Spirited Away Offers A Thoughtful Message About Environmental Pollution Embedded Within It Now Modern Japanese Animated Films Know They Have The Room To Communicate A Deeper Message Too
In a pivotal scene in “Spirited Away,” Chihiro helps free an ancient river god from his physical confines a literal river of trash, including bicycles, fishing lines, and sludge.
Twenty years ago, this was considered a bold political statement to make in a film for kids but Miyazaki has continued to use his work to communicate his ideas about contentious subjects. Miyazaki’s 2004 film, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” also made an audacious statement about the tragedy of war.
Similarly, Shinkai’s 2019 release, “Weathering with You,” a film about an environmental disaster that drowns Tokyo overnight, centers on climate change.
Meanwhile, “Attack on Titan” and other animated series have similarly tried to address heavier, tragic topics, tackling the topics of death, war, and mass destruction head-on.
Anime To Watch If You Liked A Whisker Away
Available on Netflix, A Whisker Away is gorgeously animated, magical, and quirky. Fans of the film should check out these other anime.
Junichi Sato and Tomotaka Shibamiya’s A Whisker Awayis a magical romance Japanese animated film that examines one’s struggles with telling the truth. It’s about a female named Miyo Sasaki who transforms into a cat to get closer to her love interest Kento Hinode. However, after hearing about Kento’s issues, she must decide either to reveal herself as Miyo or continuing to be his cat friend, Tarou.
The film was praised by many, earning itself a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are ten anime fans of A Whisker Away should enjoy.
How Spirited Away Influenced Animation
Spirited Away is not just the only non-English-language animated film to have won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, its also the only hand-drawn animated film to receive the honor. Nearly all of the other winners are computer-animated works. Spirited Away comes at a time when theres a big changeover happening in Japanese animation, and more and more people are using computers rather than traditional two-dimensional, cel-based animation, Denison says, referring to the technique in which every frame is drawn by hand. The film incorporated computer animation, but sparingly.
As a viewer, its very subtle and nicely done. It still looks like 2-D, more traditional film animation, says Dr. Mari Nakamura, a lecturer of modern Japanese studies and international relations at Leiden University. This is very characteristic of Japanese animation in generalhow to have a good balance between 2-D and 3-D. And while many studios have left behind two-dimensional animation over the decades, the style has remained core to Studio Ghiblis style. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly last May, Studio Ghiblis Suzuki talked about the hand-drawing process for Miyazakis upcoming film, How Do You Live?We have 60 animators, but we are only able to come up with one minute of animation in a month, he said. That means 12 months a year, you get 12 minutes worth of movie. Its a painstaking process, but one that has undeniably shaped the singular animation aesthetic of Miyazaki films.
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Underrated: It Explores Themes That Few Children’s Movies Do
As mentioned above, Spirited Away is not a regular movie “for girls,” but it also takes time to explore themes that few children’s movies even briefly touch upon.
Spirited Away is about growing up, but it is also about child labor, greed, the conflict between the rich and the poor, the perpetual struggle of life, and so much more.
The Most Successful Japanese Film Before Demon Slayer
“Spirited Away” was released in theaters on July 20, 2001 in Japan and December 20, 2002 in America. The movie made $383.4 million at the worldwide box office and remained the most successful Japanese film for 19 years until it lost the crown to “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train” in 2020.
Walt Disney Pictures recognized the potential in “Spirited Away” and purchased the North American distribution rights, which helped the film’s international success. “Spirited Away” won many awards including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature . The movie was also a co-recipient of the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival.
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Underrated: The Animation Is Absolutely Top Level
Perhaps the most commonly brought up features of Spirited Away are the animation style and quality that make it such a masterpiece. And yet, it’s worth understanding just how good animation is here.
Studio Ghibli is known for its works having a distinctive look, but such animation doesn’t just function as an aesthetically pleasing asset but also as a tool for better communicating the story to the audience.
The Tale Of Princess Kaguya
Another Studio Ghibli master piece. Originally from the Japanese folklore, The Tale of the Bamboo cutter.
The hand drawn animation of this movie is absolutely stunning. It is good to see that there is no 3D CGI used in this movie. The animation is very raw and it seems like they used many traditional methods of animation on this film. You can tell they used a lot of watercolors in this movie. If feels as though the animators and artist were not afraid to show that they got their hands dirty and smeared some of the paint on the sheets.
The Story of Princess Kaguya shows us the day when she was found in the bamboo forest by a bamboo cutter to the day she became a princess. We see her grow up happy and free. Once she becomes a princess her life becomes more difficult and she becomes more miserable. There is raw emotion in this movie. We see the destructive side of Kaguyas femininity as well as the positive and beautiful side of it.
It is a master piece and I would put it at the same level if not higher than Spirited Away.
The animation with watercolor gave it that awe that pulls your soul into the screen.
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Overrated: The Concept Is Similar To Other Works
Though it might not be obvious at once just because Spirited Away has such a unique world populated by unusual and strange characters, the concept of this movie isn’t all that unique.
In fact, the concept of Spirited Away is similar to other works like Alice in Wonderland and Coraline both of which feature a young girl suddenly finding herself in a different magical world.
Spirited Away’s Oscar Win Was A Wake
Writer, commentator and translator Dr Jonathan Clements, whose published works include comprehensive encyclopaedias of anime and Japanese TV drama, notes that while established fans had no doubt of Miyazaki’s credentials, Spirited Away’s Oscar win was “a wake-up call for a lot of people in the film business who had been disregarding Japanese animation for years”.
It prompted a behind-the-scenes rights-rush, as several movie companies hoped to cash in on anime releases it also represented a high point in Disney’s then-distribution partnership with Studio Ghibli, which raised broader global awareness of its catalogue. Throughout this tale, nature is intrinsically magical humans often seem comparatively graceless, destructive, and given to disastrous materialism. As Clements also points out, the eco-focus of Spirited Away was natural territory for Miyazaki and his peers, and has added to the film’s universal appeal.
The eco-focus of Spirited Away added to the film’s universal appeal
Numerous Hayao Miyazaki films feature nostalgia for the natural world, respect for spirit realms and concerns about climate change
It’s also worth noting that another much-loved fictional hero , cuddly spirit Totoro, also lends his name to a real-life environmental Totoro Fund, dedicated to preserving Japan’s lush Sayama Hills region, which inspired Miyazaki’s anime.
A child’s eye view
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Grave Of The Fireflies
Most of the above deals exclude unlike most of the other films, which were published by , Grave of the Fireflies was produced and is owned by , which also had published the short story it was based on, and as such, fell into different rights holdings.
Grave of the Fireflies was released in Japan on by Buena Vista Home Entertainment under the Ghibli ga Ippai Collection on August 7, 1998. On July 29, 2005, a release was distributed through . Walt Disney Studios Japan released the complete collector’s edition DVD on August 6, 2008. WDSJ released the film on twice on July 18, 2012: one as a single release, and one in a two-film set with .
It was released on VHS in North America by in a subtitled form on June 2, 1993. They later released the film with an English dub on VHS on September 1, 1998 and an all-Regions DVD on October 7 the same year. It was later released on a two-disc DVD set on October 8, 2002. It was released by Central Park Media one last time on December 7, 2004. Following the May 2009 bankruptcy and liquidation of Central Park Media, acquired the rights and re-released it on DVD on July 7, 2009. Following the September 1, 2009 shutdown and re-branding of ADV, their successor, , rescued the film and released a remastered DVD on March 6, 2012. A edition was released on November 20, 2012, featuring an all-new English dub produced by , along with a digital release that same year.
Underrated: It’s Both For Younger & Older Generations
The main appeal of Spirited Away is that it is loved both by younger and by older generations. Many critics have pointed this out which is definitely one of the reasons for its massive success.
But in reality, Miyazaki made the movie for young girls rather than making it for everyone. That’s why it’s loved by people from all generations and backgrounds.
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Ways Spirited Away Is Better Than Your Name
Two of the greatest anime films of all time, by two of the medium’s most acclaimed directors. But which movie is the better of the two?
Spirited Away and Your Name are definitely two of the most well-known feature-length anime movies of the 21st century, if not of all time. Both are incredibly beautiful and have been both critically and commercially successful as well as being praised by audiences worldwide.
And yet, Your Name‘s director, Makoto Shinkai, has been compared to Spirited Away‘s legendary director Hayao Miyazaki with some saying Shinkai would continue Miyazaki’s work while others saying he is nowhere near the icon’s greatness. Comparing their most famous works might help figure out who’s right.
Underrated: The Character Designs Are Some Of The Best There Are
Speaking of the strange characters seen in the spirit world, their designs are definitely some of the best there are in animation. They stay with audiences for a long time after watching the movie.
Some of them were relatively original and made up by Miyazaki and his team while others were largely influenced by Japanese folklore and mythology.
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Overrated: It’s Not Actually Miyazaki’s Best Work
When it comes to Miyazaki’s best work, most casual viewers will probably say Spirited Away just because it is the most well-known and acclaimed work of his. But many fans who keep a much closer eye on everything the animator does will say differently.
Some consider Princess Mononoke to be his best while others think it’s Howl’s Moving Castle. Still, others claim Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind or Porco Rosso are two of his best. In other words, Spirited Away may be a masterpiece, but it’s not always considered to be as good as Miyazaki’s other works.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices
Directed by Makato Shinkai, Children Who Chase Lost Voices is about a young elementary school girl, Asuna Watase, who is lonely since her father’s death. One day, Asuna hears a strange melody from the radio that her father has left her. Asuna then meets Shun, a mysterious boy who saves her from a creature in the forest and forms a quick friendship with her. However, his sudden death leaves her devastated and she sets off on a journey to the underworld where she discovers new friendships, enemies and a lot of supernatural elements.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices has all of the elements that Spirited Away has. Both movies have a female protagonist and has rich cinematography and supernatural elements everywhere.
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Chihiro Is An Unusual Heroine
“Spirited Aways” heroine is a unique one. In terms of appearance, especially compared with the usual big-eyed anime heroines, Chihiro is quite plain. Her exterior appearance may be quite ordinary, but her internal self is rather remarkable. Faced with adversity, she reveals herself to be clever, hard-working, and extremely perceptive about other characters in the movie.
Though Chihiro starts the movie as a petulant child she matures and gains confidence throughout the story. Ultimately, “Spirited Away” is Chihiro’s journey, which Miyazaki hoped would resonate with young girls everywhere.
Underrated: It’s Not In Fact A Love Story
For some strange reason, Spirited Away is sometimes discussed in the context of being a love story while it’s not, in fact, a love story per se.
Of course, there are some elements of the kind, but they are rather presented as platonic love while the main focus of the story is the spiritual transformation Chihiro goes through. This sets Spirited Away apart from most animated movies “for girls” that often feature a love story.
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Why Cant Chihiro Look Back
This is a common trope in many legends, such as the legend of Orpheus. In the legend of Orpheus, the hero makes a journey into the underworld to bring back his beloved wife. However, he is told not to look back. Unlike Chihiro, Orpheus does look back and as a result loses his wife for good.
Following this trope, it could mean that if Chihiro looked back she might be unable to move forward or get stuck in the spirit world forever. By not looking back she is also completing her personal journey, growing up, and maturing.
Your Name: The Concept
Speaking of the supernatural aspect of Your Name, the movie’s story wouldn’t work without its unique approach to the classical concept of switching bodies. Were it not for the main twist, the story wouldn’t be as impactful.
Spirited Away is also great with its concept, indeed. However, it feels somewhat repetitive when one considers that it is very similar to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz .
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Life At The Bathhouse
“It’s a Stink Spirit – Yes, and a large one, too.”“It’s headed straight for the bridge! Please turn back. Please go!”“The baths are closed for the night. Please withdraw, please!”“Stinky!”“That’s odd. Stink Spirits feel different.”“Well, now that it’s here, better go greet it! All we can do is get rid of it fast.”
- The Bathhouse staff encounter the Stink Spirit
Chihiro helps free a river spirit from his sludgy form.
While at work, Sen gives admittance to a wraithlike spirit called No-Face, who returns the favor by helping her obtain water needed to bathe a “stink sigil” 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.
No-Face develops an obsession for Chihiro, even propositioning her with gold.
Ginzan Onsen: Notoya Ryokan
Notoya Ryokan, in the Ginzan Onsen area is a 500-year-old ryokan that offers guests massage services, as well as indoor and outdoor baths. When you see the classic Japanese exterior lit up at night you will feel like you’ve been spirited away.
Ginzan Onsen is a quiet, small town, and extremely photogenic, however there isn’t much sightseeing in the immediate area. The hotels in the heart of the town are often fully booked, so it’s a nice idea to visit this Onsen from Yamagata-city or Sendai-city as a daytrip.
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The Kind And Strong Yuna: Rins Identity
In the hierarchy of the bathhouse Rin is a type of worker called a Yuna. The Yuna are the female workers in the bathhouse who seem to have mostly serving or cleaning jobs. However, Rin looks different from the other female workers in the bathhouse , why is that?
In “The Ghibli Artbook”, Rin was revealed to be a Byakko, a white tiger or fox spirit which is said to bring happiness. Foxes are regarded as gods in Japan and known as O-inari-san. You can find many shrines that enshrine fox spirits, including the famous Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto.
Explore The World Of Spirited Away
Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is a huge showcase of Japanese culture and architecture, so a tour inspired by the movie is a perfect way for fans to make the most of their time in Japan.
Miyazaki was inspired by a number of real locations in Japan to create Yubaba’s gorgeous bathhouse: Aburaya. Read on to find out about Japanese Onsen, museums, and food related to “Spirited Away”.
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This Film Provides Examples Of:
- Actor Allusion: “I’ll miss you, Chihiro. Your best friend, Rumi.”