Spirited away studio ghibli youth

Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli, and Youth

As far as I know, Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away was the very first anime I watched. Well… maybe that’s not strictly true. When I was a kid, there was Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. But… I’m inclined not to include them.

For what better place to start than with Ghibli and its auteur Hayao Miyazaki.

I’ll start by saying… Spirited Away is not my favourite Ghibli film,  Kiki’s Delivery Service is. Now, I suppose that could be something of a surprise to many. It’s not one that gets talked about all too often. Nonetheless,  it somehow manages to wriggle its way to the top of my pile, and into my heart!

Spirited Away

It is without a doubt Studio Ghibli’s most recognisable and ‘mainstream’ of its films. The simple reason being, because of its utter brilliance. The way in which it can be appreciated by all people; adults and children alike. It’s relatable, it’s nuanced… it’s wonder in animation. And, frankly, it doesn’t get much better.

Of course, the majority of you will have seen Spirited Away, and no doubt much more of Ghibli’s beautiful, catalogue.

Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away Chihiro magical land

Chihiro in the exotic world!

If anything, Spirited Away does a terrific job of culminating the ‘Ghibli Package’ – the sets of values and themes that the films explore and are based on, and the kind of aesthetic they broadly offer. For all of Ghibli’s films share things in common. From style, to the physical worlds they are set in. Spirited Away is no exception to this. In fact, it is probably the most magical fantasy world Ghibli has to offer. Though, not to denounce the others; it’s just that the land of Spirited Away is wonderfully rich, vibrant… and slightly unsettling. Not to mention the unfaltering direction of Miyazaki (come back to us!)

Watching it for the first time, I must have been no more than ten. It amazed me. The notion of such a world existing, of being able to cross a boundary between two places without even realising it – it was all that I could dream of. Of course, Spirited Away isn’t all plain sailing. Actually, it can be rather dark at times, exploring themes that may wash over the younger among us. And sure, at ten-years-old, I understood none of that. I was in it for the spectacle, and the magical story. Not to mention, I’d never seen anything like it before. You never can experience that first-time-amazement again. It can never feel the same; never as glorious.

The Appeal of Studio Ghibli

More so than any other anime/studio/series/director, the works of Studio Ghibli seem to appeal almost universally. It’s an enigma; the allure, and the pure enjoyment people derive from them. Why? Why has it broken through the culture barrier, and into the West, when so much other anime has failed?

I believe, in some part, that it is down to the accessibility of Ghibli’s films. You’re likely to find them in pretty much every film-store. Is this a result of their popularity? Or, is it the reason for their popularity. I’m inclined to believe it’s the former.

So, what is it, then?

From the opening scene of Spirited Away, we’re presented with a universal anxiety – moving home. Going to new places as a child, swings one way or the other. You’re either all for it, or all against it. In this case Chihiro has feelings of the latter.

Spirited away studio ghibli opening pigs


We can all relate to Chihiro. Her pain of being young, and completely at the mercy of  her parents responsibilities and actions. At the age when you’re just discovering things for yourself, cultivating a personal world-view, and beginning to stray away from the once impenetrable ideals of your parents.

Spirited Away, is without a doubt a coming-of-age story; at a time in the characters life where we have all felt the pressures of both the inside and the outside world. Perhaps Spirited Away’s magical kingdom is a manifestation of these often indescribable feelings. It’s a visualisation irrational things that make little to sense without physical substance. Things that are experienced all the way from East to West, and all places in-between; despite the obvious inherently Japanese setting.

It’s such ideas that nurture Ghibli’s wide-spread appeal.

Personal Imprints

It’d be hard to imagine a life in which I haven’t laid eyes upon the works of Studio Ghibli, and the worlds that they convey with such passion and artistic identity.

It’s a funny thing to think about what any one thing means to me, and to you. Because, the meanings are hidden, they are nuanced beyond understanding. And, in some respects the joy in Ghibli and Spirited Away is much like that – somewhat ambiguous, but absolutely beautiful, nonetheless. If you’re looking in the right parts of your mind, I guess you could say the same goes for life too. If anything, Ghibli’s films portray such lives; often through the eyes of children who see the world in ways which adults long ago lost.

It is the remembering of these ways. The re-kindling of boundless imagination that lights the Fire of Love for Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and all others who have worked on the amazing films Ghibli have produced.


Hayao Miyazaki has semi-retired… he has announced that he will be making a feature-film under the name of, Kemushi no Boro.

Beyond this, his future is unknown. I suspect he will retire after completing this latest film. And, if not then, very shortly afterwards.

Studio Ghibli My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

Though, this is not necessarily a cause for concern. Yes, Hayao Miyazaki is an incredible director, with outstanding vision, and endless creativity. This being said, Studio Ghibli will continue to produce movies. After all, it does not only employ a singular person. I’m sure – given enough time – there will be someone to fill his place. Though, it is another to think anyone could ever compare to the master.

What’s your view of Spirited Away and Studio Ghibli? 
Did it imprint upon you as a child in any way?

As always, thanks for reading!







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7 thoughts on “Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli, and Youth

  1. Psychime says:

    I first saw Spirited Away when I was 5. I had nightmares about my parents turning into pigs for weeks…….
    But when I came back to it as a teen I was blown away by it’s brilliance and the new meaning that comes once your capable of understanding it’s commentary on prostitution. The fact it manages to be a fantastic kids movie AND a fantastic adult one is what really impresses me. This isn’t a kids movie that can be enjoyed by adults this manages to be both, which is extremely rare.

    I also have quite a fondness for Howl’s Moving Castle. Ghibli’s impact in just making anime as a medium so much more accessible is commendable in it’s own right as well.

  2. TWWK says:

    Spirited Away is a stunning film – it’s one of the handful of pieces of media that blew me away when I first watched it. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen when it received it’s North American theatrical release, and I was floored. The animation still holds up well (as does all the Ghibli animation really), and the same goes for the themes and characterization. It’s a strong, strong film, and it’s hard to argue against it being Miyazaki’s opus…though I would, haha. I would say his greatest achievement is Princess Mononoke, and almost all his other films are in the same category as Spirited Away, surpassing it in some aspects (the technical achievement of The Wind Rises, the complexities of Porco Rosso, the atmosphere of Kiki’s, etc.). And my personal favorite among Ghibli films isn’t a Miyazaki work at all – it’s Whisper of the Heart, a charming, charming film that I love to no end.

  3. fanmadecentral says:

    I love the movie “Spirited Away”, and I’m pretty sure Studio Ghibli also did the move “My Neighbor Totoro”, I was wondering if you would be able to do that movie also. I will try to look at more of your posts, because I really liked this one. Thank you, from fanmadecentral.

    • Chris says:

      Yeah! My Neighbor Totoro is also a Ghibli movie, and a very good one!
      I’ve definitely been wanting to have a deeper look at some of the Ghibli films – turn it into a kind of space on the website dedicated to them. So, I’ll push Totoro to the top. 😀 Keep a look out! 😀

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