Spirited Away Spoilers Additional Review Notes
Stuff that didn't fit in the main review.
Warning: This section contains my thoughts on parts of the plot. If you have not seen the film, there will be spoilers in here.
In the review, I said that the flow of the story let Spirited Away's plot down a bit, especially Chihiro's first big job taking care of the polluted River god. What I meant was that, although this sequence was top-class entertainment, it also didn't fit in with the rest of the plot. The whole point of the scene in plot terms was to get Chihiro the herbal ball that she used to help Haku and the No-Face later in the film. But apart from that (and helping to develop Chihiro's strength of character, which could have been and, in fact, was done in other ways) the scene didn't contribute anything else to the film. The river god didn't show up in any other part of the movie, and it didn't even connect with the No-Face plot. It was this disjointedness which I feel didn't help the continuity.
Additionally, there wasn't enough on Haku. Chihiro met him six times in the entire movie, twice when he was in dragon form and not in any mood for conversation. He had virtually no scenes to himself, except for a short non-speaking part when he saw Yubaba off on her trip and the scene when he made the deal with Yubaba to retrieve Baby in exchange for Chihiro's freedom. Even when he was in a scene, he never had much to say. He seemed fairly shallow, considering he was supposed to be the main male character. Also, I still haven't quite worked out exactly why he was so cold to Chihiro when he took her down to set her to work. Was he really schizophrenic, does Yubaba's influence cause him to change, or was he just playing along in case anyone had been watching?
In the dub of Spirited Away, there were a few changes to the plot which I didn't approve of. Some were just minor changes to dialogue, like Chihiro scaring Baby by claiming she had germs on her hands, rather than blood, or Zeniba telling Chihiro that Haku was a dishonest thief, rather than saying that he, like all dragons, was "good, but stupid". On the other hand, some were quite strange, like Yubaba making Chihiro's final test part of her deal with Haku, rather than it being part of the integral lore of the spirit world. I'm not entirely sure why Disney did this- maybe they thought American children would find the concept of (super)natural lore hard to understand, or maybe they were just looking for something to have Yubaba say rather than threatening to rip Haku to shreds. But the most notable and worst change was when, in the dub Chihiro worked out that Haku was a dragon when she first saw him fly up after he took her to see her parents. This was obviously done because Disney thought that Chihiro's sudden realization that Haku was a dragon later on would be too hard for American children to understand. But there was an important reason why Chihiro was able to recognize him even in dragon form -because that was the form she met him in as a child- and this was just lost from the dub. I didn't like that change at all.