Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece and Oscar-winning film Spirited Away is set to debut as a stage play in 2022. The play will be touring through Japan and premiering in Tokyo next February.
Spirited Away was released in 2001 and for 19 years was the highest-grossing film in Japan, until Demon Slayer surpassed it in 2020. Spirited Away was released by Studio Ghibli and continues to be one of the studio’s most successful films next to Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo.
Spirited Away is set to be adapted by Toho Co. Ltd, a Japanese film and theatre company, and is set to be directed and written by John Caird, who won a Tony Award for directing Les Miserables.
We, Hayao and I, both liked John’s vision. He is a person we can trust. I am looking forward to seeing Chihiro grow on stage under his direction,” Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki said. “I could tell how much he adores this story from his delighted face when I gave him a No-Face (Kaonashi) piggy-bank.”
In terms of the cast, the two actresses Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi will be playing Chihiro. Although this is Hashimoto’s debut performance, Kamishiraishi is well-known for voicing characters in Your Name and Weathering With You, both directed by Makoto Shinkai.
Spirited Away follows a ten-year-old girl named Chihiro who ends up in the spirit world. She overcomes many obstacles and ultimately forms relationships that change her outlook on her life. Where Chihiro begins as a naive little girl, she ends as a brave and knowledgeable heroine with meaningful friendships and experiences. She saves her parents and has a newfound sense of agency at the end of the film.
Prior to the creation of Spirited Away Miyazaki was determined to retire; however, he did not because of this film.
“I wanted to retire, but life isn’t that easy,” Miyazaki said according to Roger Ebert. “I wanted to make a movie especially for the daughters of my friends. I opened all the drawers in my head they were all empty. So I realized I had to make a movie just for 10-year-olds, and ‘Spirited Away’ is my answer.”
This film is not monumental because of its commercial success, but because of its deeply intimate relationship with viewers. According to Hannah Ewens of Vice, Spirited Away is the best-animated film of all time, because it touches the soul.
I felt this country only offered such things as crushes and romance to 10-year-old girls,” Miyazaki said in an interview. “…looking at my young friends, I felt this was not what they held dear in their hearts, not what they wanted. And so I wondered if I could make a movie in which they could be heroines…”
Spirited Away celebrates the strength of girls and celebrates the inner fighter within us all. Chihiro seems to be like an unlikely hero at first, but she is a representation of grace under pressure or courage.
Ultimately, this adaptation is very exciting for people who have been invested in the storytelling of Miyazaki, and many people are anticipating its great success.
“I feel so excited and privileged to be working on the first-ever stage adaptation of Sen to Chihiro (the abbreviated Japanese title for ‘Spirited Away’),” Caird said according to Time Out. “I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form.”