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Alive 6


In our previous issue of ALIVE, I entertained you with reviewing a great anime 
called Princess Mononoke. This  time I'm back with the -latest-  production by 
Studios  Ghibly : Chihiro's Journey. Please  take  note  that there is  a huge 
difference between their latest Japanese  release and their  latest release in 
Europe. Indeed while we  are constantly  blessed with  more  tasteless  Disney 
boring  movies, most Japanese wonders seldom  cross our borders :( Fortunately 
Chihiro made it and I'm so happy about that !


 This Anime should be out on DVD on  November 26th, namely 3 days after I type
 this and I hope the  European DVD won't have  that crappy red filter that was
 added to the Japanese version when it was released. You may wonder about this
 but it's true : all  pictures look  RED ! Why ? Because  some sucker at Buena
 Vista Japan  decided that it  would make the movie  look 'old  fashioned' and
 guess what ? Ghibli Studios agreed to that !? Anyway it seems that our DVD
 will be spared (fingers crossed !).

 Tho this  Anime comes  from the  same people  who made  Princess Mononoke, the
 story  itself  has NOTHING  to do with the latter as I will  explain  further.


 Chihiro is a 10 year old girl  who's moving house  with  her parents. On their
 way to their new lodging, they get lost in the forest and end up in front of a
 dark tunnel. They step  out of the car  and decide to  explore that tunnel. On
 the other side, they find a deserted town and stop in one  of its restaurants.
 While her parents  sit at a  counter  and start  eating (like pigs :), Chihiro
 goes on an errand...

 As the sun goes down, lanterns  suddenly  turn on, as  if lighted by invisible
 hands. Frightened Chihiro runs  back  to the  restaurant but... instead of her
 parents she only finds a couple of... pigs ! Then, reality goes upside down as
 hundreds of ghosts fade in, here and there, while  more shops open their doors
 to welcome these strange customers. Chihiro  goes freaked out by so many weird
 creatures and doesn't know what to do when  she meets Haku, seemingly the only
 other humang being in this odd  world. He leads her to a  hideout and tells us
 to find a job at the Bath House, only then she will be able to escape with her

 In order to enter the house, she  first meets Kamajii, an old man with... six
 arms :) Then, Lynn who  is a "servant", takes her to the  master of the city,
 Yubaba, a grandma looking witch with a head 4 times as big as the rest of her
 body ! Chihiro is soon forced to change name to 'Sen' and starts working as a
 servant (almost slave) for that awful Yubaba.

 From that day, life almost seems normal, except for the weird world itself and
 the many creatures that  inhabit it : talking frogs, ghosts, tiny furry things
 who take coal to the huge chimney (I love them !). Chihiro gradually gets used
 to that weirdness  and even  starts forgetting  about her previous life... her
 real life indeed !

 Until the day she accidentally - or better said "out of ignorance" ? - shows a
 no-face into the Bath House. From then, that  ghost-like creature starts on an
 odd rampage, first  eating  people  and using  their knowledge, then  spawning
 nuggets of gold... To that  point the  story seems to  follow no  main stream,
 you're mostly following Chihiro's everyday life in a strange world.

 Later on, we'll discover that evil  Yubaba is using Haku to steal a magic seal
 from her twin  sister, a nice  witch as  opposed to her :) That's when Chihiro
 will put her hands into business, trying  to make things smooth. Our adventure
 will take her to even weirder places, with her no-face f(r)iend and more funny
 creatures. But I'm not going to unveil the rest of that fairy tale :)


 Unlike Princess Mononoke, Chihiro's  Journey (also  known as "Spirited Away")
 doesn't play like  the usual story : as said  before, until the  twin sisters
 rivalry comes in, you're walking into Chihiro's shoes. In other words, you're
 a visitor to a totally  unknown and  eerie place with  funny characters. Some
 spirits are  quite "impressive", like the  stinking one (you almost fancy how
 stinky he is !), the no-face  ghost or the three  talking heads that  seem to
 take care of Yubaba's baby, another out-of-proportion creature !

 If I was  to  find a real  theme, I would say that this _awesome_ anime is an
 invitation to  childhood. You'll  come to accept and take things the way they
 are in  this parallel  world, without looking for  further explanation... You
 become a child again and open your innocent eyes on this Alice-like craziness.
 Forget you're a grownup with lost illusions, and dive into this marvelous
 dream. You'll feel like you're 10 again, I swear !


 Surely  there must  be  some  computer hiding  behind these  superb images but
 except for a very few camera moves that were clearly computer designed, you'll
 not feel the heavy presence of technology as opposed to Disney crap !

 Pictures are not only  great looking, they also  come with vivid  colors as if
 painted on paper. Smooth colors  definitely give a childish atmosphere to this
 movie tho it's clearly not for kiddies (some scenes are quite violent for kids
 in my humble opinion and refer to death or sorrow). If you have liked Princess
 Mononoke  then  expect the same  quality for  visuals but  also animations and
 sound. Music is typically Japanese oriented and sounds brilliant !

 I should  also add that this anime is 120 minutes long ! It's not everyday you
 can enjoy not only such  quality  and  originality  but also  in length ! As I
 write this I haven't been  able to buy the DVD  yet but from what I heard it's
 gonna be quite expensive (24.99 euros) and won't even give you bonuses :( What
 a shame !!!


 If you like great quality animes like Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke or
 Blood the Last Vampire, then you CANNOT miss Chihiro's Journey ! This anime is
 a pure wonder ! It's gonna plunge you  into a wonderful (tho freaky) world and
 ambience ! I  would  again  dare compare it to - ALICE IN WONDERLAND - for the
 craziness and imagination tho it looks a hundred times better ! Characters are
 really interesting, you quickly get interested in  everyone's story and that's
 another thing about this movie (as mentioned earlier), for long there seems to
 be no main thread, just parts of Chihiro's life mixed with weird encounters. I
 really like the  old man, Kamajii  and its small furry  balls that  carry coal
 to the fire. They  strongly remind  me of the 'sylvains' (as called in French)
 from Princess Mononoke.

 To sum it up, Chihiro's Journey is a wonderful modern fairy tale. It takes you
 off ground reality and invites you on  a psychedelic trip to  a strange world.
 It looks  gorgeous, sounds  enchanting, and you  won't realize you  have  been
 watching it for two hours before  reaching the end. Then you'll need some time
 to get back to our old real world...
------------------------------------------------------------------------- STS

Alive 6