Spirited Away starts off simply, as Chihiro (voice of Daveigh Chase) travels with her mother and father (voices of Lauren Holly and Michael Chiklis) to a new home. Things get complicated when they decide to take a detour through a mysterious tunnel. Once on the other side her parents suddenly acquire an insatiable urge to explore what they think is a deserted amusement park.
Surprisingly, the smell of food wafts through the breeze, leading the adults by their nose until they discover a delectable smorgasbord and begin eating like pigs. Leaving them to get their fill, the ten-year-old explores her strange surroundings, stumbling across a building full of bizarre creatures, and a boy named Haku. Told that she will be unsafe if she tarries after dark, the girl rushes back to warn her family, only to discover they have been transformed into swine.
Now Chihiro is forced to place her trust in the slightly older boy, who explains she must get a job if she is to remain in the realm of spirits. Haku introduces her to his boss Yubaba (voice of Suzanne Pleshette), an evil witch who operates a huge spa/resort for poltergeists looking for purification. Hoping her employment will buy enough time to find her parents and de-pig them, Chihiro helps bathe all manner of strange looking beings.
There is no debate Hayao Miyazaki's film represents some of Japan's finest animation, explaining this movie's record-breaking $200 million take prior to opening in the US. Seeking similar success in North America, Disney has dubbed it into English - but cultural differences could leave audiences bewildered.
Although profanity and sexuality are minimal, the mythical complexities may bore young viewers, and if they are prone to nightmares, you should count on missing some sleep. Chihiro faces constant peril and apparitions that morph from blobs into witches, flying serpents, people, and nearly every other imaginable thing. Many scenes are gripping, somewhat gory, and downright scary - attesting to how vivid this anime is.
For myself (one who doesn't even pretend to understand oriental folklore), Spirited Away appears to be a "Made in Japan" Alice in Wonderland. And if that's not your cup of tea, you'll probably want to avoid falling in this rabbit hole.