In this animated fantasy-adventure film, ten year-old Chihiro whines & complains to her parents about their move to a new home. On their way to their home, they come across an abandoned amusement park. While walking through the park, they see some deserted food, & to Chihiro disdain, her parents start to feast on it. Wandering the park, Chihiro spots a grand bathhouse; but, at nightfall, spirits start to appear in the park. She runs back to her parents, only to find them turned into pigs. A boy named Haku finds Chihiro & tells her that the place is a bathhouse for spirits & demons. In order for her to stay alive, she must get employment from the bathhouse's manager, the witch Yubaba. While working at the bathhouse, Chihiro comes across many ancient creatures, including Kamaji, the six-armed boiler room worker; No-Face, an empathetic wraith that feeds off the emotions of others; & a stink spirit, the worst customer to ever enter the bathhouse.
Spirited Away is my personal favorite Hayao Miyazaki film, who some would say overthrows Walt Disney as the supreme animator. Miyazaki presents to us a frighten & fussy girl who is forced into another reality & must learn to use the resources around her in order to survive. There was a moment in the film when I realized that Chihiro grew up at a point when she bravely trekked across a water pipe that was outside & overlooking a cliff. Earlier in the film, she was had trouble just climbing down some steep stairs. The film belongs next to other fantasy, coming-of-age stories like Alice's Adventure in Wonderland & Pinocchio.
Besides following a liminal progression, Spirited Away contains many themes often seen in Miyazaki's films, which includes pollution (symbolized in the stink spirit), greed & gluttony (symbolized in Chihiro's parents), & the losing of customs & cultures in a global society. The later is a major point in the film, as Chihiro is isolated from the outside world & comes face-to-face with Japanese mythological creatures. And there are many Japanese symbols & customs shown in the film that may make it hard to follow for non-Japanese, but that is kind of the point. Chihiro doesn't understand most of it either, showing a decline in traditions.
This is great family film, as adults will be able to catch the social commentary & the weird creatures & action sequences will transfix the kids. Plus, anyone can enjoy it for its imaginative images & animation. It's just awesome.