Steamed buns, and food for thought—Spirited Away has it all. Photo: via Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.
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Why it’s famous

Studio Ghibli is notorious for releasing Japanese animated films that are highly thematic, and visually entrancing—and, Spirited Away is no exception. The beloved film captures audiences with its acute details and immersive world.

Hayao Miyazaki uses hand-drawn animation techniques on the movie’s storyboards, which he later transfers to a digital medium, while paying exceptional attention to the smallest of details—from a zipper catching in the sunlight to stray grains of rice falling when a character eats. Afterall, there’s a reason as to why the New Yorker called Miyazaki “the auteur of anime.”

While this alone had made Miyazaki’s films widely popular, foodies also gravitate toward the film due to the large role, and mouth-watering animations, that Spirited Away’s food has. Meals are used to bring the characters together, build upon their relationships, and to add depth to the storyline.

Why you haven’t seen it

The film genre of anime deters many people and audiences. You’ve probably heard of the stereotypes and negative comments surrounding the genre, and its viewers, so you might look down upon an anime film. Indeed, despite there being an English dubbed version, it might not seem worth it for you to this include foreign film in your Netflix playlist.

Why it might be tough to get through

While the movie is supposed to be a dream-like, and highly imaginative, there are scenes included which seem odd, and out of place even in this fictional world—including one of a giant baby throwing a tantrum. Therefore, you might begin to wonder why you are watching such uninteresting, or obscene segments.

Why you should see it anyway

If you are a foodie—this movie is for you. While it may not be the main theme of Spirited Away, mouth-watering meals are expertly drawn, and the food serves as an important recurring motif throughout the film. Alongside Chihiro, the younger viewers are taught the morals and etiquettes surrounding food in Japanese culture.

For instance, Chihiro’s parents demonstrate glutton as they gorge themselves with food, and they are turned into literal pigs. This moral lesson is supposed to teach children not to eat others’ food,and that greediness is unacceptable.

While eating is a necessary staple in life, it is also a fundamental component of human interaction that brings people and cultures together, creating bonds and friendships which are shown in the film through the sharing of feasts between Chihiro and other characters.

Food assists in driving the main themes of Spirited Away, reinforcing the idea of loving one’s family, friends, and even their enemies.

Envious eats

Anman—a steamed bun with a red bean paste filling. Chihiro is seen sharing anman with Lin, as a symbol of their new friendship. If only I was there with them to try the delicious looking delicacy—the film gave it a heavenly appearance. I’m keen to travel just to try it, or maybe even attempt to make this delicious dish myself.

Fun fact

Spirited Away earned 30.4 billion yen (CAD $350 million), which makes it the highest grossing movie in Japanese history, even bypassing Titanic and Frozen.