Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning, animated film Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi (2001)), directed by Hayao Miyazaki, will see its stage-play debut in Tokyo 2022. The fantasy play will be adapted and directed by Tony and Olivier Award-winner John Caird, who also happens to be an Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Japanese mega-giant Toho Company, responsible for the Godzilla franchise, will produce and distribute the play, starting in select Japanese cities, then, hopefully, to other parts of Asia and Europe. Studio Ghibli has been known to be quite selective with whom they partner, but sources say the animation studio is in full support of the stage adaptation.
Spirited Away, the hand-drawn, Japanese anime, has grossed over $335 million in worldwide sales, and held the spot of highest-grossing film for 19-years. With its re-release in 2020, old and new viewers continue to enjoy the adventures of 10-year-old Chihiro as she and her parents journey to their new home. After a wrong turn, they encounter a mysterious spirit world full of magical creatures. When the powerful sorceress Yubaba turns Chihiro’s parents into pigs, she must endure a number of challenges and learn some valuable lessons in order to make it back to the human world.
Play director Caird is passionate about the story of Spirited Away, as he says in an interview, “I share a belief in all the most dominant themes of Miyazaki’s work, themes that are at the core of the Sen To Chihiro world — care for the environment, reverence for nature, a belief in the force of the good spirits within us and the empowerment of young women and men to change the world for the better.” He also adds that he must have spent thousands of hours studying and adapting Spirited Away, but says he “look[s] forward to spending many thousands more.” Studio Ghibli seems to hold a mutual excitement for the collaboration. The company’s former president and producer of Spirited Away Toshio Suzuki shares, “We, Hayao and I, both liked John’s vision. He is a person we can trust. I am looking forward to seeing Chihiro grow on stage under his direction.”
What is known so far about the stage production based on the beloved Japanese anime is that the starring role of Chihiro has been double-cast. The pop-star and film actor Kanna Hashimoto (Assassination Classroom, Gintama) will make her stage debut, with Mone Kamishiraishi (Your Name, Weathering With You), an established voice actor, also linked to the role.
The play Spirited Away will premiere at Toho’s Imperial Theatre in Tokyo from February to March, 2022. The production is then scheduled to tour Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo and Nagoya during the spring and summer months.