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SPIRITED AWAY

The Story
According to Miyazaki, "In my grandparents' time, it was believed that gods and spirits existed everywhere…in trees, rivers, insects, wells, anything. My generation does not believe in this, but I like the idea that we should treasure everything because gods and spirits might exist there, and because there is a kind of life to everything. In fact, in Japanese, there is an expression – ‘yaoyorozuno kami' – which means ‘eight million gods.' However, as far as I know, nobody has actually seen any of these gods and spirits. So I had to make up their faces and shapes. Some of them are based on beliefs, traditions, legends, and other materials. For example, it is generally believed that a river god is a snake or a dragon." 

Set in rural Japan, "Spirited Away" opens with ten-year-old Chihiro and her parents on their way to a new home in the suburbs. Having taken a wrong turn, the family arrives at what they believe to be an abandoned amusement park. Chihiro's parents are soon tempted by a buffet of irresistible food, which nearly consumes them as they consume it. They are quickly transformed into large squealing pigs. 

When Chihiro searches for help, she finds a friend in Haku, a mysterious boy with magical powers. He introduces her to the spirits that inhabit the amusement park at night. Chihiro must go to work for Yubaba, a fierce old woman with a huge head and short body, who runs a hot springs resort for all manner of fantastic creatures and gods. Her experiences with these spirits, monsters and beings from ancient legends, lead to a series of extraordinary and entertaining adventures beyond her wildest imagination. 

Miyazaki's films are always built around strong characters, and "Spirited Away" contains some of the most strikingly original creatures ever seen. At the core of the tale is Chihiro, the ten-year-old heroine. She begins as a rather sulky, spoiled child with a tendency to panic when things go wrong, but she develops the ability to remain calm when others are not. She never gives up once she has set her goals. Haku is her mysterious friend and ally with a dark side – he turns into a dragon and serves as apprentice to the sorceress Yubaba. 

Yubaba is the greedy, short-tempered boss of the hot springs. Her unusual appearance, and her ability to change into a bird to spy on others, enables her to control all who dare to stand in her way. 

"At the beginning of the production, I explained to my staff that the Yuya (the bathhouse) is Studio Ghibli," says Miyazaki. "When a new employee comes to the studio for the first time, even though it's a small place, it's not easy to figure out where to go. If that person were to happen to wander up to the third floor, he or she would encounter our very frightening producer (Toshio Suzuki) yelling and shouting all the time, just like Yubaba! Many of the staff also commented that I resemble Yubaba. I admit that my head is big, but even so I cannot agree with that comparison. I am just a simple craftsman working on making a film, just like the character Kamaji in ‘Spirited Away.' Only I don't have six hands."

Chihiro meets and befriends a variety of beings in the spirit world, including Lin, the tough, human bathhouse girl who teaches her the rules of survival; Kamaji, the wise, spidery old man who tends the bathhouse furnace; the Frog Men who work the resort; and Boh, Yubaba's giant-sized baby boy. Even more fantastic are Kaonashi (or "No-Face"), the mysterious semi-transparent figure who poses danger to anyone who approaches him; an army of animated soot-balls who carry large lumps of coal to feed the bathhouse furnace; and the "Stink-God," a lumpish creature who emerges from a coating of foul-smelling sludge as an ancient and powerful River God. 

Miyazaki explains, "I had been creating the lead

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