Is there another anime director that’s on the level of Hayao Miyazaki? I hardly think so. It’s true, many try, and many succeed in creating something of their own craft. But Miyazaki’s filmmaking was on another level. From his start with Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro to his somewhat brief farewell with The Wind Rises to his return with the short but sweet Boro the Caterpillar, he’s really something. And it’s great to see GKids recognize his work being as masterful as it is.
A little earlier this year, the company teamed with Shout! Factory to present Princess Mononoke in a new collector’s edition on Blu-Ray, complete with CD soundtrack and a lovely art book. Now, Spirited Away has gotten a similar treatment, and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier. This is easily one of my favorite Miyazaki films, and now it’s been given the special edition that no die-hard collector or eager fan of the film should be without.
The film focuses on ten year old Chihiro (or Sen), who enters what appears to be a somewhat abandoned theme park. When her parents are suddenly transformed by magical forces, she finds herself working in a spiritual bathhouse, in the hopes of saving them. The witch Yubaba lords over the steamy bathhouse, where spirits come and get themselves cleaned up.
The story is a bit hard to describe, but it’s distinctly Miyazaki. And the journey is compelling, to say the least. As Sen makes her way through this mysterious world, she meets new characters, all lovingly crafted and adding something to the story. This is definitely one of those films that qualifies in the “it’s the journey, not the destination” sort of thing. Nearly 20 years after its release, it continues to be a remarkable achievement, not only in the story but also animation. This is one of Miyazaki’s richest films, and it shows.
Even though it’s not a 4K treatment, the video quality for Spirited Away continues to be top-notch, with GKids using the transfer from its previous home video release. Not that it needed further touch-up. Even in standard Blu-Ray form, this movie screams elegant. The audio is excellent as well, with various options for English and Japanese voiceovers. (You can turn on subtitles if you need to, in either case.)
As for extras, there are a number of them. While the previously released NTV Ghibli Special: The Making of Spirited Away is sadly gone, there’s still a lot here. These include full-length storyboards for budding artists; a voice talent featurette, original Japanese trailers and TV spots.
But it’s the physical extras that are spectacular. You get a soundtrack CD featuring the entire score from Joe Hisaishi, which is amazing; you get a special collectible booklet loaded with beautiful art to look over; and there’s also a collector’s box. It’s a bit on the wide side compared to normal Blu-Ray releases, but who am I to complain about more Spirited Away?
What a film. Like I said, it still holds up after all this time. And now GKids and Shout! Factory give it the home release it’s always deserved. Again, I would’ve liked a 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray release to really take advantage of the format, but this is top-tier work with video and audio regardless. And the extras, while not abundant, are still involving, especially with the new physical goods. If you’re any kind of Miyazaki lover, this must be added to your collection. Like, immediately. Come get Spirited Away again.
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