Spirited Away can be described as an adventure story, but it doesn’t rely on swinging weapons or power struggles. It’s not a typical tale of good versus evil. Instead, it takes place in a world where good and bad coexist harmoniously. Our protagonist is thrown into this ambiguous realm, where she undergoes training, learns about friendship and devotion, and utilizes her wisdom to survive and find her way back to her normal life. She faces challenges, evades danger, and temporarily returns to her original routine. But her success isn’t solely based on defeating evil. It’s the result of gaining the strength to live.
In today’s complex world, filled with ambiguity, our aim is to vividly depict a world that constantly seeks to invade and consume. In the midst of mundane daily life, which can feel suffocating and confining, children often amplify their own weaknesses. Chihiro’s slender limbs and grumpy expressions symbolize this sentiment. However, when she confronts crises directly linked to reality, she discovers hidden adaptability, patience, and the ability to make decisive judgments and take action.
Naturally, most people would panic and become overwhelmed. But in the circumstances Chihiro encounters, individuals who react that way would quickly be eliminated or devoured. What sets Chihiro apart as our protagonist is her resilience, her ability not to be consumed. It’s not because she’s a beautiful girl or possesses extraordinary kindness. This aspect is what makes the film unique and why it resonates with ten-year-old girls.
Words hold power. In the world Chihiro stumbles into, words hold irreversible weight. In Yubaba’s controlled bathhouse, a single utterance of “No” or “I want to go home” from Chihiro would lead to immediate expulsion, leaving her with no place to go—wandering aimlessly or being transformed into a bird and devoured. Conversely, if Chihiro declares “I will work here,” even a witch like Yubaba cannot ignore it. Nowadays, words are often perceived as lightweight and easy to say, like fleeting bubbles. But we must remember that words still possess power. Empty, meaningless words are simply abundant.
The act of taking someone’s name is not about changing their name. It’s a way to completely dominate them. Sen realizes that she’s gradually forgetting her own name, which causes her unease. Additionally, each time she visits her parents at the pigpen, she becomes more accustomed to their pig-like appearance. In Yubaba’s world, she constantly lives in the crisis of being devoured.
Amidst this challenging world, Chihiro becomes more alive. Her initially grumpy and listless demeanor gradually transforms into a charming expression that shines during the film’s climax. The essence of the world remains constant. Words represent willpower, one’s true self, and strength. This film aims to assert this concept with compelling force.
Setting the fantasy in Japan holds significance as well. We didn’t want it to be a fairytale with numerous escape routes, as often seen in Western stories. This film draws inspiration not from typical fantasy worlds but from old folktales such as “The Sparrow’s Inn” or “The Rat’s Palace.”
To create Yubaba’s dwelling, we wanted to strike a balance between familiarity and uncertainty by drawing inspiration from the Western aesthetic. Simultaneously, Japan provides a treasure trove of traditional designs and motifs that we couldn’t ignore. Our goal is to incorporate these elements into the film’s setting. Within these folkloric spaces, we find captivating stories, cherished traditions, significant events, intricate designs, and revered gods—ranging from enchanting tales to powerful spells. It’s unfortunate that tales like “Kachi-Kachi Mountain” and “Momotaro” have lost some of their impact over time. However, we must be cautious not to overwhelm our fairytale-like world with an excessive dose of traditional elements. We must remember that children today are immersed in a world of high technology, drifting away from their roots amidst superficial industrial products. It is our duty to convey the profound depth and richness of our traditions, ensuring that they resonate with younger generations.
By integrating traditional designs into a story relevant to the present day, we can create a vibrant mosaic where each piece contributes to the film’s fresh and persuasive power. It also serves as a reminder that we are residents of this island country.
In this borderless era, those who have no place to stand will easily be disregarded. A place represents history and the past. Humans who lack a historical connection, who forget their roots, will either fade away like shadows or continue to lay eggs until they are devoured like chickens.
I want this film to be a work where ten-year-old girls in the audience encounter their true desires.