Well, my sister read Chuck Palahniuk's "Guts" and said "it wasn't that gross." Which I suppose was inevitable. Teenagers . . .
I had bitter suspicans confirmed a few days ago when I finally found time to watch the subtitled version of Spirited Away and found that the screenwriter(s) for the dubbed script indeed took some incredibally stupid liberties. In a couple places, they even put in lines where there were none before.
The first time I noticed this, was when Chihiro first sees the bath house. In the English dubbed version, when the camera's not on her face, Chihiro exclaims, "A bath house!" When I saw the movie dubbed, I immediately suspected this line hadn't been there originally. And, indeed, it was not. The reason for its inclusion was obvious; the screenwriter felt us Americans would become confused and therefore angry and growly because we were looking at a building whose function we could not instantly ascertain.
Perhaps there're even reasonable people who agree with this argument. As for me, I say poppycock. Later dialogue does, after all, reveal it to be a bath house. And anyway, in America, the very concept of a bath house is foreign to your average youngster, so the line very likely would become the cause of confusion, rather than a deflection of it. After all, by this point, the kids have already been forced to just be cool with a lot of foreign things and imagery. The line would probably make them feel like they're supposed to know with the place is right now.
A worse instance came later when Sen and Haku part at the bridge after having visited Sen's parents. After crossing the bridge, Sen turns back and sees a distant white snaky shape in the sky. In the dubbed version, when the camera's off Sen's face, we hear her say, "Haku?" In the original language version, she says nothing.
Okay, now this is one hell of a liberty. At this point in the film, we're clearly not meant to be certain that the thing is Haku. It certainly seems to come as a revelation to Sen when she discovers it again later. And anyway, it seems ludicrous for someone, when seeing a dragon in the sky, to instantly assume it's another manifestation of the guy she was just talking to.
Oy . . . Well, I'm glad I have the subtitled version. The actors are all much better, too, and Yubaba looks like she's actually saying her lines.