Note: I’m reviewing the Disney dubbed release, not the Japanese release, which I have never seen.
The PlotThe movie is about Chihiro, a 12-year old girl who is unhappy that she is having to move to a new town. On the way they get lost and find themselves at an abandoned amusement park. But while they are there the sun sets, spirits awaken in the theme park, and her parents are transformed into hogs.
This is about all I’m going to explain as I’ve pretty much set up the plot and the rest of the movie is Chihiro undergoing a series of fantastical events and trials involving such things as a spirit that feeds on greed, what appears to be a sludge spirit, and a mysterious train.
Why its AwesomeThe first reason is Chihiro. At the beginning of the movie she is sullen over having the move and at times early on in the movie she can be rather whiny. And when the ghosts appear, she reacts much like a 12-year old girl would react: she panics. Then she spends much of the first half scared and bewildered. This is not the super-capable and super-amazing girl that many movies feel the need to show us. This is a normal, pre-teen girl.
But we like her because we see the good in her. Once she realizes she is in this strange world for the long haul she shows incredible perseverance and strength, even when she is scared to death. Which makes us like her even more. Thus we have a character who is realistic enough to relate to but likable enough to root for.
The only flaw might be the voice acting behind Chihiro, as she can scream a lot and some might find her too whiny for the first part of the movie. But that is a minor beef.