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Blu-Ray Review: GKIDS’ Spirited Away: Live on Stage 

Spirited Away Live on Stage

The Academy Award Winning Spirited Away was turned into a successful Stage Play.  Now GKIDS gives everyone a chance to see the magical stage adaptation on Blu-ray

The Film(s)  

From my review of Spirited Away

Spirited Away is, at its core, the film is the story of a girl finding her way and her inner strength.  Chichiro through this magical realm is able to triumph over test after test, challenge after challenge.  She is a normal girl, imbued with only her wits and nothing more.  But Chichiro is able to best the most powerful of witches.  She is able to help ailing spirits.  This isn’t magic but her own determination of will, her inner strength.

By not making Chichiro born with some sort of special prowess or birthright, Miyazaki tells a story of an every girl.  Someone relatable, that doesn’t have to have magical powers to save the day.  Miyazaki creates a film that revolves around this normal girl in extraordinary situation.  Spirited Away’s magic and power does not resonate from its creatures, magic or the grand world created.  It’s magic and power is drawn from Chichiro, a normal girl, and the film’s message; every young woman is as powerful as any magic or creature in the world.

An Adaptation to Stage from Film is far trickier than the other way around.  Especially when the film is the Academy Award Winning classic Fantasy Animated film Spirited Away.  The film is filled with the sort of flights of imagination that would give any Stage Producer and Art director nightmares.  The above and below-the-line crew on this impressively mounted and beautiful production took it as a challenge.  The result is something as other-worldly charming and emotionally resonant as the Miyazaki film. 

The Stage Play produced in 2022 to wild success at the Tokyo Imperial Theater has lost nothing transitioned to the Stage.  In fact, the stage play adaptation with its use of sleight of hand and vintage stage FX is able to create a milieu as wonderous as your first viewing of Spirited Away.  Every set piece or visual reveal is handled in the same way that Miyazaki and his crew of animators handled it.  Giving them the full breadth of awe that few stage productions, or filmmakers for that matter, can create.  

Wait with bided breath on how they take on the signature bathhouse scene where Chichiro helps a disgustingly filthy God find relief.  The way each set piece, each character (imp, demon, god, or otherwise), or set is approached with the utmost care and mastery for the form can only be described as magical.  

Though for all the bluster and style none of it would work if the performances and adaptation retained what made the film so special.  Spirited Away: Live On Stage retains everything one would hope.  The stage production had two leads Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi playing Chichiro on alternating nights.  Thankfully, GKIDS has furnished this set with filmed versions of both performances.  These two editions are not merely recorded versions using the same shots and edited rhythms.  They are two wholly different experiences each with stronger aspects which combined give one the full experience of what it must have been like to watch the stage life in Tokyo in 2022.  

The Hashimoto version is altogether a better performance and is the preference of this reviewer when it comes to Chichiro.  She is a better fit and there is a clearer arc.  This is not to say that the Kamishiraishi version’s performance is lacking in any way, it is more of a preference and the fact that Hashimoto feels closer to Chichiro the animated character.  The Kamishiraishi version feels like more of a showcase for the FX and Puppetry throughout the entire show.  There are shots, unlike the Hashimoto version, that feel better suited for those visual moments in the show and the editing feels sharper and more focused on the story.  

Whichever version one chooses to watch, this reviewer suggests watching both, has its benefits but both remain beautifully representative of this wonderful stage adaptation.  Spirited Away: Live on Stage, delivers for anyone that wasn’t lucky enough to travel to Japan in 2022 to see the production.

The Transfer(s) 

The transfers are both excellent representations of the digitally shot films.  Each is beautifully rendered for Blu-ray with razor-sharp images with impressive color reproduction.  No defects or artifacting in the picture.  

The Extras

N/A for this release. 


The Final Thought 

Spirited Away: Live on Stage has been given a beautiful release on Blu-ray by GKIDS with two versions (with their respective Tokyo Stage Leads).  Highest Possible Recommendations!!! 

GKIDS Blu-Ray edition of Spirited Away: Live on Stage is out November 14th

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