Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) (2001)

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Released 6-Jun-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
DVD Credits
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 124:23
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hayao Miyazaki

Madman Entertainment
Starring Daveigh Chase
Suzanne Pleshette
Jason Marsden
Susan Egan
David Ogden Stiers
Lauren Holly
Michael Chiklis
John Ratzenberger
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Joe Hisaishi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.20:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The name Hayao Miyazaki towers above most, if not all, in the world of anime. He has been responsible for some of the biggest anime features — fans remember titles like Kiki's Delivery Service (with the English dub featuring a young Kirsten Dunst), Castle of Cagliostro, and My Neighbour Totoro — even non-fans have heard of Princess Mononoke (with a dub that included Gillian Anderson). Now we get his biggest release so far, Spirited Away. This film set box-office records in Japan, and took the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It's for more than just the anime audience, and I'll try to keep that in mind in my review (that's why I may seem to be explaining things I wouldn't normally in an anime review).

    One of the reasons that this film extends beyond the normal audience for anime is that it starts in the real world, and shows the impact on normal people of an encounter with another world. Admittedly, that other world is one populated with 8 million gods, witches / sorceresses and talking frogs, but there's still a point of contact for the non-anime fan.

    Our story begins as Chihiro (interesting name — juxtaposing Chi, or energy/spirit, with hiro, pronounced hero — maybe I'm reading too much into that...) a 10 year old girl who is thoroughly peeved because she's being dragged out of the place she knew to move to a new town with her parents. They are almost at the new house when her father takes a wrong turn ("this is how you always get us lost..".) and they find themselves in front of a mysterious building with a tunnel through it. Like all good movie characters, they have a little explore, and find a restaurant. The parents gorge on the food, but Chihiro doesn't eat (there's something to be said for children being sullen — it saves them from traps set with food!). Chihiro goes for a wander, and is warned by a mysterious young man that she must leave before it gets dark. She can't find her parents (there are pigs where they were), and she doesn't make it. Now she is trapped, and she must rescue not just herself but her parents too — a heavy burden for a young girl.

    The animation style is gorgeous, using a fairly simple style for the characters over exquisitely detailed backgrounds. This is really a delight to look at.

    They recruited some interesting voice talent for the English dub. Chihiro is voiced by Daveigh Chase, who has since gone on to voice Lilo in Lilo and Stitch. Yubaba is voiced by Suzanne Pleshette (I remember her in If It's Tuesday This Must be Belgium — that's a long time ago); and David Ogden Stiers voices Kamaji. The other main characters are voiced by experienced voice actors, too. I can't comment on the Japanese vocalists, because of the interesting way the credits have been done. If you choose Japanese dialogue, you get credits in Japanese; if you choose English, you get credits in English — a nice touch, but unfortunately I can't read the Japanese credits for the voice actors. This must have been done with seamless branching, because it happens regardless of the subtitle setting.

    It's quite obvious that this project has been given the highest priority, both in Japan, for the original film, and in the US, for the dubbing into English. The English dub matches the mouth movements of the animation very well — that doesn't happen by accident!

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Transfer Quality


    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio is reported to be 2.20:1, while the DVD cover claims the transfer to be in an aspect ratio of 2.00:1. It's really 1.85:1; it is window-boxed (it has black bars around all four sides that aren't visible on most displays as they disappear into the overscan — you can see them on a PC). This window boxing ensures that the whole of the glorious image is visible (that's real attention to detail!). Maybe, just maybe, the claimed 2.00:1 includes the black bars on the sides, but not top and bottom?

    The image is clear, and rather sharp. There is no film grain. There is no low-level noise. Shadow detail is a meaningless concept in animation.

    Colour is awesome. Backgrounds are filled with delicate details in all manner of shades. Foreground characters are coloured from a broad palette, too. Reportedly, the Japanese DVD is heavily tinted in red, but there's no sign of that on this disc — there's plenty of red, but only on red objects. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    I saw no film artefacts at all. The lack of film artefacts makes me wonder if this transfer was done digitally — another thing suggesting this is that the run time of the Region 1 and Region 4 discs is identical, which would not be the case if the transfer were from film. The other possibility is that this is a conversion from NTSC to PAL — there is some interleaving, which would support that supposition (it's not visible when the movie is playing, only when you single-step frames that have a lot of motion) — but if this is a conversion, it is a superb one.

    There is virtually no aliasing, which is astonishing given the fine black lines that outline every character — aliasing is usually a real problem on this kind of animation. I suspect that this disc is using a lot of bits, and that's why a two hour film is almost alone on the two layer disc — if that's the case, then it is an excellent choice on the part of the disc authors.

    There is no moiré, and there are no MPEG artefacts. This is a beautifully clean transfer.

    There are two sets of subtitles, both in English. The first are standard English subtitles; the second are English for the Hearing Impaired. They seem well-timed, and easy to read — they don't match the spoken English dialogue, but that's normal — anime subtitles are usually a literal translation of the Japanese dialogue, while the dub dialogue is adjusted to make it match the characters' mouth movements (that's been done very well here) — the story is the same either way.

    The disc is single-sided, and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change comes at 54:52 — it is reasonably obvious, because the rain stops for a moment, but it's not annoying.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are three soundtracks on this disc, all 5.1. The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1; the Japanese soundtrack is provided both as Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts 5.1. I listened to the Japanese dts and the English Dolby Digital all the way through, and I spot checked the Japanese Dolby Digital (yes, it's there).

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear. There are no obvious flaws in audio sync, not that sync is easy to check on animation.

    The score, from Joe Hisaishi, is very good. It's spread across the front soundstage, and laps against the surrounds. It supports the action well, and extends quite deep into the bass, giving the subwoofer some good LFE to chew on.

    The surround speakers get some neat directional sound effects. This is not limited to the rears — the front speakers get a range of directional sound, too. The subwoofer isn't neglected, either (but it comes in and out). All up, this is a good demonstration of 5.1 sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras visible on the main menu — a little bit sneaky! Note that this disc is basically the movie-only version of this title. The real extras come in the Limited Edition set which has a second disc for them.


    The menu is animated with music, and a nice introductory transition.


    Once you've watched the movie a small extras menu pops up, showing the DVD Credits, and giving you access to a stack of trailers (the kind that is normally labelled Madman Propaganda). There are twelve trailers, with one image displayed at a time — you can play the trailer for the image by pressing Enter. The trailers are:

DVD Credits

    A single tasteful screen showing the credits for the Madman team responsible for this DVD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title is available on DVD in Region 1 from Disney, but only in the form of a two disc set (so far — I would not be surprised to see a single disc version appear later). It's not really fair to compare the two disc Region 1 with this DVD — the Limited Edition Region 4 is a much fairer comparison. So I will only compare this disc with the first disc of the Region 1 version — that's the fair comparison.

    The Region 4 disc is missing:

    The Region 1 disc is missing:

    The introduction is available on the menu, but it is also shown before the movie starts — I found that annoying. I also dislike advertising before the menu appears, even when it can be skipped (this can). The sneak peeks trailers are for Disney animation (things like Atlantis 2: Milo's Return), unsurprisingly. To be honest, I'm a little surprised we didn't get the Disney version here — quite a coup for Madman.

    If you prefer to watch your anime with the Japanese soundtrack, then the Region 4 is an obvious choice — the dts soundtrack offers slightly better definition than the Dolby Digital. I also think the Region 4 disc looks slightly nicer — the Region 1 cover is mostly black. And I really dislike the advertising and the over-the-top (and unnecessary) introduction. The quality of the transfers, however, is pretty much equal — you could be happy with either, from that point of view.

    Stay tuned — I'll be comparing the Limited Edition with the R1 next! You can now find that review here.


    Spirited Away is a lovely anime feature film, beautifully drawn and voice-acted, presented well on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The extras are limited, leaving more room for a brilliant transfer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, June 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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Comments (Add)
Easter eggs, kinda. - grug (there is no bio.) REPLY POSTED
Aspect ratio - REPLY POSTED
Faulty layer change -