By Hayao Miyazaki, this is one incredible film. Apparently he has done many other Japanese (anime) films, and this one is regarded as his greatest. At the time (2001? 2002?) it was the highest grossing film in Japan in history.
The story finds an unhappy 10-yr-old girl, Chihiro, moving to a new town with her parents. Her dad takes a wrong turn, and they find themselves in a strange, abandoned town. In fairly short order, Chihiro is separated from her parents, and is thrust into a world of spirits, and must find her way back.
None of what I just said does this film justice. The art and animation are beautiful. The story, while a bit tense at points, is delightful and peaceful. The various situations Chihiro gets herself into are remarkable, and captivating. Some of the spirits are human-like, while others are comic and grotesque (usually without being disgusting).
And the film really tugs at the heart of what it is to be human. The stink monster, in particular, and the solution to his problem, are so thoroughly compelling, in a way that has to be seen to be understood.
But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this film is that in each situation, some tenuous, some frightening (to her), Chihiro manages to diffuse and improve the situation entirely by doing what's right. What's decent. What's calm and peaceful. The image of her facing No-Face toward the end was especially compelling and inspiring.
My wife and kids enjoyed this film, and allowed me to buy a copy. They also humor me as I have watched it several times, once or twice in the original Japanese. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it has changed me, or that the movie is a life-altering force, or such, but at the same time, I have *ALWAYS* finished watching this film feeling more calm and peaceful, and more hopeful about life in general. It's a balm or tonic to my soul.
In the opening of the American version, some guy from Pixar, (John Lasseter, I think?) starts off by saying something like: "You're lucky. You get to see Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away." The first time I saw it, I thought: "Yeah, stop the fluff and promotion." Now, I think it's an understatement. The world is a better place now that this movie exists.
Watch this film.