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The enchanting world of Japanese anime legend Hayao Miyazaki is heading to the stage.
The director’s beloved 2001 Oscar-winning classic Spirited Away will be adapted into a stage play for the first time, with a premiere date set for February 2022 in Tokyo. The adaptation will be produced by Japanese entertainment giant Toho, and written and directed by Tony and Olivier Award-winning director John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickleby, Daddy Long Legs). Crucially, Miyazaki’s notoriously reclusive Studio Ghibli has given the project its full support.
“We, Hayao and I, both liked John’s vision; he is a person we can trust,” said Miyazaki’s longtime producer partner Toshio Suzuki. “I am looking forward to seeing Chihiro grow on stage under his direction,” he added, referring to Spirited Away‘s original Japanese title, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi.
“I feel so excited and privileged to be working on the first ever stage adaptation of Sen to Chihiro,” Caird said in a statement. “I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form.”
Spirited Away premiered in 2001 and became a global cultural phenomenon, earning $355 million and helping to spread mainstream international appreciation for hand-drawn Japanese anime. Like nearly all of Miyazaki’s work, the story’s heroine is a courageous and intelligent young girl, in this case Chihiro, a 10-year-old moving with her parents to a new home. They soon lose themselves in a mysterious world of fantastic spirits, ruled over by the sorceress Yubaba, who turns Chihiro’s parents into pigs. After a series of bizarre and dangerous challenges, including the loss of her identity, Chihiro must use all her wits to survive in this strange place and return to the human world.
The part of Chihiro already has been double-cast for 22-year-old pop star-turned-film actress Kanna Hashimoto (Assassination Classroom, Gintama), who will be making her stage debut, and Mone Kamishiraishi, best known for her voice work on the smash hit anime Your Name.
Spirited Away will premiere on stage at Toho’s Imperial Theatre in central Tokyo, playing there from February through March, 2022. The production will then tour the Japanese cities of Osaka (April), Fukuoka (May), Sapporo (June) and Nagoya (June and July). Toho is hoping to take the play to other parts of Asia and Europe, where Miyazaki’s work is enormously popular (Spirited Away the film was released 18 years later in China in 2019, but still earned $69 million).
Caird, an honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said he has already spent over 1,000 hours developing his stage version of Spirited Away, and “looks forward to spending many thousands more.”
He added: “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. I am looking forward with great pleasure to deepening my partnership with my dear friends at Toho through a new relationship with Studio Ghibli and Suzuki Toshio, their most generous and inventive lead producer.”
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