Spirited Away

Spirited Away

is a 2001 film by the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli, written and directed by famed animator Hayao Miyazaki.

The film received many awards, including the second Oscar ever awarded for Best Animated Feature, the first anime film to win an Academy Award, and the only winner of that award to be traditionally animated or win among five nominees (in every other year there were three nominees). The film also won the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (tied with Bloody Sunday).

Plot

The movie begins by introducing Chihiro, a whiny, pessimistic child, who is annoyed about having to move to a new town. While driving to their new house, Chihiro's father attempts a shortcut; they subsequently lose their way and come across a mysterious tunnel which leads to what appears to be an abandoned theme park, lined with seemingly empty restaurants. Finding a restaurant fully-stocked with unattended food, both parents eat the food they find there and prompt Chihiro to join, but she refuses and leaves them briefly. She looks at the area but then returns to fetch her parents but finds they have been turned into pigs.

Chihiro's distress at losing her parents is compounded by the discoveries that the world around her has changed and that her body seems to be dissolving. A mysterious boy named Haku appears, comforts Chihiro, and gives her something to eat, which makes her solid again. He smuggles her into a large bathhouse owned and operated by the tyrannical witch Yubaba, where thousands of spirits come to refresh themselves. Haku tells Chihiro that the only way she can remain in the spirit-world long enough to rescue her parents is by gaining employment in Yubaba's bathhouse. When Chihiro asks Haku how he seems to know her so well, Haku replies that he has known Chihiro since she was very small.

In Yubaba's penthouse suite, Chihiro repeatedly and stubbornly asks for a job, overriding the monstrous witch's refusals. Yubaba ultimately consents, on condition that Chihiro give up her name. Yubaba literally takes possession of Chihiro's name by grasping the kanji characters from Chihiro's signed contract, leaving Chihiro with one part of one character of her original two-character name, in isolation pronounced "Sen". Taking a person's name gives Yubaba power to keep its owner in her service forever; it is revealed that Haku is also in Yubaba's service, and remains so because she has taken part of his full name.

While at work, Sen gives admittance to a wraithlike spirit called No Face, who returns the favor by helping her obtain bath tokens needed to bathe a "stink spirit" whom no one else will help. After bathing, the stink spirit is revealed to be a powerful river spirit who rewards Sen with a strong emetic. Subsequently, Sen sees Haku in the form of a white dragon, and later on helps save him from attacking paper birds. Searching for the injured Haku, Sen encounters Yubaba's gigantic infant son, Boh. Sen finds Haku, who was attacked by Zeniba, Yubaba's twin sister, because Haku had stolen her sigil. When Boh distracts Zeniba, she transforms Boh into a mouse, and Yubaba's crow into a hummingbird. Haku then destroys the remaining paper bird, causing Zeniba to disappear, and then Sen and Haku fall through a gap in the floor into Kamaji's boiler room. Using the river spirit's emetic, Sen causes Haku to spit out the stolen sigil, which he had swallowed. He also vomits a black slug, which Sen kills yet Haku remains comatose. Hoping to lift Zeniba's curse and save Haku from death, Sen decides to set out to return the sigil to Zeniba.

Meanwhile, No Face has become intoxicated with the greedy atmosphere of the bathhouse and swells into a huge, aggressive monster, giving illusory gold to the bathhouse workers in exchange for lavish amounts of food. When the workers do not comply with his demands, he swallows several of them; this causes a panic and the entire bathhouse is thrown into pandemonium. Sen manages to solve the problem by feeding No Face the remaining emetic, making him vomit up his tainted substance, and then leading him out of the bathhouse. No Face reverts to his former size and demure personality, and along with Sen and Boh, travel by train to Zeniba's faraway cottage. At Zeniba's home, Sen gives the sigil back to Zeniba, apologizing for having killed the black slug. An amused Zeniba reveals that the slug had been one of Yubaba's means of controlling Haku, and that the curse put on the seal has already been broken by Sen's love.

In the bathhouse, Yubaba discovers Boh's absence and is enraged. Haku, now revived and restored to his humanoid form, offers Boh's safe return in exchange for Sen and her parents to be freed and restored to normal. Yubaba accepts, but promises to set Sen one final task. Along with Boh and the hummingbird, Haku and Sen fly back to the bathhouse, leaving No Face to live with Zeniba as her assistant. En route to the bathhouse, Chihiro remembers a previously suggested meeting with Haku: some time ago, she had fallen into a river and was rescued by the river's spirit. She then realizes that the spirit of this river, called Kohaku River, and her friend Haku are one and the same. At this realization, Haku's dragon form is molted away, and he is delivered permanently from Yubaba's control. Yubaba and a large crowd have gathered to witness Chihiro's final task: to pick out her cursed parents from a group of pigs. Chihiro correctly states that none of the pigs displayed by Yubaba are her parents, and thus wins back both her parents' humanity and her own freedom from the bathhouse. Afterward, Haku takes Chihiro to rejoin her restored parents. He bids her farewell and promises that he will come see her again. As Chihiro and her parents return to Earth, her parents lose all memory of their visit to the spirit world. The family then gets back in their car and resume their journey to their new home.

Characters

: Chihiro is the 10-year old protagonist of the movie. Chihiro is in the process of moving to a new town when her family stumbles upon the entrance to the spirit world. During her adventure she matures from a whiny, self-centered, and pessimistic child to a hard-working, responsible, optimistic young girl who has learned to care for others. She is renamed by the proprietor of the bathhouse, Yubaba. In Japanese orthography, "Sen" is an alternative pronunciation of "Chi", the first kanji in her name "Chihiro", which roughly translates as "a thousand fathoms". The movie ends with Chihiro retaining her new inner strength. It is implied that someday she will meet Haku again.

: A young boy who helps Chihiro after her parents have transformed into pigs. He helps protect her from danger and gives her advice. Haku works as Yubaba's direct subordinate, often running errands and performing missions for her. He has the ability to fly and his true form is a dragon. Toward the end of the story Chihiro recalls falling into the river, of which Haku is the spirit; she thus frees him from Yubaba's service by helping him remember his real name and past, which he had forgotten due to the name change and the curse which Yubaba has placed on him. While he seems often cold-hearted, and is disliked by the bathhouse staff, Haku is unfailingly kind to Chihiro, perhaps because of his experience of her in the past, which he partly remembers. When Yubaba is listening, Haku is as sharp-voiced to Chihiro as to anyone else, so as to avoid the revelation of his growing fondness for her. Yubaba sees him merely as a tool. At the end of the movie, he promises to see Chihiro again, presumably after he breaks his apprenticeship.

: An old witch with an inhumanly large head and nose, who supervises the bathhouse. She reluctantly signs Chihiro into a contract (having, at some point in the past, bound herself with an oath to give a job to anybody who asks). Yubaba then takes Chihiro's name and renames her "Sen" in order to hold power over her for the duration of the contract. She also does this to her other workers, so she can keep them in service forever. Yubaba has an over-bearing and authoritarian personality, but does show a soft side toward her giant baby, Boh. In contrast to her simple and hospitable sister Zeniba, Yubaba lives in opulent quarters and is only interested in taking care of guests for money. Though she is very intuitive and perceptive, she does not notice when her own baby is gone. When Haku prompts her by telling her that something she values is missing, her first reaction is to scrutinize the gold. Her appearance somewhat resembles that of Sir John Tenniel's drawings of The Duchess from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, who also has an inhumanly large head and treats Alice remarkably similar to how Yubaba treats Chihiro,
: An old man with six arms, who operates the boiler room of the bathhouse. A number of (Soot balls) work for him by carrying coal into his furnace. He has a large cabinet where he keeps all the herbs that are used in the baths. After some persuasion, he allows Chihiro to work at the bathhouse and even pretends to be her grandfather to protect her, though this ruse does not stand for long. He later takes an injured Haku into his boiler room and cares for him while Chihiro, given train tickets by Kamajii, journeys to Zeniba's cottage. At first he seems cold and uncaring, but by the end of the movie he seems to have grown a soft spot for Chihiro and for anyone whom she calls her friend. His appearance resembles a large humanoid spider, with several arms which seem to be stretchable.
: No Face is an odd spirit who takes an interest in Chihiro. Chihiro, seeing No Face standing outside in the rain, takes pity on the creature and lets him into the bathhouse to take shelter from the storm. At first, he is a strange, cloaked, masked wraith that merely breathes and smiles. No Face is a lonely being who seems to sustain itself on the emotions of those he encounters, particularly their emotional reception to his gifts. He is helpful to Chihiro because she helped him, whereas after observing the bathhouse staff's reaction to gold and his own attempts to win them over with more gold, he reacts to their greed by becoming a grotesque monster which eats lots of food and some of the staff. He later throws up, calms down, and reverts to his former state after he leaves the bathhouse's influence. At the end, he stays with Zeniba as a helper. No Face's mask, movement, and name share many similarities with the Japanese Noh theater. He assumes the voice(s) and personality of those he "eats", but does not speak when he has nobody inside him. In his natural state, he is a demure, simple-minded creature who is very moved by his emotions and those of others.
: A worker at the bathhouse who becomes Chihiro's caretaker. Although aloof at first, she warms up to Chihiro and grows a strong bond with her. When Chihiro leaves the bathhouse, Lin warns No Face, who had previously gone on a rampage, not to harm Chihiro. At the end, she is happy for Chihiro when the latter finally goes home. In the English dub, Lin states that she wishes to leave the bathouse for some better life. She is very surprised when Kamajii gives Chihiro train tickets, while not understanding Sen and Haku's love.
: Boh is Yubaba's son. Although he has the appearance of a young baby, he is twice Yubaba's size. He is also very strong and can be dangerous. Yubaba spoils him and goes out of her way to give him whatever he wants. He believes that going outside will make him ill. When Sen is trapped in his room, she tells Boh that staying in his room all the time will sicken him. Later, Zeniba turns him into a mouse. He becomes good friends with Chihiro while in his mouse form and eventually stands up to Yubaba to protect Chihiro. Boh tells Yubaba he had a good time when he was with Chihiro. His little adventure may be seen as an analogy to Chihiro's adventures and growing up. This idea suggests that Boh is overgrown because he has never really matured under Yubaba's doting care.
Note: Elements of Ryūnosuke Kamiki's voice can be heard in the English language version (e.g. when Boh cries during the scene where Chihiro/Sen gets her contract). : Chihiro's father. Akio's impulsive behaviour catalyzes the unfolding of events in the beginning of the movie, climaxing in his transformation into a pig. He is suggested to be relatively wealthy; when he eats the spirits' offering, he says to Chihiro, "Don't worry, you've got daddy here. He's got credit cards and cash".
: Chihiro's mother who, along with Chihiro's father, is turned into a pig at the start of the movie. She and her husband are never named during the film, and only referred to as Chihiro's parents.
: A trio of green, disembodied, boss-eyed heads living in Yubaba's office that move around by bouncing and rolling. They do not speak except in small grunts produced when they bounce. They are later changed into an illusion of Boh by Zeniba in order to trick Yubaba. : A customer of the bathhouse originally thought to be a "stink spirit", who is assigned to Chihiro and Lin. Yubaba suspects that he may be something more than a stink spirit; when Chihiro helps him by pulling trash that had been dumped into his river out of his side (Miyazaki had a strong interest in the environment and wished to portray the destruction of rivers), her suspicions are proven correct. He is in fact a famous and wealthy river god. As a reward for cleaning him, he gives Chihiro a ball of plant material which, viewers are told by Kamajii in the English-subtitled version, is a "healing cake". In the English dubbed version, Kamajii simply states that it is medicine from the river god. The "healing cake" is later used to heal an injured Haku through ingestion and to cause No Face to vomit the people and vast amounts of food he ate during his rampage. It is implied that the taste of it is extremely disagreeable, as demonstrated when Chihiro tries a bite and reacts in violent disgust. : Zeniba is Yubaba's younger twin sister and rival. Although identical in appearance, their personalities are almost polar opposites. At first she appears no kinder than Yubaba when she becomes enraged at Haku for stealing her magic seal and threatens to take it back, regardless of what happens to Haku. Hoping to gain Zeniba's forgiveness, Chihiro journeys to Zeniba's cottage to return it and apologize. It is then that Zeniba reveals her true character as that of a kind, grandmotherly figure, even sentimentally requesting Chihiro to call her "Granny" in the English version. Zeniba makes dessert and tea for her and No Face, and does her best to help Chihiro while realizing that there are limits to what she can do, stating, "I really wish I could help but you will have to take care of your mother, father, and that dragon boyfriend of yours by yourself". She forgives Haku for stealing her seal (in the Japanese version she states that she no longer blames him) and tells him to look after Chihiro. She then sees everyone off, assuring Chihiro that she will be well. Zeniba additionally takes No Face as an assistant, possibly to his gratitude.

Themes

Miyazaki characters have negative and positive traits in different situations.

Some suggest that the film is an allegory on the progression from childhood to maturity, and the risk of losing one's nature in the process. The theme of a character being lost inside a (fictional/different) world if he/she forgets his/her real name is a common folk theme. True names having magic power are a staple of folks tales such as Rumplestilskin. Similarly, Chihiro and Haku stay under Yubaba's control forever if they forget their real names and consequently their real identities.

The main character is a sullen, spoiled, and very modern Japanese ten-year-old being forced to grow up when faced with more traditional Japanese culture and manners. Miyazaki himself has said that there is an element of nostalgia for an older Japan in this film and several of his others.

Miyazaki also included a theme advocating the prevention of greed: those swallowed by No Face were attempting to receive the gold he made. Similarly, in a monomyth format, Yubaba's rich accommodations and interest in gold dominate the "road of trials" portions of the film, while Zeniba's rustic home and grandmotherly demeanor arguably mark Chihiro's gain of the "boon" in her quest. Also, Chihiro's parents' grotesque transformation after consuming too much food not meant for them is another representation of human greed, and may also be a reference to The Odyssey.

Environmental awareness is a theme explored by Roger Ebert. The most obvious examples of this are the river spirit's dramatic and beautiful transformation once he has been freed from the material dumped in him by humans, and Haku's discovery that the reason he cannot go home is that the River Kohaku, whose spirit he was, had been filled in by apartment buildings. This environmental awareness is present in several of Miyazaki's works, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke.

Production

Hayao Miyazaki came out of retirement to make this film after meeting the daughter of a friend, on whom the main character is based. Chihiro's father, Akio, was based on the real-life father of the girl Chihiro is based on. Miyazaki said the real-life father is similar to Akio in the habits of always getting lost while driving and eating too fast. Chihiro's mother (Yuuko) is based on a friend of Miyazaki's; an idiosyncratic hand-gesture of Miyazaki's friend is copied when Yuuko is eating in Spirited Away. Chihiro's best friend's name is Rumi (the one who gave her the flowers), which is the name of Chihiro's voice actor.

Distribution

Theatrical

Spirited Away was released in Japan in July 2001, drawing an audience of around 23 million and revenues of ¥30 billion (approx. US$250 million), to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history (surpassing the film Princess Mononoke for highest grossing animated motion pictures). It was the first movie to have earned $200 million at the worldwide box office before opening in the United States. By 2002, a sixth of the Japanese population had seen it.

The film was dubbed into English by Walt Disney Pictures, under the supervision of Pixar's John Lasseter. It was subsequently released in the United States on September 20 2002 and had made slightly over $10 million by September 2003.

DVD

The film was released in North America by Disney's Buena Vista Distribution arm on DVD format on April 15 2003 where the attention brought by the Oscar win made the title a strong seller. Spirited Away is often marketed, sold and associated with other Miyazaki movies such as Castle in the Sky, Kiki's Delivery Service and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.

The North American English-dubbed version was released on DVD in the UK on March 29, 2004. In 2005 it was re released by Optimum Releasing with a more accurate subtitle track and additional bonus features.

The back of the Region 1 DVD from Disney and the Region 4 DVD from Madman states that the aspect ratio is the original ratio of 2.00:1. This is incorrect; the ratio is actually 1.85:1 but has been windowboxed to 2.00:1 to compensate for the overscan on most television sets. There is much dispute over the validity of this practice, as many displays are capable of showing the entire picture, and as a result the DVD picture has a noticeable border around it.

All Asian releases of the DVD (including Japan and Hong Kong) have a noticeably accentuated amount of red in their picture transfer. This is another case of compensating for home theatre displays, this time supposedly for LCD television which, it was claimed, had a diminished red colour in its display. Releases in other DVD regions such as the US, Europe and Australia use a picture transfer where this "red tint" has been significantly reduced.

Television

The U.S. television premiere of this film was on Turner Classic Movies in early 2006, closely followed by its Cartoon Network premiere on the channel's "Fridays" block on February 3, 2006. On March 18, Cartoon Network's Toonami began a "Month of Miyazaki" that featured four movies directed by Hayao Miyazaki, with Spirited Away being the first of four. Cartoon Network showed the movie three times more: once on Christmas 2006, for Toonami's "New Year's Eve Eve" on December 30, and on March 31, 2007. It was also shown again on Turner Classic Movies on June 3, 2007.

The first European television showing of the film (both the subtitled Japanese and dubbed English versions) was in the UK on December 29 2004 on Sky Cinema 1, and it has since been repeated several times. The first UK terrestrial showing of this film (dubbed into English) was on BBC2 on December 30, 2006. The Japanese subtitled version was first shown on BBC4 on the 26th January 2008.

The Canadian television premiere of the film was on CBC Television on September 30th, 2007 In order to fit the film into a two hour time slot with commercials, extensive time cuts were made during this airing.

Australian television audiences premiered Spirited Away on March 24, on its SBS channel . The movie had been heavily marketed previously, and was featured in the Australian TV Guide ; no edits were made during viewing.

Version differences

Some changes were made to the film by John Lasseter and the other writers of the English dub.

Changes include:

  • The insertion of a significant portion of background chatter.
  • Adjusting the translated dialogue to match the visible mouth movements of the characters.
  • The addition of dialogue explaining or emphasizing certain on-screen elements: for example, when Chihiro reaches a massive, red, steaming building, she comments, "It's a bathhouse." These insertions are mostly used to explain certain aspects of Japanese culture that are foreign in America and many other English-speaking countries.
  • In the English dub, in order to escape from him, Chihiro convinces Boh that the blood on her hands is, in fact, germs. In the original script, she simply tells the truth and refers to it as blood.
  • The alteration and/or omission of several lines from the Japanese version: for example, upon hearing Haku's request to return 'Sen' and her parents to the human world in exchange for Boh, Yubaba says that she will still give 'Sen' one final test. In the original film, she instead threatens to tear Haku to pieces after sending them back.
  • New lyrics were improvised by John Ratzenberger for the English version of a song sung by Aogaeru, as well as his exclamation, "Now that's an esophagus!"
  • During the cleansing of the Stink Spirit in the Japanese Version, Lin arrives on the scene and simply states that Kamajii is sending his best herbal water to the bath. In the English dub, Lin asks if Chihiro is all right and promises to not let her get hurt.

Miyazaki himself has stated that Chihiro, at the end of the film, does not remember what happened to her in the spirit world, but that her adventures were also not a dream. To show the audience that something did happen, he gave several hints, such as dust and leaves on the car. Chihiro's hairband, given to her by Zeniba, glittering by the sunlight was also one of the hints. The English dub adds a line indicating that Chihiro has come away from her adventure a better person.

Reception

Based on 146 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, it ranks as the eighth-best animation film, having a 97% rating on the site.

Soundtracks

The closing song, was written and performed by Yumi Kimura, a composer and lyre-player from Osaka. The lyrics were written by Kimura's friend Wakako Kaku. The song was intended to be used for a different Miyazaki film which was never released, . In the special features of the dvd, Hayao Miyazaki explains how the song in fact inspired him to create "Spirited Away".

The other 20 tracks on the original soundtrack were composed by Joe Hisaishi. His received the 56th Mainichi Film Competition Award for Best Music, the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2001 Best Music Award in the Theater Movie category, and the 16th Japan Gold Disk Award for Animation Album of the Year. Later, Hisaishi added lyrics to "Ano hi no Kawa" and named the new version which was performed by Ayaka Hirahara.

Beside the Original Soundtrack, there is also an Image Album, which contains 10 tracks.

Original soundtrack listing

Track Author Duration
1 3:09
2 2:07
3 3:15
4 2:00
5 2:12
6 2:33
7 3:00
8 3:30
9 2:02
10 3:13
11 2:26
12 4:01
13 2:45
14 1:18
15 3:47
16 3:38
17 1:38
18 1:29
19 4:53
20 3:20
21 3:35

Image album track listing

  1. あの日の川へ [Ano Hi no Kawa e/To the River of that Day] by Umi (3:54)
  2. 夜が来る [Yoru Ga Kuru/The Night is Coming] by Joe Hisaishi (4:25)
  3. 神々さま [Kamigami-sama/The Gods] by Shizuru Otaka (3:55)
  4. 油屋 [Yuya/The Bathhouse] by Tsunehiko Kamijou (3:56)
  5. 不思議の国の住人 [Fushigi no Kuni no Jyuunin/People in the Wonderland] by Joe Hisaishi (3:20)
  6. さみしいさみしい [Samishii, Samishii/Lonely, Lonely] by Monsieur Kamayatsu (3:41)
  7. ソリチュード [Kodoku/Solitude] by Rieko Suzuki and Hiroshi Kondo (3:49)
  8. 海 [Umi/The Sea] by Joe Hisaishi (3:22)
  9. 白い竜 [Shiroi Ryuu/White Dragon] by RIKKI (3:33)
  10. 千尋のワルツ [Chihiro no WARUTSU/Chihiro's Waltz] by Joe Hisaishi (3:20)

Cast

Character Japanese version English version
Chihiro Ogino/Sen Rumi Hiiragi Daveigh Chase
Haku Miyu Irino Jason Marsden
Yubaba/Zeniba Mari Natsuki Suzanne Pleshette
Kamajii Bunta Sugawara David Ogden Stiers
No-Face Akio Nakamura Bob Bergen
Lin Yūmi Tamai Susan Egan
Ryūnosuke Kamiki Tara Strong
Akio Ogino Takashi Naitō Michael Chiklis
Yuko Ogino Yasuko Sawaguchi Lauren Holly
Chichi-yaku Tsunehiko Kamijō
Ani-yaku Takehiko Ono
Ao-gaeru Tatsuya Gashūin John Ratzenberger
Bandai-gaeru Yō Ōizumi Bob Bergen
River God Koba Hayashi
Additional voices Shirō Saitō
Michiko Yamamoto
Keiko Tsukamoto
Akio Nakamura
Kaori Yamagata
Ikuko Yamamoto
Noriko Kitō
Ken Yasuda
Shigeyuki Totsugi
Mayumi Sako
Rina Yamada
Makiko Oku
Jack Angel
Rodger Bumpass
Jennifer Darling
Paul Eiding
Sherry Lynn
Mona Marshall
Mickie McGowan
Candi Milo
Colleen O'Shaughnessey
Philip Proctor
Jim Ward

References

External links

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