The world Hayao Miyazaki conjures up in the Japanese animated feature Spirited Away is so exotic and in a state of such constant metamorphosis that you may have the impression, as you stagger out of the theater, that you've watched the entire movie with your mouth open. Spirited Away runs close to two hours, and there isn't a banal image in it.
Miyazaki came to the consciousness of American audiences with the magnificent Princess Mononoke (1997), an ecological fable in which the archetypal set-up--a young hero is wounded by a maddened beast and must begin a long journey to seek the cure--leads, unpredictably, to a struggle to resurrect the forest spirit whose life force has been devastated by the thoughtless assaults of humankind. It's a fairy tale with a Hans Christian Andersen imprint: a tone of mournful wonder.
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