Hayao Miyazaki gives blessing after meeting with Caird to project that’s been in development for four years.

In 2019, classic Studio Ghibli anime Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was adapted into a kabuki play. Now comes word that another of director Hayao Miyazaki’s films is being transformed into a live-action stage version, and this time it’s his biggest hit of all, Spirited Away.

Helming the project is Canadian-born British stage director and playwright John Caird, who will handle both the script and direction for the project. Perhaps best known as a director for the original 1987 production of Les Misérables, Caird has worked extensively as a director for stage plays in Japan with Japanese actors, with his most recent major project being Knight’s Tale, which had its world premiere in Tokyo three years ago.

The Spirited Away stage play is being produced as a 90th anniversary celebration for Toho, as the distributor of the Spirited Away anime is also involved in live theater, and Toho and Caird first began discussing the possibility of adapting the Ghibli anime for the stage back in 2017. However, Miyazaki is famously protective of his studio’s works, and so Caird met in-person with both the legendary anime director and veteran Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, asking for permission to go head with the play, which they granted, with Suzuki commenting:

“John is a good guy. Miyazaki and I both like him. We gave him a No-Face coin bank, and he was very happy. I hope he’ll take good care of [Spirited Away protagonist Chihiro] as he raises her on the stage.”

Speaking of Chihiro, two actresses will share the role of the 10-year-old girl who finds herself, well, spirited away. One half of the duo will be 22-year-old Kanna Hashimoto, idol singer-turned-actress whose resume includes several roles in live-action TV drama and movie adaptations of anime, such as Gintama, Kingdom, and Assassination Classroom (although surely the highlight of her career so far remains the time she sold some eyeglasses to a SoraNews24 reporter). The other actress stepping into Chihiro’s role will be 23-year-old Mone Kamishiraishi, a singer and actress who was part of the cast for Caird’s Knight’s Tale.

▼ Hashimoto (left) and Kamishiraishi (right). Both actress mention being terrified by the scene where Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs when they watched the anime as children.

Until recently, Spirited Away was Japan’s highest-grossing film of all time, and Caird seems deeply respectful of its cultural significance, saying he is “excited and honored” to be entrusted with the project, expressing his longtime admiration for the original with “I have spent a thousand hours with Spirited Away, and I’m looking forward to spending thousands more with it” (referencing how the “Chi” part of Chihiro’s name means “thousand” in Japanese).

The Spirited Away stage play is set to premiere at Tokyo’s Imperial Theater in February of 2022, move to Osaka in April, Fukuoka in March, Sapporo in early June, and then arrive in Nagoya for late June and July. And yes, Toho has said they’re also considering overseas performances.

Sources: Spirited Away stage play official website, Sponichi Annex via Yahoo! Japan News
Top image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Spirited Away stage play official website
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