Chihiro's adoring throng in Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away - 2002
A scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 film Spirited Away.

Anime classic Spirited Away turns 10



From Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz to Alice and her adventures in Wonderland, it seems like being whisked away to magical realms governed by madcap rulers is simply one of the hazards of being young and female. That's the situation in which Chihiro finds herself - complete with dragons, glowing steamships and levitating frogs - in Spirited Away.

The Japanese hand-drawn animation, which celebrates its 10th birthday this week, has yet to reach adolescence itself, but during its short lifetime the coming-of-age story has become recognised as a masterpiece of world cinema.

A former Berlin Film Festival winner, Spirited Away helped anime ditch its reputation outside Japan as a genre for fans of hardware, explosions and voyeurism. But the movie is no art house concern either; as well as displacing Titanic as the highest-grossing film in Japanese box office history, it became the first anime to win an Academy Award. One of its greatest champions, the Toy Story director John Lasseter, personally oversaw the film's English-language dubbing and release.

Written and directed by master animator Hayao Miyazaki, now 70, the film overflows with the sense of fantasy and wonder that young viewers adore, but also the ideas-driven storytelling that mature audiences demand. Then there are the visuals: lush watercolour-inspired vistas, replete with intricately designed and often grotesque characters - the calling card of the Miyazaki-founded Studio Ghibli animation house, whose movies are considered the gold standard of anime.

The fairytale begins as many others do, with a sheltered and slightly selfish girl who is upset when her family decides to leave the familiarity of her childhood home. But after passing through a mysterious tunnel in a secluded forest, Chihiro finds herself in a far more worrisome time and place than she could ever have imagined.

Upon setting foot in the new land - a surreal take on Edo period Japan, filled with the malevolent spirits of the country's ancient folklore - her parents are turned into animals. She is then forced to take cover in a giant cloud-ringed bathhouse and tend to supernatural beings of all shapes and sizes that visit. In a story that's every bit as bizarre as it sounds, the building's proprietor, Yubaba (an evil sorceress) conspires to enslave Chihiro by making the girl forget her own name.

"I felt [Japanese media] only offered such things as crushes and romance to 10-year-old girls," Miyazaki told Animage magazine at the time of the film's release. "Looking at my young friends, I felt this was not what they held dear in their hearts, not what they wanted. And so I wondered if I could make a movie in which they could be heroines."

Although Spirited Away went further than any of the director's other films in its attempt to bridge the gap between young and mature audiences, his use of strong female protagonists was not new. In his other movies, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbour Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, young women are depicted as considerably more honest and heroic than their bumbling male counterparts. But despite the overt and much-discussed feminism inherent in his work, it would be a mistake to characterise Miyazaki simply as a "progressive".

"There's a lot of nostalgia for the past, traditional values and also the idea of empowerment through labour," says the author Andrew Osmond, who included the movie in his book 100 Animated Feature Films. He believes the story, with its ancient setting and folkloric creatures, acts as a critical commentary on modern Japan and the challenges caused by the country's economic difficulties.

"There's a pivotal scene with a river spirit - a giant worm-like thing - which the heroine has to clean. When she does, you get this huge mountain of rubbish that comes out, including old bicycles, so there's the idea that the river has been made filthy by everything that's accumulated in modern Japan."

The idea came to Miyazaki after participating in a river-cleaning himself, finding among other things, a bicycle. The filmmaker's urge to subtly examine social and environmental issues through fantasy reveals a depth that is all too often missing from American animation.

While a question mark currently hangs over Miyazaki's directing future (he threatened to retire after 2008's Ponyo, although not for the first time), Spirited Away's international standing has helped introduce countless film fans around the world to the wonders of anime.

What's more, recent Pixar movies such as Wall-E, Up and Toy Story 3 have shown greater complexity and emotional nuance than any of the studio's previous efforts, suggesting that Miyazaki's artistic legacy will continue to be felt beyond the shores of Japan. In fact, Pixar director Lasseter makes no secret of it, once writing: "When we have a problem and we can't seem to solve it, we often look at one of his films in our screening room. Toy Story owes a huge debt of gratitude to the films of Mr Miyazaki."

Famous left-handers

- Marie Curie

- Jimi Hendrix

- Leonardo Di Vinci

- David Bowie

- Paul McCartney

- Albert Einstein

- Jack the Ripper

- Barack Obama

- Helen Keller

- Joan of Arc

KLOPP AT LIVERPOOL

Years: October 2015 - June 2024
Total games: 491
Win percentage: 60.9%
Major trophies: 6 (Premier League x 1, Champions League x 1, FA Cup x 1, League Cup x 2, Fifa Club World Cup x1)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

if you go

The flights

Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines fly direct from the UAE to Singapore from Dh2,265 return including taxes. The flight takes about 7 hours.

The hotel

Rooms at the M Social Singapore cost from SG $179 (Dh488) per night including taxes.

The tour

Makan Makan Walking group tours costs from SG $90 (Dh245) per person for about three hours. Tailor-made tours can be arranged. For details go to www.woknstroll.com.sg

While you're here
LIKELY TEAMS

South Africa
Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi.

India (from)
Virat Kohli (captain), Murali Vijay, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wkt), Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.

The specs

Powertrain: Single electric motor
Power: 201hp
Torque: 310Nm
Transmission: Single-speed auto
Battery: 53kWh lithium-ion battery pack (GS base model); 70kWh battery pack (GF)
Touring range: 350km (GS); 480km (GF)
Price: From Dh129,900 (GS); Dh149,000 (GF)
On sale: Now

Some of Darwish's last words

"They see their tomorrows slipping out of their reach. And though it seems to them that everything outside this reality is heaven, yet they do not want to go to that heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope." - Mahmoud Darwish, to attendees of the Palestine Festival of Literature, 2008

His life in brief: Born in a village near Galilee, he lived in exile for most of his life and started writing poetry after high school. He was arrested several times by Israel for what were deemed to be inciteful poems. Most of his work focused on the love and yearning for his homeland, and he was regarded the Palestinian poet of resistance. Over the course of his life, he published more than 30 poetry collections and books of prose, with his work translated into more than 20 languages. Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers, most significantly Marcel Khalife. Darwish died on August 9, 2008 after undergoing heart surgery in the United States. He was later buried in Ramallah where a shrine was erected in his honour.

All We Imagine as Light

Director: Payal Kapadia

Starring: Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam

Rating: 4/5

Biog

Mr Kandhari is legally authorised to conduct marriages in the gurdwara

He has officiated weddings of Sikhs and people of different faiths from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Russia, the US and Canada

Father of two sons, grandfather of six

Plays golf once a week

Enjoys trying new holiday destinations with his wife and family

Walks for an hour every morning

Completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Loyola College, Chennai, India

2019 is a milestone because he completes 50 years in business

 

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League quarter-final, second leg (first-leg score)

Porto (0) v Liverpool (2), Wednesday, 11pm UAE

Match is on BeIN Sports

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022

First match: November 20
Final 16 round: December 3 to 6
Quarter-finals: December 9 and 10
Semi-finals: December 13 and 14
Final: December 18

Nepotism is the name of the game

Salman Khan’s father, Salim Khan, is one of Bollywood’s most legendary screenwriters. Through his partnership with co-writer Javed Akhtar, Salim is credited with having paved the path for the Indian film industry’s blockbuster format in the 1970s. Something his son now rules the roost of. More importantly, the Salim-Javed duo also created the persona of the “angry young man” for Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s, reflecting the angst of the average Indian. In choosing to be the ordinary man’s “hero” as opposed to a thespian in new Bollywood, Salman Khan remains tightly linked to his father’s oeuvre. Thanks dad.