What it’s about: While on the way to their new home, Chihiro’s family stops to investigate an abandoned theme park. Unfortunately for them, the park is home to a thriving community of spirits. Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs and she is left to fend for herself, finding a job as a scullery maid in a spa for spirits until she can rescue her family.
Why you should watch it: Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s crowning achievements. The animation is fantastic and fantastical, the story compelling, and the characters well-developed. If I had to pick one film to represent the best of anime, this would be it. The English dub is also very well-executed.
Caveats: The visuals are often straight-up *bizarre*, which might turn off people unfamiliar with the medium. At its heart, it’s a children’s story, so don’t expect something huge with an epic and deep storyline.
Themes: Independence and adolescence. That appearances can be deceiving.