Spirited Away is a Japanese animation film released in 2001. It was written and directed by the visionary Hayao Miyazaki. The movie captured the hearts of viewers around the world soon after its US release in 2003. You should know that it is Japan’s highest grossing film of all time. In fact, it overtook Titanic on the all-time charts in Japan. Spirited Away is actually the first anime movie to be nominated for an Academy Award.
The story follows the adventures of a 10-year-old girl Chihiro Ogino when the family decided to move to a new neighborhood. While traveling to their new home, the father took a wrong turn and unknowingly entered a magical world. The witch Yubaba transformed Chihiro’s parents into pigs. She then took a job working in the witch’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents then return to the human world.
Here are more fun facts about Spirited Away:
His friend’s daughter inspired Chihiro
Miyazaki announced his retirement in 1997. Shortly after the announcement, Miyazaki brought his friends to his cabin in the mountain as part of his annual sabbatical. One of his friends brought his daughter. Seeing the girl, he felt compelled to make something for kids of her age. The girl was sullen and apathetic, which was the inspiration to the character Chihiro.
The film was created without a script
There was no script but the film has a rich plot and developed characters. In fact, the films of Miyazaki never had scripts. He revealed that the story developed when he started drawing the storyboards. Since there is no script, Miyazaki just let things happen and follow where the film takes him.
A silkworm inspired No-Face
No-Face or Kaonashi is an enigmatic spirit. The character design looks like a silkworm. The silkworm has an insatiable appetite with an accordion-style belly. Towards the end of the film, he is shown working as an apprentice to Zeniba – working with threat and is actually spinning a silk.
The names have meanings
In Spirited Away, the names have special significance, which is often indicating the character’s power. For instance, Chihiro can be translated to “thousand searches” while Yubaba can be translated to “bathhouse witch”. Her sister’s name is Zeniba, which translates to “money witch” and Boh, which means “baby”.
The cleansing of the stink spirit was inspired by true events
The cleansing of the stink spirit is a memorable and powerful scene. The truth is Miyazaki had a similar experience. He said that there is a river close to where he lives in the countryside. At that time, they cleaned the river and they got to see what was the bottom of it. In the river, there was a bicycle with the wheel sticking above the surface. They removed it by pulling it out the river.
Shintoism influences the film
Like other Miyazaki’s films, Spirited Away contains many references to Shinto – an ancient Japanese belief system. Shinto involves worship of kami (nature spirits) and ancestors. Many viewers saw the reverence for nature, which is also the case in My Neighbor Totoro.