Special Article: Spirited Away in Live Action!
Spirited Away is getting a live action movie and with news as monumental as this, we just had to dedicate an entire article to it! Join us as we take you through a deep dive into one of the biggest headlines to emerge from Japan in all of 2021; we'll be covering the details of the movie, everything that's known on the remake and showcase the cast involved in turning one of the best movies of all time into a real-world production!
For the benefit of those new to anime culture, we'll start with an introduction to the movie. Spirited Away is one of the most monumental movies of all time, not only in Japan but the world as a whole. Going down in Japanese history as the highest grossing film of all time- a title it held for over 19 years (until Demon Slayer: Mugen Train recently toppled it in 2021)- Spirited Away has recieved worldwide acclaim and still sits in the coveted top 30 list of IMDb's highest rated movies of all time. Regarded as one of the best movies of the 21st century (and with the numbers to back it up!), the sole hand-drawn winner of an Academy Award (for Best Animated Feature Film) is now getting a live action remake!
Notorious for being underwhelming and poorly acted, live action remakes of series and movies (think Death Note, for example) have garnered a rather poor reputation in international audiences. Spirited Away seems to be rather acutely aware of this trend and it would seem that the staff involved in the project have taken certain measures to prevent it from joining the ever-growing list of occupants in the live-action hall of shame. The most indicative sign of this fact is that the remake has been advertised with particular emphasis on it being a "live-action play adapted for the stage".
This means that the remake will almost certainly omit the most underwhelming aspect of typical live-action productions: the CGI. The benefits of such an omission have already been tested to fruition in a similar adaptation for Princess Mononoke held in 2013 at London’s New Diorama Theatre. Not only was it a successful venture, it is of interest to note that Studio Ghibli is involved in both these remakes, meaning that the staff involved in this project is working from experience.... and what a staff it is! However, before we jump the gun, it is imperative that we preceed with a brief account of what the story of Spirited Away is about.
Since the plot of the theatrical production scheduled for 2022 is based entirely off the original animated movie, there's no room for confusion about the details of the story, which is as follows:
"10-year-old Chihiro moves with her parents to a new home in the Japanese countryside. After taking a wrong turn down a wooded path, Chihiro and her parents discover an amusement park with a stall containing an assortment of food. To her surprise, Chihiro's parents begin eating and then transform into pigs. In this supernatural realm, Chihiro encounters a host of characters and endures labor in a bathhouse for spirits, awaiting a reunion with her parents."
(Summary Credit: Rotten Tomatoes)
By all accounts, the story of Spirited Away is rather simple and easy to follow by audiences of all ages; it's the imaginative presentation and stunning delivery of the events that really earns the story a place in the hearts of its audience. That said, an undertaking of this nature demands the best of the best that the Japan Entertainment Industry has to offer; it is with this point that we come to the heart of this week's article- the cast behind Spirited Away's live-action remake!
Directed by Canadian-born award-winning director John Caird, the lineup behind the Spirited Away project boasts some of the best names in Japan. Japanese productions are infamous in their unique use of a double cast (alternatively known as the W-cast) system, whereby each main role is shared between multiple performers, with each contributing the same amount of scr-errrr-stage time. That said, don't be surprised when we list out multiple actors playing the same role!
The title role of Chihiro will be split between 22-year-old Kanna Hashimoto, a popular idol-turned-actress, and 23-year-old Mone Kamishiraishi, a singer and actress who has prior work experience with Caird himself! Kanna Hashimoto started her career as a member of the idol group Rev and has had multiple past roles in live action remakes, where she excels. Her notable roles are in the live action movies for Assassination Classroom, Gintama and Kaguya Sama: Love is War.
Mone Kamishiraishi is another well-known name, with significant contributions in movies such as Your Name, Wolf Children and Lady Maiko. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the 38th Japan Academy Prize for her role in the 2014 musical comedy film Maiko wa Lady.
Haku, another main character in the story (*wink!*) will be represented by shared participation from yet another well-known duo of names in the industry: Kotaro Daigo and Hiroki Miura! Kotaru Daigo is most popular for his voice acting in the infamously popular movie Weathering With You, as well as in other movies such as The Battle: Roar to Victory.
Hiroki Miura debuted as a ballet dancer, and after being a part of the idol group Dream5, now takes up stage acting as his main role! He has expressed great enthusiasm for his upcoming role as Haku.
Interestingly, the role of No Face has been allotted to two actors with professional dance backgrounds. We hope to see some mesmerizing antics as the enigmatic character comes to life on stage and glides around with his own unique sense of charm! Japanese dancer, choreographer, and model Koharu Sugawara is the first name in the duo behind No Face. She is well-known for making several appearances in commercials in Japan.
Also putting his dancing skills on display is Tomohiko Tsujimoto, a choreographer and founding member of a dance company, who was also the first Japanese male dancer to appear in Cirque du Soleil.
Lin, the tritagnonist of the movie, will be represented by perhaps the best duo of them all: actress and singer Miyu Sakihi, and Fu Hinami. What's so special about this duo, you ask? Both of these ladies are former members of the musical group Takatazula Revue, with Fu being an ex-lead! Their history together will undoubtedly spell magic in their acting role, as these two ladies are very familiar with each other! Fu has also appeared in several other plays since 2016.
With casting decisions as well-thought and carefully handpicked as this crowd, the Spirited Away production certainly seems set to match its parent movie's success. The event is scheduled to premiere at Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre in February of 2022; only that fortune crowd of anime lovers shall have the credibility to comment on whether or not this turns out to be the case.