Religious Themes in Spirited Away
Spiritied Away is a widely popular animated film by Japan’s most famous animator, Miyazaki Hayao. This animated movie focuses on the story of a ten year old girl, Chihiro, who enters the spiritual realm while moving into a new town with her parents. Her experiences with the different characters she meets hones her personality, which ultimately allows her to return safely to the human world. Though it is more of a coming of age story, Miyazaki has included many religious contexts in his film. His film shows themes like ecology and recovery of Japanese values, which are notions deeply rooted in Buddhism and Shinto, the two main religions in Japan. He incorporates traditional religious ideas into his movie by representing them as physical entities and through the behaviors of his characters, effectively showing that folk beliefs and customs still prevail within the modern and technological world.
Before going into detail about the religious connotations in the movie, one must understand the type of religion Japan has. Many Japanese claim that they are not religious even while performing what others may consider highly religious activities, like praying at a shrine. Reader states that, “Japanese people in general exhibit extremely high levels of religious activity and behavior, and Japanese society and culture are intricately interwoven with religious themes” (Reader 5). Due to this intertwined relation between culture and religion, it is not uncommon to use religious motifs in popular films like Spirited Away. As a result of the interrelation between religion and culture in the country, there is a blurred division between humans and spirits. For example, the Shinto religion is “is centered on the relationship between the Japanese people, the land and the kami” (23). This closeness between humans and deities is unique to the country of Japan. In his movie, Miyazaki draws upon this idea of unity between spirits and humans and...
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