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TOKYO — Much can be said, I believe, about a country by simply looking at its highest–grossing motion picture.

In the United States, for example, we’ve got “Titanic.”

Mmmm … Maybe I was wrong.

However, in Japan, it’s Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away,” an animated fantasy feature about a 10-year-old girl who’s trying to save her parents from a lifetime of Hog-liness. Literally — they were turned into pigs by the mysterious crow-woman Yubaba for eating other people’s food.

The girl — sometimes called Chihiro, sometimes Sen — pays her dues by working at Yubaba’s bath house.

And that’s where I’ll stop plot-telling, as the film is honestly a pleasant surprise for a foreigner who is not accustomed to serious, somewhat intelligent animation. (“Ice Age,” anyone?)

But, the film is the top money–maker ever produced in Japan, gobbling up more than $234 million dollars domestically.

The movie’s hand–drawn illustrations are crisp; computer graphics only lent a hand on a few of the feature’s scenes.

Most impressive, however, is the creativity displayed — and the temporary suspension of disbelief needed — for many of the characters; a wave of Yubaba’s hand force’s Sen’s lips to shut tight; seconds later she morphs into a crow and flies away.

Along with the 2-disc DVD set that was released in the U.S. in late April comes a documentary — produced by Japan’s NHK Television — about the making of the movie. It gives considerable insight about the production of the film, and the basis of the characters.

The documentary includes scenes of the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum, where Miyazaki got a good amount of inspiration for the film’s settings and buildings.

However, the second disc also includes an incredibly useless selection of the film’s original movie trailers — all in Japanese. But, the set makes up for it by having both English–dubbed and Japanese–language with English subtitle options.

Have a child? Get this movie. They’ll love it, and you’ll love it for not being simply mindless entertainment.

Don’t have a child? Give this serious consideration for viewing. You won’t be disappointed; except, maybe, by the ending, which is just a tad hokey.

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