Source: Wikipedia Image

Trying to rise to the call for content I figured I’d try to combine both my interest in Japanese language and anime into a single quick read.  I also want to suggest that all Japanese animation doesn’t revolve around  an unnatural attraction to one’s younger sister.  If there is interest I’ll do more.  For the first attempt I figured I’d review an anime that I can actually recommend, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away”.

Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し

English: “Spirited Away”

千  – “Sen”- In this case what the main character is called through most of the film.  It’s an odd name and the reason is explained in the film.

と – “to” this a particle equivalent to “and” here in English and links nouns together.  Japanese is a bit more interesting because “to”is generally use link things exhaustively.   “I went to the store and purchased (only) milk and bread“.  However, Japanese also as another version や or “ya” which is used on a non-exhaustive list  “I went to the store and purchased milk や bread” which means “I went to the store and bought milk, bread and other things“.

千尋 – “Chihiro” – Name of the protagonist

の – “no” – shows possession or used to link nouns together.  Similar to ” ‘s”  in English.

神隠し – “Kamikakushi- noun-  mysterious disappearance, spirited away.

So we actually have the rare case where the Japanese title mostly matches the English one.  “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” or “Sen and Chihiro’s Spiriting Away”

The key point  I want to make here is the different reading of 千.  In the first reading it uses onyomi or sound (aka Chinese) reading and in the second 千尋 it is kunyomi or Japanese reading and sounds like “chi”.

The character has  the 尋 (hiro) removed from her name and her memory in the film and becomes “Sen” through most of the film.  This kind of word play happens throughout the film and would be instantly recognizable to the Japanese audience and is essentially untranslatable in English.

It also stresses just how important kanji or the Chinese characters that Japanese uses are to convey meaning with written Japanese.  This kind of word play is central to all kinds of Japanese humor and literature.

Spirited Away (Japanese: 千と千尋の神隠し Hepburn: Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, “Sen and Chihiro’s Spiriting Away”) is a 2001 Japanese animated coming-of-age fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network, Dentsu, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Tohokushinsha Film and Mitsubishi and distributed by Toho…and tells the story of Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a sullen 10-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the world of Kami (spirits) of Japanese Shinto folklore. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.Wikipedia

Studio Ghibli films are generally top notch and “Spirited Away” is no exception.  There are other more highly rated films from the studio, but near the top of my list is “Spirited Away” for it message of growing up and responsibility. It works as simple and fun story for children while still having many parts that will be interesting and thought provoking for an adult audience.