Stage adaptations of popular anime have become fairly common in Japan over the past decade, but when the anime being adapted is also Japan’s second-highest-grossing movie of all time, the level of anticipation is on a whole other level. So last week a full-scale press event was held to unveil the first in-costume promotional photos for the upcoming stage play of Studio Ghibli’s "Spirited Away."
Representing the anime studio was veteran producer Toshio Suzuki, but not the anime film’s director, Hayao Miyazaki. That was to be expected, as Miyazaki tends to avoid the spotlight whenever possible, even going so far as making “I won’t attend any press conferences” a required condition for his permission to produce a kabuki play of "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" a while back. So as is so often the case, it fell to Suzuki to provide a look into the inner workings of the mind of Miyazaki, and he offered a surprising revelation about how he feels about his most celebrated anime film.
“When the proposal to make a 'Spirited Away' play was brought up, Miyazaki simply said ‘Sure,’” Suzuki recalled, which Miyazaki then followed with: “I’ve already let go of ['Spirited Away']. It was created with the support of so many people, so it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to everyone.”
That’s an impressively humble and team-focused sentiment from the most admired animated film director not just in Japan, but arguably the entire world, and especially so since Miyazaki is also the scriptwriter for the "Spirited Away" anime, as he is for all of the theatrical feature films he’s directed. What’s more, whereas some of Miyazaki’s films are adaptations of books written by other authors ("Kiki’s Delivery Service," "Howl’s Moving Castle"), use characters created by someone else ("The Castle of Cagliostro"), or incorporate elements loosely inspired by a historical figure’s life ("The Wind Rises"), "Spirited Away" is a 100-percent original work, and so exemplative of Miyazaki’s singular filmmaking style that few, if any, would object if he were to say “Yep, that movie is all me.”
Suzuki also reiterated the faith they have in the "Spirited Away" stage play’s director, John Caird. “He and Miyazaki really hit it off,” he says of their meetings while the adaptation was still in the concept stage, and that “I believe the cast and crew, without question, will be creating a wonderful play for us.”
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