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From one of the most celebrated filmmakers in the history of animated cinema comes the most acclaimed film of 2002. Hayao Miyazaki's latest triumph, filled with astonishing animation and epic adventure, is a dazzling masterpiece for the ages. It's a "wonderfully welcoming work of art that's as funny and entertaining as it is brilliant, beautiful, and deep" (Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal). SPIRITED AWAY is a wondrous fantasy about a young girl, Chihiro, trapped in a strange new world of spirits. When her parents undergo a mysterious transformation, she must call upon the courage she never knew she had to free herself and return her family to the outside world. An unforgettable story brimming with creativity, SPIRITED AWAY will take you on a journey beyond your imagination. "To enter the world of Hayao Miyazaki is to experience a kind of lighthearted enchantment that is unique to the world of animation" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). It's a fantastic tale the whole family will want to experience over and over again.~~(c) 2001 Nibariki -- GNDDTM
The most interesting extra feature on the two-disc set is the Nippon Television Special on the making of Spirited Away, not because it's significantly different from American making-of programs, but because the camera crew was allowed to film Miyazaki at work. It's fascinating to watch the visionary director explaining how individual movements should be animated, and even performing the little dance the frog-master does to welcome the No-Face to Yubaba's bath house. (Old animators describe Walt Disney giving similar performances, but no comparable footage exists.) It's also striking to see how intimate Studio Ghibli is, unencumbered by the tiers of management that burden American studios. The scene comparisons enable the viewer to study the storyboards for the film, which Miyazaki draws himself. These simple yet wonderfully vivid images capture the essence of a mood, a movement, an expression. "Behind the Microphone" offers a fairly standard behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the excellent English version of Spirited Away. --Charles Solomon
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WILL IT WORK ON A US BLU-RAY PLAYER?
I can confirm that YES this blu-ray will work in a US bluray player (I personally use a PS3). This release is actually region-free (or all-region as it can be called), and will work anywhere in the world that uses the NTSC video standard. Even if it didn't, please note that Japan and the United States are in the SAME blu-ray region: Region A, so it would have be compatible with US standards even if it was region-locked. HOWEVER: if you are in Europe, this blu-ray disc may not play since most European countries use PAL instead of NTSC to display video.
The Japanese packaging puts Disney's to shame. It's very minimalist and simple black-and-white and matches well with the other Japanese releases. The digipak design is made of some kind of metal and feels heavier than a normal blu-ray box. It opens like a book and has little pamphlets inside the left compartment along with the film in the right compartment. I like the magnetic lid that keeps the case closed.
Remember the scene where Chihiro follows Haku through those gorgeous flower bushes? Or the exciting Lupin-esque crazy car scene at the beginning of the movie? Those scenes do NOT do well on DVD - this film was made to be seen either on master film or 1080p or higher. In this blu-ray release: those scenes are absolutely perfect and do not have even a hint of pixelation or rendering issues. The colors on blu-ray are vibrant and correct (unlike the previous DVD release which had either a red or yellow tint to all shots). You can see brushstrokes, and details that you could never have seen on the DVD release.
The Japanese audio is magnificent, presented here in DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1. It is perfectly balanced, mixed beautifully, and will shine extremely well in a 6.1 or even a 5.1, setup. The voices are clear as day, music swells fantastically, everything is great. The English audio, on the other hand, is only a lossy 5.1 mix. This is disappointing since the recent UK release beefed it up to the same DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 that the Japanese audio got. It's okay, but not great. A little disappointing, as the English dub was actually pretty good for this film unlike a lot of anime films.
This is the disappointing part: the only extra for the Japanese blu-ray release is the script picture-in-picture mode -- but if you don't read Kanji, this feature isn't useful at all. There's also trailers for this film, other Ghibli releases and other anime films. THAT'S IT. In comparison, there was a blu-ray release of Spirited Away in the UK and it got the same extras that were in the English DVD release: a "Meet Hayao Miyazaki" interview, an introduction by John Lasseter, a "Behind the Microphone" short, side-by-side storyboard, and a Japanese TV special subbed in English called the "Making of Spirited Away". It's also likely that once Disney releases this movie in the US, it will also contain the same (or more) extra content.
+ Currently the ONLY blu-ray option available for US fans at the moment
+ Video quality LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than the old DVDs, absolutely perfect
+ Japanese audio is perfect
- It's extremely expensive compared to US blu-rays. However: the Japanese MSRP prices for blu-rays are typically higher than the US for all blu-rays (the MSRP price for this is about $65). Import shipping times might be another con, but I've seen sellers offer Prime shipping so you can really get this in as little as 1-2 days like American DVDs/Blu-Rays.
- The extras are pitiful compared to the original DVD release and to the recent UK blu-ray release.
- Disney may pull out another surprise US release of this later this year (Q4 2015) or around this time next year (Q1 2016), and it may include more extras than this offering.
- English audio could be better (the UK release upped the quality to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1)
Catalog No: VWBS-1530
TV Standard: NTSC
Blu-Ray Region: 0 (All Region / Region Free)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Running Time: 124 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: July 22, 2014
Audio Tracks: Japanese DTS HD 6.1ch, Japanese Linear PCM 2ch Stereo, English Dolby Digital 5.1ch, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1ch Surround, Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1ch Surround, Korean Dolby Digital 5.1ch Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1ch Surround, German Dolby Digital 5.1ch Surround, Finnish Dolby Digital 2.0ch
Subtitle Tracks: Japanese, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, French, German
Extras: script picture-in-picture mode, Film trailers, trailers for other films
3rd item from the left on the main menu, 3rd column to the right and 3rd item down from there (2 Japanese characters that signify English subtitles)
Others I like (but not quite as much): Howl's Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro. Least favorite: Ponyo
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