Behind-the-scenes book “Spirited Away” celebrates 20 years since the release of Miyazaki’s masterpiece


Twenty years ago the French discovered The journey of Chihiro in dark rooms. The disturbing story of a little girl transported to a universe populated by spirits of all kinds, struggling to save her parents turned into pigs. A masterful work by Hayao Miyazaki, internationally awarded multiple awards. On the occasion of its twentieth anniversary, the editions Hymns offer an unpublished French translation of the book travel with Chihiro by Marta Garcia Villar. A work of almost 300 pages, full of anecdotes, historical references and analyzes, to learn all the secrets of the animated film.

From the character of the Sans-Visage to the many guests of the Palais des Bains, The journey of Chihiro it is heavily imbued with Japanese myths. References that are sometimes difficult to understand for the Western public. Through the pages of Marta García Villar’s book, the reader discovers the many inspirations drawn from Japanese folklore. Thus, the massive creature with the small air of Totoro who accompanies Chihiro in an elevator is a reference to Oshira-sama : the god-radish. A kind of deity (we) protector of the family, linked to agriculture. The two bumps on his face are not a giant mustache, but daikona variety of radishes.

Another winkeye The Japanese legends noted by the author are the sticking paper figurines Haku in his dragon form. They are shikigami, invisible spirits summoned by a magician. They can take many different forms and respond to their master’s commands. This belief, very widespread in the Land of the Rising Sun, is comparable to the concept of family members in Europe. The work also depicts the numerous references to the Shinto religion and the theater No mask like the traditional mask of the old man worn by the river spirit.

Oshira-sama imagined by Miyazaki, the radish god is one of the customers of the Yubâba bathhouse.  (Studio Ghibli)

One of the peculiarities of Spirited Away is its diversity of colorful characters. Some are even directly inspired by members of the film crew. The character of KamajiSpider-man with a big heart, responsible for the boiler room of the spa that inspired him Hayao Miyazaki himself. Just like his character, the director never stops working and looks sulky at first.

The Witch Yubaba is inspired by the manufacturer e today eggeneral manager du Studio Ghibli : Toshio Suzuki. This longtime friend of the director, with a strong character, served as a sketch for the creation of the manager of the thermal building. A character with a great sense of business and management, like the producer. Miyazaki even confided in an interview that “if it hadn’t been for Mr. Suzuki, there would have been no Studio Ghibli“, Observes the author.

Moreover Yubaba it also owes a lot to the legend of Yama-Uba also called Baba Yaga in the Slavic countries. According to in the Japanese version, this woman would live in the mountains and feed on humans, sometimes referred to as the mother of Kintaroa giant child with uncommon strength. Similarities found in Miyazaki’s witch, she too is the mother of a giant, overwhelmed child: Father.

The witch Yubâba, a character on the border between good and evil.  (Studio Ghibli)

Spirited away offers a hymn to adolescence through the adventure of its heroine. The girl starts out as a temperamental child and lacks self-confidence. He concludes his courageous and altruistic adventure thanks to the difficulties he has gone through. The film addresses many issues critical to modern society, such as social reflection through the banquet of Faceless. The mind, thanks to money, gains attention, sinks into greed until it becomes a mad monster. A “it satirizes Japan’s hypocrisy and its corruption by sugary consumerism”Indicates the author.

Greed is a recurring term in animated films, with the example of Yubaba who counts his gold, instead of noticing the disappearance of his son. The book also takes a detour to explain the concept of kamikakushi (hidden from the gods), intimately linked to the heroine’s discovery of her identity. This expression designates a situation where a person disappears from the real world and enters the spirit world“. When he returns, she forgets the journey, adds the writer. This is the essence of Chihiro’s adventure in the spirit world. When he leaves the tunnel, there is no guarantee that he remembers his epic of him, but he retains the wisdom he has acquired during his encounters.

The banquet of the Faceless, satire of capitalist society and human greed.  (Studio Ghibli)

I travel with Spirited Away retraces the busy production process of the work of Miyazaki. In the early 2000s, the studio Ghibli has just been launched on the international stage following the success of Princess Mononoke. Hayao Miyazaki he is mentally exhausted, even these teams, he is also considering retirement. Finally, the creator embarks on a new project, Rin and the fireplace paintera story that takes place in a Tokyo bathhouse during the terrible earthquake from Kanto in 1923.

This film will never see the light, considered inaccessible to young audiences. The preparatory work done for this film will be very inspiring Spirited away. Under budgetary pressures, thethe teams raced against time to complete the film in just 18 months. The author recounts this frenetic pace, “younger employees spend 12 hours in front of their computers. Miyazaki arrives every morning at 11 and doesn’t leave until dawn“. Hard work, until the day of the official release in Japan, July 20, 2001.

Definitely, I travel with Spirited Away they will delight fans of animated films who will be satisfied with anecdotes and details of all kinds. The reading is quite well balanced with very dense chapters interspersed with lighter parts, such as the section Twenty key questions to understand the film. Only, the aesthetics of the book could have been further developed. If Miyazaki’s cover and preparatory sketches are scattered around the chapters they are sublime, the rest of the layout is closer to a college book than a collection. A small flaw immediately forgotten as the book is complete and offers an in-depth analysis of Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece.

travel with Chihiro by Marta García Villar, Ynnis éditions, 22 euros, 288 pages.

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