Live-action version of Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning Spirited Away is on its way to the U.S.

With the 2001 film Spirited Away, director Hayao Miyazaki transported Japanese anime into the mainstream consciousness in the United States.  A dramatic fantasy story with gravitas and an incredible journey, Spirited Away would go on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film–Miyazaki’s only Oscar (except his lifetime honorary Oscar), and the only non-English film to ever win the award.  A modern fable in the classic tradition, a brave ten-year-old girl named Chihiro is not happy with her parents moving her into a new neighborhood.  But when she wanders off, she finds herself spirited away–trapped in a world of spirits, beasts, and uniquely imaginative surprises.  Wondrous, curious, and even grotesque, something of everything is tucked into Spirited Away.

Last year Tony Award-winning director and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Honorary Associate Director John Caird (Les Misérables) wrote and directed a live-action stage production based on the film, which saw its debut in Tokyo last February.

Images from the production have dazzled the world since, showing iconic fantasy characters re-created in impressive methods from a Jim Henson-esque staff of puppeteers with creations designed and directed by Toby Olié.  One year later distributor GKIDS has announced the stage production will be coming to movie theaters in America this spring as Spirited Away: Live on Stage.

GKIDS will release two filmed performances of the production in theaters, featuring both of the show’s main casts, filmed at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo.

Kanna Hashimoto, who starred in Lupin’s Daughter, and Mone Kamishiraishi, who had a role in Weathering with You and the Japanese version of the U.S. series Suits, share the starring role of the story’s heroine and lost girl Chihiro.

Mari Natsuki, who voiced the scary sorceress Yubaba and her twin sister Zeniba in the original anime, will be back performing those roles again.

Two versions of the filmed stage play for the English theatrical edition are expected, featuring each cast.  The cast also includes in alternating performances Kotarō Daigo (Weathering with You) and Hiroki Miura (My Hero Academia: Two Heroes) as the boy Haku and Koharu Sugawara and Tomohiko Tsujimoto as Kaonashi (No-Face).

Miyu Sakihi and Fu Hinami star as Lin and Chihiro’s mother, Tomorowo Taguchi and Satoshi Hashimoto as Kamaji, and Full Metal Alchemist and Attack on Titan star Romi Park joining Mari Natsuki as Yubaba and Zeniba.

The stage production toured Osaka, Fukuoka, Sapporo, and Nagoya through the summer months last year.

Former Mythbuster Adam Savage created a great cosplay version of No Face (as well as Totoro, which prompts the question: how long until a live-action My Neighbor Totoro?).  Savage’s TED Talk about his No Face costume experience is one of the best explanations of cosplay for people who don’t understand cosplay.  Check it out here.

Follow the GKIDS website for updates.  Spirited Away: Live on Stage is expected to arrive in theaters for a limited run this month or next.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg


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