Spirited Away, directed by the veteran anime film-maker Hayao Miyazaki, is Japan’s most successful film, and one of the top-grossing ‘foreign language’ films ever released
Set in modern Japan, the film is a wildly imaginative fantasy, at once personal and universal. It tells the story of a listless little girl who stumbles into a magical world where gods relax in a palatial bathhouse; where there are giant babies and hard-working soot sprites, and where a train runs across the sea. Andrew Osmond’s insightful study describes how Miyazaki wrote, storyboarded and directed Spirited Away with a degree of creative control undreamt of in most popular cinema, using the film’s delightful, freewheeling visual ideas to explore issues ranging from personal agency and responsibility to what Miyazaki sees as the lamentable state of modern Japan. Osmond unpacks the film’s visual language, which many Western (and some Japanese) audiences find both beautiful and sometimes bewildering. He traces connections between Spirited Away and Miyazaki’s prior body of work, and provides an account of the film’s production and the creative differences between Miyazaki and his collaborators, arguing that Spirited Away uses the cartoon medium to create a compellingly immersive drawn world.