Spirited Away

Spirited Away (Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し, Hepburn: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, lit.'Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away') is a 2001 Japanese animated fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Tohokushinsha Film, and Mitsubishi and distributed by Toho.[7] The film features the voices of Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Takeshi Naito, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Tsunehiko Kamijō, Takehiko Ono, and Bunta Sugawara. Spirited Away tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the world of Kami (spirits of Japanese Shinto folklore).[8] After her parents are turned into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba's bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

Spirited Away
Chihiro, dressed in bathhouse work clothes is standing in front of an image containing a group of pigs and the city behind her. Text below reveal the title and film credits, with the tagline to Chihiro's right.
Theatrical release poster
HepburnSen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Directed byHayao Miyazaki
Written byHayao Miyazaki
Produced byToshio Suzuki
CinematographyAtsushi Okui
Edited byTakeshi Seyama
Music byJoe Hisaishi
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 20 July 2001 (2001-07-20) (Japan)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
Budget$19.2 million[2][3]
Box office$395.8 million[a]

Miyazaki wrote the screenplay after he decided the film would be based on the ten-year-old daughter of his friend Seiji Okuda, the film's associate producer, who came to visit his house each summer.[9] At the time, Miyazaki was developing two personal projects, but they were rejected. With a budget of US$19 million, production of Spirited Away began in 2000. Pixar animator John Lasseter, a fan and friend of Miyazaki, convinced Walt Disney Pictures to buy the film's North American distribution rights, and served as executive producer of its English-dubbed version.[10] Lasseter then hired Kirk Wise as director and Donald W. Ernst as producer, while screenwriters Cindy and Donald Hewitt wrote the English-language dialogue to match the characters' original Japanese-language lip movements.[11]

Originally released in Japan on 20 July 2001 by distributor Toho, the film received universal acclaim,[12] grossing $395.8 million at the worldwide box office.[a][13] Accordingly, it became the most successful and highest-grossing film in Japanese history with a total of ¥31.68 billion ($305 million).[14] It held the record for 19 years until it was surpassed by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train in 2020.

Spirited Away has been regarded by critics[citation needed] as one of the greatest films of the 21st century, and to be among the best animated films ever made. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards,[15] making it the first, and to date only, hand-drawn and non-English-language animated film to win the award. It was the co-recipient of the Golden Bear at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival (shared with Bloody Sunday), and is within the top ten on the British Film Institute's list of "Top 50 films for children up to the age of 14".[16] In 2016, it was voted the fourth-best film of the 21st century by the BBC, as picked by 177 film critics from around the world, making it the highest-ranking animated film on the list.[17] In 2017, it was also named the second "Best Film...of the 21st Century So Far" by The New York Times.[18]


Ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino and her parents are traveling to their new home when her father decides to take a shortcut. The family's car stops in front of a tunnel leading to what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which Chihiro's father insists on exploring, despite his daughter's protest. They find a seemingly empty restaurant still stocked with food, which Chihiro's parents immediately begin to eat. While exploring further, Chihiro reaches an enormous bathhouse and meets a boy named Haku, who warns her to return across the riverbed before sunset. However, Chihiro discovers that her parents have been transformed into pigs, and she is unable to cross the now-flooded river.

Haku finds Chihiro and instructs her to ask for a job from the bathhouse's boiler-man, Kamaji, a yōkai commanding the susuwatari. Kamaji refuses to hire her and asks worker Lin to send Chihiro to Yubaba, the witch who runs the bathhouse. Yubaba tries to frighten Chihiro away, but she persists, and is eventually given a working contract. Yubaba takes away the second kanji of her name, renaming her Sen (). While visiting her parents' pigpen, Sen realizes that she had already forgotten her real name. Haku warns her that Yubaba controls people by taking their names, and that if she forgets hers like he has forgotten his, she will never be able to leave the spirit world.

Sen faces discrimination from the other workers; only Kamaji and Lin show sympathy for her. While working, she invites a silent creature named No-Face (Kaonashi 顔無し) inside, believing him to be a customer. A "stink spirit" arrives as Sen's first customer, and she discovers he is the spirit of a polluted river. In gratitude for cleaning him, he gives Sen a magic emetic dumpling. Meanwhile, No-Face imitates the gold left behind by the river spirit and tempts a worker with it, then swallowing him. No-Face demands food from the bathhouse and begins giving away extensive amounts of gold to its workers.

Sen sees paper Shikigami attacking a dragon and recognizes the dragon as Haku metamorphosed. When a grievously injured Haku crashes into Yubaba's penthouse, Sen follows him upstairs. A shikigami that stowed away on her back shapeshifts into Zeniba, Yubaba's twin sister. She turns Yubaba's son, Boh, into a mouse, and creates a false copy of him. Zeniba tells Sen that Haku has stolen a magic golden seal from her, and warns Sen that it carries a deadly curse. Haku strikes the shikigami, causing Zeniba to vanish. He falls into the boiler room with Sen, where she feeds him part of the emetic dumpling, causing him to vomit up the seal and a black slug, which Sen crushes with her foot.

With Haku unconscious, Sen resolves to return the seal and apologize to Zeniba. Sen confronts an engorged No-Face, and feeds him the rest of the dumpling. No-Face follows Sen out of the bathhouse, steadily regurgitating everything that he has eaten. Sen, No-Face, and Boh travel to see Zeniba with train tickets given to her by Kamaji. Meanwhile, Yubaba orders that Sen's parents be slaughtered, but Haku reveals that Boh is missing and offers to retrieve him if Yubaba releases Sen and her parents. Yubaba agrees, but only if Sen can pass a final test.

Sen meets with Zeniba, who makes her a magic hairband and reveals that Yubaba used the black slug to take control over Haku. Haku appears at Zeniba's home in his dragon form and offers to fly them home. No-Face decides to stay behind with Zeniba and become her spinner, while Sen and Boh leave with Haku for the bathhouse. In mid-flight, Sen recalls falling years ago into the Kohaku River and being washed safely ashore, correctly guessing Haku's real identity as the spirit of the Kohaku River (ニギハヤミ コハクヌシ, Nigihayami Kohakunushi). When they arrive at the bathhouse, Yubaba forces Sen to identify her parents from among a group of pigs in order to leave. After she answers correctly that none of the pigs are her parents, her contract disappears and she is given back her real name. Haku takes her to the now-dry riverbed and vows to meet her again. Chihiro crosses the riverbed to her restored parents, who do not remember anything after eating at the restaurant stall. They walk back through the tunnel until they reach their car, now covered in dust and leaves. Before getting in, Chihiro looks back at the tunnel, her hair tie from Zeniba still intact.

Voice castEdit

Character name Voice actor
English Japanese (Nihongo) Japanese English
Chihiro Ogino / Sen Ogino Chihiro (荻野 千尋) / Sen ()[b] Rumi Hiiragi Daveigh Chase
Haku / Spirit of the Kohaku River Haku (ハク) / Nigihayami Kohakunushi (饒速水小白主)[c] Miyu Irino Jason Marsden
Yubaba Yubāba (湯婆婆)[d] Mari Natsuki Suzanne Pleshette
Zeniba Zeniiba (銭婆)[e]
Kamaji Kamajii (釜爺)[f] Bunta Sugawara David Ogden Stiers
Lin Rin (リン) Yoomi Tamai Susan Egan
Chichiyaku Chichiyaku (父役) Tsunehiko Kamijō Paul Eiding
Aniyaku (assistant Manager) Aniyaku (兄役) Takehiko Ono John Ratzenberger
No-Face[g] Kaonashi (顔無し)[g] Akio Nakamura Bob Bergen
Aogaeru Aogaeru (青蛙)[h] Tatsuya Gashūin
Bandai-gaeru (foreman) Bandai-gaeru (番台蛙)[i] Yō Ōizumi Rodger Bumpass
Boh (baby) () Ryūnosuke Kamiki Tara Strong
Akio Ogino (Chihiro's father) Ogino Akio (荻野 明夫) Takashi Naitō Michael Chiklis
Yūko Ogino (Chihiro's mother) Ogino Yūko (荻野 悠子) Yasuko Sawaguchi Lauren Holly
River Spirit Kawa no Kami (河の神) Koba Hayashi Jim Ward
Radish Spirit Oshira-sama (お白様)[j] Ken Yasuda Jack Angel


Development and inspirationEdit

"I created a heroine who is an ordinary girl, someone with whom the audience can sympathize [...]. [I]t'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[19]

Every summer, Hayao Miyazaki spent his vacation at a mountain cabin with his family and five girls who were friends of the family. The idea for Spirited Away came about when he wanted to make a film for these friends. Miyazaki had previously directed films for small children and teenagers such as My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, but he had not created a film for ten-year-old girls. For inspiration, he read shōjo manga magazines like Nakayoshi and Ribon the girls had left at the cabin, but felt they only offered subjects on "crushes" and romance. When looking at his young friends, Miyazaki felt this was not what they "held dear in their hearts" and decided to produce the film about a young heroine whom they could look up to instead.[19]

Hayao Miyazaki used shōjo manga magazines for inspiration to direct Spirited Away.

Miyazaki had wanted to produce a new film for years, but his two previous proposals—one based on the Japanese book Kiri no Mukō no Fushigi na Machi (霧のむこうのふしぎな町) by Sachiko Kashiwaba, and another about a teenage heroine—were rejected. His third proposal, which ended up becoming Sen and Chihiro's Spirited Away, was more successful. The three stories revolved around a bathhouse that was inspired by one in Miyazaki's hometown. He thought the bathhouse was a mysterious place, and there was a small door next to one of the bathtubs in the bath house. Miyazaki was always curious to what was behind it, and he made up several stories about it, one of which inspired the bathhouse setting of Spirited Away.[19]

A Japanese dragon ascends toward the heavens with Mount Fuji in the background in this print from Ogata Gekkō. Spirited Away is heavily influenced by Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore.[8]

Production of Spirited Away commenced in February 2000 on a budget of ¥1.9 billion (US$15 million).[2] Walt Disney Pictures financed ten percent of the film's production cost for the right of first refusal for American distribution.[20][21] As with Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki and the Studio Ghibli staff experimented with computer animation. With the use of more computers and programs such as Softimage 3D, the staff learned the software, but used the technology carefully so that it enhanced the story, instead of "stealing the show". Each character was mostly hand-drawn, with Miyazaki working alongside his animators to see they were getting it just right.[2] The biggest difficulty in making the film was to reduce its length. When production began, Miyazaki realized it would be more than three hours long if he made it according to his plot. He had to delete many scenes from the story, and tried to reduce the "eye candy" in the film because he wanted it to be simple. Miyazaki did not want to make the hero a "pretty girl". At the beginning, he was frustrated at how she looked "dull" and thought, "She isn't cute. Isn't there something we can do?" As the film neared the end, however, he was relieved to feel "she will be a charming woman."[19]

The Takahashi Korekiyo residence in the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum was one of Miyazaki's inspirations in creating the spirit world's buildings.

Miyazaki based some of the buildings in the spirit world on the buildings in the real-life Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan. He often visited the museum for inspiration while working on the film. Miyazaki had always been interested in the Pseudo-Western style buildings from the Meiji period that were available there. The museum made Miyazaki feel nostalgic, "especially when I stand here alone in the evening, near closing time, and the sun is setting – tears well up in my eyes."[19] Another major inspiration was the Notoya Ryokan (能登谷旅館), a traditional Japanese inn located in Yamagata Prefecture, famous for its exquisite architecture and ornamental features.[22] While some guidebooks and articles claim that the old gold town of Jiufen in Taiwan served as an inspirational model for the film, Miyazaki has denied this.[23] The Dōgo Onsen is also often said to be a key inspiration for the Spirited Away onsen/bathhouse.[24]

Toshio Suzuki, the producer of the film, also cites European inspirations and influences in the production of Spirited Away. He specifically invokes the structure of the film as European-inspired due to Miyazaki's own influences by European films such as The Snow Queen and The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep.[25]


The film score of Spirited Away was composed and conducted by Miyazaki's regular collaborator Joe Hisaishi, and performed by the New Japan Philharmonic.[26] The soundtrack received awards at the 56th Mainichi Film Competition Award for Best Music, the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2001 Best Music Award in the Theater Movie category, and the 17th Japan Gold Disk Award for Animation Album of the Year.[27][28][29] Later, Hisaishi added lyrics to "One Summer's Day" and named the new version of the song "The Name of Life" (いのちの名前, "Inochi no Namae") which was performed by Ayaka Hirahara.[30]

The closing song, "Always With Me" (いつも何度でも, "Itsumo Nando Demo", lit. 'Always, No Matter How Many Times') was written and performed by Youmi Kimura, a composer and lyre-player from Osaka.[31] The lyrics were written by Kimura's friend Wakako Kaku. The song was intended to be used for Rin the Chimney Painter (煙突描きのリン, Entotsu-kaki no Rin), a different Miyazaki film which was never released.[31] In the special features of the Japanese DVD, Hayao Miyazaki explains how the song in fact inspired him to create Spirited Away.[31] The song itself would be recognized as Gold at the 43rd Japan Record Awards.[32]

Besides the original soundtrack, there is also an image album, titled Spirited Away Image Album (千と千尋の神隠し イメージアルバム, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi Imēji Arubamu), that contains 10 tracks.[33]

English adaptationEdit

John Lasseter, Pixar animator and a fan and friend of Miyazaki, would often sit with his staff and watch Miyazaki's work when encountering story problems. After seeing Spirited Away Lasseter was ecstatic.[34] Upon hearing his reaction to the film, Disney CEO Michael Eisner asked Lasseter if he would be interested in introducing Spirited Away to an American audience. Lasseter obliged by agreeing to serve as the executive producer for the English adaptation. Following this, several others began to join the project: Beauty and the Beast co-director Kirk Wise and Aladdin co-producer Donald W. Ernst joined Lasseter as director and producer of Spirited Away, respectively.[34] Screenwriters Cindy Davis Hewitt and Donald H. Hewitt penned the English-language dialogue, which they wrote in order to match the characters' original Japanese-language lip movements.[11]

The cast of the film consists of Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette (in her final film role before her death in January 2008), Michael Chiklis, Lauren Holly, Susan Egan, David Ogden Stiers and John Ratzenberger (a Pixar regular). Advertising was limited, with Spirited Away being mentioned in a small scrolling section of the film section of Disney.com; Disney had sidelined their official website for Spirited Away[34] and given the film a comparatively small promotional budget.[21] Marc Hairston argues that this was a justified response to Studio Ghibli's retention of the merchandising rights to the film and characters, which limited Disney's ability to properly market the film.[21]



The major themes of Spirited Away, heavily influenced by Japanese Shinto-Buddhist folklore, centre on the protagonist, Chihiro, and her liminal journey through the realm of spirits. The central location of the film is a Japanese bathhouse where a great variety of Japanese folklore creatures, including kami, come to bathe. Miyazaki cites the solstice rituals when villagers call forth their local kami and invite them into their baths.[8] Chihiro also encounters kami of animals and plants. Miyazaki says of this:

In my grandparents' time, it was believed that kami existed everywhere – in trees, rivers, insects, wells, anything. My generation does not believe this, but I like the idea that we should all treasure everything because spirits might exist there, and we should treasure everything because there is a kind of life to everything.[8]

Chihiro's archetypal entrance into another world demarcates her status as one somewhere between child and adult. Chihiro also stands outside societal boundaries in the supernatural setting. The use of the word kamikakushi (literally 'hidden by gods') within the Japanese title, and its associated folklore, reinforces this liminal passage: "Kamikakushi is a verdict of 'social death' in this world, and coming back to this world from Kamikakushi meant 'social resurrection.'"[35]

Additional themes are expressed through No-Face, who reflects the characters who surround him, learning by example and taking the traits of whomever he consumes. This nature results in No-Face's monstrous rampage through the bathhouse. After Chihiro saves No-Face with the emetic dumpling, he becomes timid once more. At the end of the film, Zeniba decides to take care of No-Face so he can develop without the negative influence of the bathhouse.[36]


The film has been compared to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, as the stories have some elements in common such as being set in a fantasy world, the plots including a disturbance in logic and stability, and there being motifs such as food having metamorphic qualities; though developments and themes are not shared.[37][38][39] Among other stories compared to Spirited Away, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is seen to be more closely linked thematically.[38]

Yubaba has many similarities to the Coachman from the 1940 film Pinocchio, in the sense that she mutates humans into pigs in a similar way that the boys of Pleasure Island were mutated into donkeys. Upon gaining employment at the bathhouse, Yubaba's seizure of Chihiro's true name symbolically kills the child,[40] who must then assume adulthood. She then undergoes a rite of passage according to the monomyth format; to recover continuity with her past, Chihiro must create a new identity.[40]

Traditional Japanese cultureEdit

Spirited Away contains critical commentary on modern Japanese society concerning generational conflicts and environmental issues.[41] Chihiro has been seen as a representation of the shōjo, whose roles and ideology had changed dramatically since post-war Japan.[41] Just as Chihiro seeks her past identity, Japan, in its anxiety over the economic downturn occurring during the release of the film in 2001, sought to reconnect to past values.[40] In an interview, Miyazaki has commented on this nostalgic element for an old Japan.[42]

Western consumerismEdit

Accordingly, the film can be partly understood as an exploration of the effect of greediness and Western consumerism on traditional Japanese culture.[43] For instance, Yubaba is stylistically unique within the bathhouse, wearing a Western dress and living among European décor and furnishings, in contrast with the minimalist Japanese style of her employees' quarters, representing the Western capitalist influence over Japan in its Meiji period and beyond. Along with its function within the ostensible coming of age theme, Yubaba's act of taking Chihiro's name and replacing it with Sen (an alternate reading of chi, the first character in Chihiro's name, lit.'one thousand') can be thought of as symbolic of capitalism's single-minded concern with value.[41]

The Meiji design of the abandoned theme park is the setting for Chihiro's parents' metamorphosis – the family arrives in an imported Audi car and the father wears a European-styled polo shirt, reassuring Chihiro that he has "credit cards and cash," before their morphing into literal consumerist pigs.[44][unreliable source?][failed verification] Miyazaki has stated:

Chihiro's parents turning into pigs symbolizes how some humans become greedy. At the very moment Chihiro says there is something odd about this town, her parents turn into pigs. There were people that "turned into pigs" during Japan's bubble economy (consumer society) of the 1980s, and these people still haven't realized they've become pigs. Once someone becomes a pig, they don't return to being human but instead gradually start to have the "body and soul of a pig". These people are the ones saying, "We are in a recession and don't have enough to eat." This doesn't just apply to the fantasy world. Perhaps this isn't a coincidence and the food is actually (an analogy for) "a trap to catch lost humans."[43]

The bathhouse of the spirits cannot be seen as a place free of ambiguity and darkness.[45] Many of the employees are rude to Chihiro because she is human, and corruption is ever-present;[41] it is a place of excess and greed, as depicted in the initial appearance of No-Face.[46] In stark contrast to the simplicity of Chihiro's journey and transformation is the constantly chaotic carnival in the background.[41]


Commentators have often referred to environmental themes in the films of Miyazaki. In Spirited Away, two major instances of allusions to environmental issues have been noted. Pam Coats, for example, a Vice President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, describes Chihiro dealing with the "stink spirit", who, it turns out, was actually a river spirit, but it was so corrupted with filth that one couldn't tell what it was at first glance. It only became clean again when Chihiro pulled out a huge amount of trash, including car tires, garbage, and a bicycle. This alludes to human pollution of the environment, and how people can carelessly toss away things without thinking of the consequences and of where the trash will go.[47]

The second allusion is seen in Haku himself. Haku does not remember his name and lost his past, which is why he is stuck at the bathhouse. Eventually, Chihiro remembers that he used to be the spirit of the Kohaku River, which was destroyed and replaced with apartments. Because of humans' need for development, they destroyed a part of nature, causing Haku to lose his home and identity. This can be compared to deforestation and desertification; humans tear down nature, cause imbalance in the ecosystem, and demolish animals' homes to satisfy their want for more space (housing, malls, stores, etc.) but do not think about how it can affect other living things.[48][49]


Box office and theatrical releaseEdit

Spirited Away was released theatrically in Japan on 20 July 2001 by distributor Toho. It grossed a record ¥1.6 billion ($13.1 million) in its first three days, beating the previous record set by Princess Mononoke.[50] It was number one at the Japanese box office for its first eleven weeks and spent 16 weeks there in total.[51] After 22 weeks of release and after grossing $224 million in Japan, it started its international release, opening in Hong Kong on 13 December 2001.[52] It was the first film that had grossed more than $200 million at the worldwide box office excluding the United States.[53][54] It went on to gross ¥30.4 billion to become the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, according to the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan.[55] It also set the all-time attendance record in Japan, surpassing the 16.8 million tickets sold by Titanic.[56] Its gross at the Japanese box office has since increased to ¥31.68 billion, as of 2020.[57][58]

In February 2002, Wild Bunch, an international sales company that had recently span-off from its former parent StudioCanal, picked up the international sale rights for the film outside of Asia and France.[59] The company would then on-sell it to independent distributors across the world. On April 13, 2002, The Walt Disney Company acquired the Taiwanese, Singapore, Hong Kong, French and North American sale rights to the film, alongside Japanese Home Media rights.[60]

Disney's English dub of the film, supervised by Lasseter, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2002[61] and was later released in the United States on 20 September 2002. The film grossed $450,000 in its opening weekend from 26 theatres. Spirited Away had very little marketing, less than Disney's other B-films, with a maximum of 151 theatres showing the film in 2002.[21] After the 2003 Oscars, it expanded to 714 theatres. It ultimately grossed around $10 million by September 2003.[62] Outside of Japan and the United States, the movie was moderately successful in both South Korea and France where it grossed $11 million and $6 million, respectively.[63] In Argentina, it is in the top 10 anime films with the most tickets sold.[64]

In the United Kingdom, then-independent based film distributor Optimum Releasing acquired the rights to the movie from Wild Bunch in January 2003.[65] The company then released it theatrically on 12 September 2003.[66][67] The movie grossed $244,437 on its opening weekend from 51 theatres, and by the end of its theatrical run in October, the movie has grossed $1,383,023 in the country.[68]

About 18 years after its original release in Japan, Spirited Away had a theatrical release in China on 21 June 2019. It follows the theatrical China release of My Neighbour Totoro in December 2018.[69] The delayed theatrical release in China was due to long-standing political tensions between China and Japan, but many Chinese became familiar with Miyazaki's films due to rampant video piracy.[70] It topped the Chinese box office with a $28.8-million opening weekend, beating Toy Story 4 in China.[71] In its second weekend, Spirited Away grossed a cumulative $54.8 million in China, and was second only behind Spider-Man: Far From Home that weekend.[72] As of 16 July 2019, the film has grossed $70 million in China,[73] bringing its worldwide total box office to over $346 million as of 8 July 2019.[74]

Spirited Away's worldwide box office total stands at US$395,802,070.[a]

Home mediaEdit

Spirited Away was first released on VHS and DVD formats in Japan by Buena Vista Home Entertainment on 19 July 2002.[75] The Japanese DVD releases include storyboards for the film and the special edition includes a Ghibli DVD player.[76] Spirited Away sold 5.5 million home video units in Japan by 2007,[77] and holds the record for most home video copies sold of all-time in the country as of 2014.[78] The movie was released on Blu-ray by Walt Disney Studios Japan on 14 July 2014, and DVD was also reissued on the same day with a new HD master, alongside several other Studio Ghibli movies.[79][80]

In North America, the film was released on DVD and VHS formats by Walt Disney Home Entertainment on 15 April 2003.[81] The attention brought by the Oscar win resulted in the film becoming a strong seller.[82] The bonus features include Japanese trailers, a making-of documentary which originally aired on Nippon Television, interviews with the North American voice actors, a select storyboard-to-scene comparison and The Art of Spirited Away, a documentary narrated by actor Jason Marsden.[83] The movie was released on Blu-ray by and North America by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on 16 June 2015.[84] GKIDS and Shout! Factory re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on 17 October 2017 following the expiration of Disney's previous deal with Studio Ghibli in the country in North America.[85] On 12 November 2019, GKIDS and Shout! Factory issued a North-America-exclusive Spirited Away collector's edition, which includes the film on Blu-ray, and the film's soundtrack on CD, as well as a 40-page book with statements by Toshio Suzuki and Hayao Miyazaki, and essays by film critic Kenneth Turan and film historian Leonard Maltin.[86][87] Along with the rest of the Studio Ghibli films, Spirited Away was released on digital markets in the United States for the first time, on 17 December 2019.

In the United Kingdom, the film was released on DVD and VHS as a rental release through independent distributor High Fliers Films PLC following the film's limited theatrical release. It was later officially released on DVD in the UK on 29 March 2004, with the distribution being done by Optimum Releasing themselves.[88] In 2006, the DVD was reissued as a single-disc release (without the second one) with packaging matching other releases in Optimum's "The Studio Ghibli Collection" range.[89] The then-renamed StudioCanal UK released the movie on Blu-ray on 24 November 2014, A British 20th Anniversary Collector's Edition, similar to other Studio Ghibli anniversary editions released in the UK, was released on 25 October 2021.[90]

In the United States, the 2015 Blu-ray release grossed $9,925,660 from 557,613 physical units sold as of 21 February 2021.[91] In the United Kingdom, the film's Studio Ghibli anniversary release appeared several times on the annual lists of best-selling foreign language film on home video, ranking number six in 2015,[92] number five in 2016,[93] and number one in 2019.[94]


The film was aired on Nippon TV (NTV) in Japan, on 24 January 2003. It became NTV's most-watched film of all time with a 46.9% audience rating, surpassing the 35.1% record previously set by Princess Mononoke in 1999.[95]

In the United Kingdom, the film was watched by 670,000 viewers on BBC2 in 2010. This made it the year's most-watched foreign-language film on BBC, and the year's second highest foreign film on UK television (below the Indian Bollywood film Om Shanti Om).[96] Spirited Away was later watched by 300,000 UK viewers on BBC2 in 2011, making it the year's most-watched foreign-language film on BBC2.[97] Combined, the film drew a 970,000 UK television viewership on BBC2 between 2010 and 2011.


Critical responseEdit

Spirited Away has received significant critical success on a broad scale. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% approval rating based on 195 reviews, with an average rating of 8.60/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Spirited Away is a dazzling, enchanting, and gorgeously drawn fairy tale that will leave viewers a little more curious and fascinated by the world around them."[98] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 96 out of 100 based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[12]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a full four stars, praising the work and Miyazaki's direction. Ebert also said that Spirited Away was one of "the year's best films", as well as adding it to his "Great Movies" list.[99] Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times positively reviewed the film and praised the animation sequences. Mitchell drew a favorable comparison to Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and wrote that Miyazaki's "movies are as much about moodiness as mood" and that "the prospect of animated figures' not being what they seem – either spiritually or physically – heightens the tension."[39] Derek Elley of Variety said that Spirited Away "can be enjoyed by sprigs and adults alike" and praised the animation and music.[100] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised Miyazaki's direction and the voice acting, as well as saying that the film is the "product of a fierce and fearless imagination whose creations are unlike anything a person has seen before."[101] Orlando Sentinel's critic Jay Boyar also praised Miyazaki's direction and said the film is "the perfect choice for a child who has moved into a new home."[102]

In 2004, Cinefantastique listed the film as one of the "10 Essential Animations".[103] In 2005, Spirited Away was ranked by IGN as the 12th-best animated film of all time.[104] The film is also ranked number 9 of the highest-rated movies of all time on Metacritic, being the highest rated traditionally animated film on the site. The film ranked number 10 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[105] In 2010, Rotten Tomatoes ranked it as the 13th-best animated film on the site,[106] and in 2012, as the 17th.[107] In 2019, the site considered the film to be #1 among 140 essential animated movies to watch.[108] The film was ranked at number 46 on Time Out magazine's list of "The 100 Best Movies of All Time".[109] In 2021, the Writers Guild of America ranked Spirted Away's screenplay the 67th greatest of the 21st century so far.[110]

In his book Otaku, Hiroki Azuma observed: "Between 2001 and 2007, the otaku forms and markets quite rapidly won social recognition in Japan," and cites Miyazaki's win at the Academy Awards for Spirited Away among his examples.[111][failed verification]


Year Award Category Recipient Result
2001 Animation Kobe Theatrical Film Award Spirited Away Won
Blue Ribbon Awards Best Film Spirited Away Won
5th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize Spirited Away Won
Mainichi Film Awards Best Film Spirited Away Won
Best Animated Film Spirited Away Won
Best Director Hayao Miyazaki Won
2002 25th Japan Academy Award Best Film Spirited Away Won[112]
Best Song Youmi Kimura Won[112]
52nd Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Spirited Away Won
(together with Bloody Sunday)[113]
Cinekid Festival Cinekid Film Award Spirited Away Won
(together with The Little Bird Boy)[114]
21st Hong Kong Film Awards Best Asian Film Spirited Away Won[115]
Tokyo Anime Award Animation of the Year Spirited Away Won
Best Art Direction Yôji Takeshige [ja] Won
Best Character Design Hayao Miyazaki Won
Best Director Hayao Miyazaki Won
Best Music Joe Hisaishi Won
Best Screenplay Hayao Miyazaki Won
Best Voice Actor Rumi Hiiragi as Chihiro Won
Notable Entry Hayao Miyazaki Won
Utah Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Spirited Away Won
Best Director Hayao Miyazaki
Kirk Wise (English version)
Best Screenplay Hayao Miyazaki
Cindy Davis Hewitt (English adaptation)
Donald H. Hewitt (English adaptation)
Best Non-English Language Film Japan Won
National Board of Review National Board of Review Award for Best Animated Film Spirited Away Won
New York Film Critics Online Best Animated Feature Spirited Away Won
2003 75th Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Spirited Away Won[116]
30th Annie Awards Annie Award for Best Animated Feature Spirited Away Won
Directing in an Animated Feature Production Hayao Miyazaki Won
Annie Award for Writing in a Feature Production Hayao Miyazaki Won
Annie Award for Music in a Feature Production Joe Hisaishi Won
8th Critics' Choice Awards Best Animated Feature Spirited Away Won
29th Saturn Awards Best Animated Film Spirited Away Won
Saturn Award for Best Writing Hayao Miyazaki
Cindy Davis Hewitt (English adaptation)
Donald H. Hewitt (English adaptation)
Saturn Award for Best Music Joe Hisaishi Nominated
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Spirited Away Nominated
7th Golden Satellite Awards Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature Spirited Away Won
Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival Silver Scream Award Spirited Away Won
Christopher Awards Feature Film Spirited Away Won
2004 57th British Academy Film Awards Best Film Not in the English Language Spirited Away Nominated

Impact and legacyEdit

Film industryEdit

Spirited Away is frequently regarded as one of the best films of the 21st century as well as one of the greatest animated films ever made.[117][118][119] Comic Book Resources wrote that the film "set the bar extremely high for all anime movies that followed it -- including Studio Ghibli's." and further explained that "It's a movie many people re-watch due to its comfort and nostalgia, and since Netflix brought the Ghibli movies to North America last year, it's become even more accessible".[120] Swapnil Dhruv Bose Far Out Magazine declared the film to be "the greatest animated film of all time" and explained that it "resonated with audiences all over the world despite the existence of cultural barriers is because of its brilliantly devised universality" and has the ability to "generate fascinating multiplicities which morph according to the age of the viewer". In another article detailing Hayao Miyazaki's wide impact to the film industry, he wrote "The influence of Spirited Away can be easily observed in Disney productions like Brave and Frozen, thanks to John Lasseter's (the Chief Creative Officer of Pixar) efforts to introduce it to Western audiences".[121][122] Vice also declared Spirited Away to be the all-time best animated film and wrote that the film "showed how breathtaking, heartfelt, and serious animation can be" that "Pixar, Disney, and other mainstream animators have still failed to genuinely realize 15 years later".[123]

Film director Steven Spielberg said that Spirited Away might be "better than any Disney films" he has ever seen.[124] Rayna Denison, professor of film, television, and media studies, told Time that "This is a film made by a master animator at the height of his powers and it is one where the quality of the animation really does set it apart from everything else around it. Nobody else was making films that looked like this or that were as inventive as this was at this time".[125] The film has been cited as influence for various Disney and Pixar animated films. Production designer Harley Jessup said that he initially looked at Spirited Away and was inspired by the spiritual feelings elements to utilize them in Coco.[126] Co-writers Ken and Ryan Firpo cited the film as one of the influences that helps them explore "ideas of morality and humanity" in Eternals.[127] Turning Red's director Domee Shi named Spirited Away as one of her favorite animated films and one of the influences for her film.[128]

Commercial and cultural significanceEdit

According to Time, Spirited Away "arrived at a time when animation was widely perceived as a genre solely for children, and when cultural differences often became barriers to the global distribution of animated works" but it "shattered preconceived notions about the art form and also proved that, as a film created in Japanese with elements of Japanese folklore central to its core, it could resonate deeply with audiences around the world". Denison emphasized that John Lasseter and Disney "boosted Spirited Away's visibility in America by heavily campaigning for the film to be considered for the Academy Awards", and cited it as one of the reasons why it won Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.[129] Writer Jonathan Clements, whose published works revolve around East Asian culture, anime, and Japanese television dramas, emphasized that the film'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".[130] Susan Napier, professor of Japanese studies at Tufts University, called Spirited Away's wins at major Western award shows "a very big shot in the arm to the Japanese animation industry". She further explained that cartoons in the West have often been seen as "childish, vulgar, things that you didn't take seriously" but after the film took home the Academy Award, people were starting to see animation as "a real art form".[131]

Stage adaptationEdit

A stage adaptation of Spirited Away was announced in February 2021 with a world premiere planned in Tokyo on February 28, 2022. It is written and directed by John Caird, with Toho as the production company, with Studio Ghibli's blessing. The role of Chihiro is played by both Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi.[132][133]

Main Cast
Character name Actor (Double Cast)
Chihiro (千尋) Kanna Hashimoto Mone Kamishiraishi
Haku (ハク) Kotarou Daigo Hiroki Miura
Kaonashi (顔無し) Koharu Sugawara Tomohiko Tsujimoto
Rin (リン) Miyu Sakihi Fuu Hinami
Kamajī (釜爺) Tomorowo Taguchi Satoshi Hashimoto
Yubāba (湯婆婆) / Zenība (銭婆) Mari Natsuki Romi Park

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Spirited Away's Worldwide Box Office:
    • Original Run including re-release until Studio Ghibil Fest 2020 – US$395,580,000 (¥47,030,975,000)[4]
    • 2021 re-release in Spain – 186,772[5] (US$222,070)[6]
  2. ^ Lit. "one thousand".
  3. ^ Lit. "flourishing swift-flowing amber [river] god".
  4. ^ Lit. "bathhouse granny".
  5. ^ Lit. "money granny".
  6. ^ Lit. "boiler grandad".
  7. ^ a b Lit. "faceless".
  8. ^ Lit. "blue frog".
  9. ^ Lit. "reception desk frog".
  10. ^ Lit. "Great White Lord".


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Further readingEdit

  • Boyd, James W., and Tetsuya Nishimura. 2004. "Shinto Perspectives in Miyazaki's Anime Film 'Spirited Away'." The Journal of Religion and Film 8(2).
  • Broderick, Mick (2003). "Intersections Review, Spirited Away by Miyazaki's Fantasy". Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context (9). Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  • Callis, Cari. 2010. "Nothing that Happens is ever Forgotten." In Anime and Philosophy, edited by J. Steiff and T. D. Tamplin. New York: Open Court. ISBN 9780812697131.
  • Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Animé Art of Hayao Miyazaki. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. ISBN 9780786423699.
  • Cooper, Damon (1 November 2010), "Finding the spirit within: a critical analysis of film techniques in spirited Away.(Critical essay)", Babel, Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 30(6), ISSN 0005-3503
  • Coyle, Rebecca (2010). Drawn to Sound: Animation Film Music and Sonicity. Equinox Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84553-352-6. Drawn to Sound focuses on feature-length, widely distributed films released in the period since World War II, from producers in the USA, UK, Japan and France-from Animal Farm (1954) to Happy Feet (2006), Yellow Submarine (1968) to Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005), Spirited Away (2001) and Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003).
  • Denison, Rayna (2008). "The global markets for anime: Miyazaki Hayao's Spirited away (2001)". In Phillips, Alastair; Stringer, Julian (eds.). Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-32847-0.
  • Fielding, Julien R. (2008). Discovering World Religions at 24 Frames Per Second. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-5996-8. Several films with a 'cult-like' following are also discussed, such as Fight Club, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Jacob's Ladder.
  • Fox, Kit. "Spirited Away". Animerica. Archived from the original on 7 April 2004.
  • Galbraith IV, Stuart (2008). The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6004-9. Since its inception in 1933, Toho Co., Ltd., Japan's most famous movie production company and distributor, has produced and/or distributed some of the most notable films ever to come out of Asia, including Seven Samurai, Godzilla, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Kwaidan, Woman in the Dunes, Ran, Shall We Dance?, Ringu, and Spirited Away.
  • Geortz, Dee (2009). "The hero with the thousand-and-first face: Miyazaki's girl quester in Spirited away and Campbell's Monomyth". In Perlich, John; Whitt, David (eds.). Millennial Mythmaking: Essays on the Power of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, Films and Games. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4562-2.
  • Hooks, Ed (2005). "Spirited Away". Acting in Animation: A Look at 12 Films. Heinemann Drama. ISBN 978-0-325-00705-2.
  • Knox, Julian (22 June 2011), "Hoffmann, Goethe, and Miyazaki's Spirited Away.(E.T.A. Hoffmann, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Hayao Miyazaki)(Critical essay)", Wordsworth Circle, Wordsworth Circle, 42 (3): 198(3), doi:10.1086/TWC24043148, ISSN 0043-8006, S2CID 169044013
  • Matthews, Kate (2006), "Logic and Narrative in 'Spirited Away'", Screen Education (43): 135–140, ISSN 1449-857X
  • Napier, Susan J. (2005). Anime from Akira to Howl's Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4039-7051-0.
  • Osmond, Andrew (2008). Spirited away = Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi. Basingstoke [England]: Palgrave Macmillan on behalf of the British Film Institute. ISBN 978-1844572304.
  • Suzuki, Ayumi. 2009. "A nightmare of capitalist Japan: Spirited Away", Jump Cut 51
  • Yang, Andrew. 2010. "The Two Japans of 'Spirited Away'." International Journal of Comic Art 12(1):435–52.
  • Yoshioka, Shiro (2008). "Heart of Japaneseness: History and Nostalgia in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away". In MacWilliams, Mark W (ed.). Japanese Visual Culture: Explorations in the World of Manga and Anime. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 268–285. doi:10.4324/9781315703152-19. ISBN 978-0-7656-1601-2.

External linksEdit