It’s our beloved Spirited Away’s 15th anniversary this month and what an incredible gift it has been. Everyone around the world probably has a different story of when and where (and in what language) they’ve first seen it but I think everyone can agree that Spirited Away has touched our hearts deeply. I wanted to share certain facts, fun trivia, what information Studio Ghibli has recently released about the movie, and my love for it. For starters, Spirited Away’s official anniversary was on July 20th, as it came out then in 2001. I’ll save you the numbered statistics of how crazy of a hit it was but just know that it’s the highest grossing film in Japanese history while also being the only Japanese anime/animated film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Which is even more of a feat considering there just aren’t many foreign films made outside of Hollywood that win over, well, Hollywood.
Hayao Miyazaki was thinking about retiring after Princess Mononoke but was inspired by his friend’s “sullen” 10 year old daughter. Studio Ghibli recently responded to a fan’s letter that asked the burning questions we’ve all been wondering, just a few days before the official anniversary date.
“Chihiro, as a 10-year-old girl, could understand the difference because she had overcome difficulties and had managed to acquire the ‘energy to live’ — which is something everyone can do naturally”
Mashable states, “Lastly, the letter also clarified that the story wasn’t about a girl with a ‘unique heart’, but about how a girl learned to face her fears by understanding and appreciating the meaning behind life.” While also talking about the pigs representing the greed of the 80’s recession.
Some more fun trivia thanks to IMDb:
*The cleansing of the river spirit is based on a real-life incident in Hayao Miyazaki‘s life in which he participated in the cleaning of a river, removing, among other things, a bicycle.
*Although the story is incredibly deep and thought provoking, Miyazaki did not have a complete script for it and created a lot of the plot line during the storyboard process.
*No Face/Kaonashi resembles a silk worm, whom of which also eats plenty and grows rapidly. No Face stays with Zeniba in the end, spinning silk.
*Haku’s real name in the Japanese version is Nigihayami Kohakunushi which means God of the Swift Amber River, which is just a taaaad longer than Kohaku River!
“I created a heroine who is an ordinary girl, someone with whom the audience can sympathize. It’s not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside them, brought out by the particular circumstances. I want my young friends to live like that, and I think they, too, have such a wish.” – Hayao Miyazaki
A local theatre celebrated Spirited Away’s 15th anniversary by having a midnight screening of it, where me and Andrew went and enjoyed the movie in a large, packed theatre. Everyone had gotten there very early and it was all very exciting; teens to 30’s with a couple sleepy kids were crowded around waiting for the doors to open, playing Pokemon Go and complimenting each other’s Studio Ghibli merchandise. I had seen an incredible adorable No Face shawl at Hot Topic the week prior and seriously regretted not getting it. It’s a vintage theatre so we were welcomed with Mean Girls and the Goonies movie trailers while eating $1 Nerds Rope (legit my favorite candy).
The movie started and I was pleasantly surprised it was in Japanese because I had grown up watching it in English and had only seen it in Japanese once before. I love finding out what words they actually use in Japanese and although my communication ability is not strong, I do know enough vocab to appreciate it. My favorite part about movie theatres in general is how big the screen is and how it just sucks you in. That’s a movie fanatic cliche thing to say but I’m always deeply invested in what I’m watching, especially if there’s no distractions.
The scene where Haku is showing her how to get to Kamaji’s and tells her he has to leave really hit me. When she’s standing atop of the winding, no rails staircase (my fear) and somehow she gets the courage to just continue, and continue, and pursue, and never stop. Even when a scary giant headed witch is threatening you and your parent’s lives, she just keeps fueling the fire. I just sat and felt what that must be like, to be looking out on a scary journey that you don’t know will end well or not and to have the courage to fight it. Maybe I’m thinking too deeply on an animated movie but it was just really heart wrenching and moving!
I also loved the Japanese version because I felt it had more romance inclinations because I’m a romantic and just eat it up. Spirited Away is the perfect image of a sweet, young love that goes much deeper than our worldly relationship definitions. Young me and even the me of today still yearns to know what happens after Chihiro leaves, and I’m not even talking about a sequel. I want to know within that fantastical universe what happens. The fact I’ll never know makes it that much more beautiful. Also, there’s always fanfiction ;D