Spirited Away

Template:Infobox Movie

Spirited Away, or Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (千と千尋の神隠し; "The spiriting away of Sen and Chihiro") is a movie (2001) by Japanese anime director and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki created at Studio Ghibli.

The film won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 75th Annual Academy Awards ceremony in 2003, making the film the first anime production to receive an Oscar. Other animation awards came from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle. It shared First Prize at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival with Paul Greengrass' Bloody Sunday. The film also made it to dozens of top ten lists by American critics in 2002.

Spirited Away was released in Japan in July 2001, drawing an audience of around 23 million and revenues of 30 billion yen (approx. $250 million US), to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history (beating Titanic); it is said that by 2002, a sixth of the Japanese population had seen it.

The film was subsequently released in the United States in September 20, 2002 and made slightly over 10 million dollars by September 2003. It was dubbed into English by The Walt Disney Company, under the supervision of Pixar vice president John Lasseter, and was released in North America by its Buena Vista Distribution arm. It was released in the United States in DVD format on April 15, 2003 where the attention brought by the Oscar win made the title a strong seller. The English-dubbed version was also released in the UK on March 29, 2004.

Hayao Miyazaki, the director of My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997) as well, came out of retirement to make this film after meeting the daughter of a friend, on whom the main character is based.



In the movie, Chihiro Ogino is a little girl who moves to the country with her parents, Akio and Yuko (Yūko). She is clearly unhappy about the move and appears rather petulant. They lose their way and come across a tunnel, and out of curiosity, enter it, unaware that it actually provides access into the spirit world—and specifically to a spirit bathhouse—a place where the spirits and gods (drawn from the Shinto religious tradition) go to rest and relax. The family enters what is apparently an abandoned theme park populated with restaurants, and Chihiro's parents, finding a place to eat, immediately help themselves to a meal. Chihiro is uneasy, and hesitates outside, watching her parents eat like pigs; soon they actually transform into large pigs (as happened to Odysseus's crew in Homer's Odyssey).

When Chihiro's distress at losing her parents is compounded by discovering that she's turning transparent, a mysterious boy or young man named Haku comforts her and gives her something to eat which turns her solid again. He then escorts her into the spirit world palace of Yubaba (Yubaaba) and admonishes her that the only way she can remain safely for long enough to rescue her parents is to find work in the spirits' bathhouse.

Chihiro follows Haku's advice, descending a long outdoor staircase to the boiler room where she asks the human-looking, six-armed boilerman, Kamaji, for work. He rebuffs her, until one of the coal-carrying sprites (reminiscent of My Neighbor Totoro's soot sprites) collapses under an extra-heavy lump. Chihiro takes the sprite's place and feeds the boiler. Kamaji warms towards the girl, and assists her to get a job in the bathhouse.

A young woman named Lin (Rin) helps Chihiro find her way through the labyrinthine palace undetected, diverting a fellow servant by tantalizing him with food while Chihiro squeezes into an elevator behind a gross but benign radish spirit.

Pulled into Yubaba's penthouse suite, Chihiro discovers a regal but monstrous lady (similar to the Queen of Hearts in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), who dotes on an equally monstrous (and unfeasibly large) baby. Chihiro repeatedly and stubbornly asks for a job, and finally Yubaba consents, on condition that she give up her name (somewhat like the Sea Witch demanding The Little Mermaid's voice in the Hans Christian Andersen tale). Yubaba literally takes possession of Chihiro's name, grasping the Kanji from the contract in her hand and leaving Chihiro only one piece of her original 2-character name on the contract, in isolation pronounced "Sen". By taking someone's name, Yubaba keeps the owner of the name a prisoner of the bathhouse forever unless she or he can remember who she or he is.

While at work Sen has a difficult time adjusting to the work regime, but makes a good name for herself with her first customer, a slimy monster whom she discovers is a heavily polluted river god who needs an extraction of the garbage inside it. Later, she lets in a spirit called No-Face who in return helps her perform one of her tasks at the bathhouse. However he also goes out of control and tempts the staff at the bathhouse with fake gold and swallows a few of them. Meanwhile, Haku who has taken the shape of a dragon is pursued and attacked by a large group of flying origami birds. He is badly injured but makes his way to Yubaba's quarters. Sen follows him there with one of the paper objects having attached itself to her back without her knowing it.

Missing image
Chihiro of Spirited Away

She meets Yubaba's giant baby boy who wants to play with her. She manages to get away from him and finds Haku, who is badly injured. The paper object stuck on her back transforms into Zeniba: Yubaba's twin sister, who was chasing Haku because he had stolen a seal from her. Zeniba transforms the baby into a little rat-like creature because he makes too much noise, and Yubaba's hawk-like lieutenant into a tiny bird-creature. Haku cuts Zeniba's paper puppet into two with his tail, causing Zeniba's image to split and then falls down a shaft taking Sen with him. They land safely in Kamaji's room.

Sen manages to treat Haku and makes him spit out the seal that he stole from Zeniba. She decides to take it to her and travels there with the reformed No-Face (who was aggressive only because of the corrupting influence of the bathhouse) and the little baby-creature, who is carried by the bird-creature. When Yubaba finds out that her baby is missing she is furious. Haku manages to make a deal: he will get the baby back and in return Yubaba must set free Sen and her parents. (The plots of the Japanese-language and English-language versions differ slightly here: in the original, Yubaba and Haku talk about what's necessary to break the spell on her parents.)

Haku (now a dragon) finds Sen at Zeniba's cottage. The two of them fly back to the bathhouse. On the way, Sen remembers that Haku is actually a river spirit of the Kohaku River, a river Sen used to live near (and once fell in) but that was drained up and built upon. Upon remembering Sen tells him that his name is 'Kohaku River'. This frees Haku from the control of Yubaba. At the bathhouse Sen has to perform one last task to free her parents: she has to pick them out from a group of pigs. She correctly answers that none of the pigs are her parents. As a result she and her parents are set free and return to the human world.

Note: In some parts of the movie the main character Chihiro has climacophobia (fear of falling down stairs).

Possible themes

It is often commented that the film constitutes an allegory on the progression from childhood to maturity, and the risk of losing one's nature in the process. The main character's development in the setting could also be seen as a sullen, spoiled and very modern Japanese ten-year-old being forced to grow up when faced with more traditional Japanese culture and manners.

There are perhaps also veiled references to competing political ideologies, including a theme of environmental awareness (as seen by the river spirit being freed from its stink spirit form by the material dumped in it, and Haku's discovery he is the blocked up River Kohaku) continued from Princess Mononoke. Miyazaki also refrains from creating any characters with complete ideologies of good or evil, all characters exhibiting some negative and some positive traits in different situations.


The movie stars the following actors (listed in English version/Japanese version format):

See also

  • Sentō — a Japanese bath house
  • Tengu — the origins of the term kamikakushi (spiriting away) in Japanese folklore

External links

es:El viaje de Chihiro fr:Le Voyage de Chihiro it:La citt incantata hu:Chihiro Szellemorszgban nl:Spirited Away no:Chihiro og heksene ja:千と千尋の神隠し ru:Унесённые призраками sv:Spirited Away zh:千与千寻


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