Monday, March 01, 2004

I watched "Spirited Away" last night (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi in Japanese) by Hayao Miyazaki. Follow the link for a more detailed plotline if you're interested. The basic story, and this should be easy to follow since it's totally screwball is as follows:
A young girl with crabby uncaring parents goes through a tunnel and comes out in the onsen village for the spirit world. Her parents start gorging themselves on spirit food and become pigs. She then has to save them for working for the witch who runs the onsen and whose spell turns them into the porkers. In the onsen she meets a boatload of freaky dudes, dudettes, birds, bats, and various "Japan Only" things that I've never even considered before. She has to pay her way by working hard and earning the right to free her parents. Eventually she helps various strange spirits and creatures and find peace/relaxation whatever and discovers her identity and that true love can conquer all.
While I can't say what the dialogue was like in the original Japanese, the English edition was nothing short of sappy. I've generally got the idea that Japanese is a pretty sappy language if taken literally, with all it's honorifics, pleases and thankyous and poetic symbolism, it probably doesn't translate well... either that or it's a nation of sentimental dweebs.
At any rate, I found the movie principally interesting from the graphical standpoint, as the main characters all said annoying things in annoying voices. Graphically, the movie was really intriguing, principally for the way the director used the traditional anime features, such as complex subject framing and panning shots as well as interesting angles. I also really appreciated the attention to detail in the subject matter, for example the way that Sen, the main character, stops to put on her shoes before chasing after her friend. Not only does she do it in a realistic manner, she does it in a way that is particularly japanese. However, the storyline was quite strange and not a little cheesy. True, it is a cartoon, and one geared for all ages, but the "true love conqers all" theme is pretty trite. I wouldn't have watched the whole thing if it had merely been western style characters, but the incidentals, the bit characters and the background were so strange and foreign, I had to watch so as not to miss anything. If this guy were American, everyone would have to assume that he were taking heavy doses of some psycotropic drugs, either that or a schizophrenic. It was just that bizarre from my standpoint. While I'm sure that it's regarded as a fanciful film here, i wonder just how strange it is to the average japanese adult.

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