Upgrade of Spirited Away DVD with HD reissues by Studio Ghibli; offers reference quality video, immersive audio, and extensive extras.

Spirited Away Japanese DVD Review

Studio Ghibli continues to upgrade their back catalog with HD reissues. This time it’s the Oscar winning Spirited Away.

This DVD comes with reference quality video in both Japanese and dubbed English. The original Japanese audio track is excellent with Joe Hisaishi’s score fully enveloping you in the movie’s weird world.

Blu-ray

The Blu-ray version of this release offers a great presentation of the film and a large collection of extras. The disc is an Optimum disc with a blue menu and presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1 English, DDD French, and DD 2.0 or 5.1 original Japanese audio (with English subtitles).

The transfer here is excellent, showing off the rich colors and textures of the hand-drawn animation with no artifacts or compression to distract from the film. The image also looks much sharper than the DVD version, revealing more detail in things like the flowers on a bush that Chihiro passes by or the reds and golds of the bathhouse.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio is also very impressive, making good use of the subwoofer and all channels to create an immersive sound field for some of the busier scenes. The original English soundtrack and the Japanese language track are both presented in lossless 5.1, and choosing between them will likely come down to personal preference. A 12-page booklet features statements from the director and producer.

DVD

If you aren’t ready to invest in Blu-ray, this DVD version offers a fine experience. It presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen SD and Dolby Digital 5.1 in dubbed English, original Japanese, or French with switchable subtitles and captions. The DVD also includes the movie’s original trailers and TV spots.

The disc starts off with a brief introduction by Pixar’s John Lasseter. It’s a nice way to kick off the extras.

On disc two, we get a nice featurette called The Art of Spirited Away that provides plenty of insight into the movie. Another nice addition is Behind the Microphone that has the voice actors talking about what it takes to record an animated movie.

The DVD also includes an original Nippon Television Special (SD, 41:53) that is an incredibly in-depth making of featurette. There’s also a nice set of alternate angle storyboards. The DVD also has a few previews. This is a great release for a fantastic movie that opened the door for most of Studio Ghibli’s back catalogue to make its way onto US DVD.

Extras

There are a number of extras on this release. First up is the film itself, presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. There is also a Japanese audio track as well.

The other main extra is The Art of Spirited Away, a fifteen minute featurette hosted by Jason Marsden (who voices Haku in the English dub). This is a great making of extra that gives some insight into how the movie was translated for American audiences. It also features interviews with Glen Keane and John Lasseter of Pixar who talk about how much influence Miyazaki’s films have had on them.

There is an Alternate Angle Storyboard as well, a Picture in Picture style affair that shows the storyboards in the upper left corner of the screen while the movie plays. There is also a Behind the Microphone Featurette that focuses on the English dubbing of the movie and features interviews with the voice actors involved. It is interesting, although Disney would later do a better job with their English dubs.

Overall

Whether you’re a fan of Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli or simply the animated genre, Spirited Away is a film not to miss. It’s a rich and rewarding journey that takes you to an extraordinary world filled with danger, mystery and wondrous happenings.

The two lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround sound mixes are both excellent, with Jagaero Hisaishi’s incredible score being given the chance to envelope and engross the listener. The sonics are full and involving, with LFE rumbling and booms as the film’s characters are confronted by creatures or pulled through doors into other realms.

While the extras don’t make this a comprehensive release, it is a must-have for any Ghibli fan or anyone who enjoys the film. It’s also a great way to introduce someone to anime or the world of Studio Ghibli.

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