Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shinto Perspectives in Miyazaki’s Anime Film “Spirited Away”

Article Summary by G. A-D.

This article provides a discussion of the Shrine Shinto elements present in the English-release version of the film “Spirited Away”. It provides a very brief introduction to the some of the fundamental aspects of Shinto, as well as an explanation of Miyazaki’s personal intentions of the film and his background in Shinto, relating it back through his ancestry.

The article is concerned with Shrine Shinto. It explains the basis of Shinto as the acknowledgement of the power of creation, held by humans and nature itself. It explains that while nature is seen as a creative force, it is not deterministic, and allows for great variation in its creations. These variations can take on the superior forms of ‘kami’(which can be literally anything/one).

After relating the Shinto concept of cleansing and the bath-house setting of the film, the article goes on to detail the overall plot. It highlights various elements of a spiritual nature however does not directly relate them to a specific Shinto concept, for example, the significance of Chihiro’s (the protagonist) parents detachment from their spirituality. At this point the article turns into a critique of modern Japanese values (or lack thereof), and the globalisation, industrialisation and commercialisation of Japan. They claim the movie to be Miyazaki’s reminder to the Japanese people to return to more traditional values.

It is not explained why the article focuses on the English-release version instead of the original Japanese one as it is discussing the film’s value specifically to the Japanese audience. Though the major difference between the two versions is in a single line explaining that Chihiro does remember her spiritual journey (in the Japanese version she does not), the significance of this line as related to the Shinto concept of ‘kami-kakushi’ - to be missing for some time in the spirit (kami) world is integral to her character development.

The explanation of Shrine Shinto gives the reader an adequate background for a working understanding of the Shinto concepts present in ‘Spirited Away’. Linking them with their manifestations in the film is a simple task, and the article’s length gives the impression that a more in-depth approach could have been taken to the symbolism in the film.


Boyd JW and T Nisimura. 2004. Shinto Perspectives in Miyizaki's Anime Film 'Spirited Away’. Journal of Religion and Film. 8, 2.

No comments: