stunning Princess Mononoke. This film tells the saga of a boy named Ashitaka, who saves his village from danger but falls ill in the process. He, too, embarks on a journey, far into a new land to find healing powers for himself. In this mythic place, Ashitaka meets Princess Mononoke, the wolf girl, and learns from her how human beings and the spirits of the natural world can live together in harmony.
Then there is Kiki's Delivery Service, the charming story of a young witch who, on her thirteenth birthday, must take herself to a new town in order to serve out her apprenticeship by delivering help to the inhabitant there. It's not as easy as it sounds, and there are many trials in store for Kiki to earn her full witch's rank, albeit with the help of her magical friend, the cautious black cat Jiji. Each of these films by Miyazaki is about a young person's struggle to gain independence and a sense of personal identity. These gems of animation are not so much about collisions and problems as they are the lyrical, compelling stories of worlds merging, of friendships being born, of young lives gaining direction and purpose.
And, if you've already seen all three, Miyazaki has several other films ready and in progress for you -- because it won't be only the younger members of your household who are begging to see more of these eloquent, thoroughly engrossing tales.
Miyazaki, Hayo. Kiki's Delivery Service.
Copyright 2003 © Laurie Taylor
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