Australian Council on Children and the Media

Spirited Away

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Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 12 (scary scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Spirited Away
  • a review of Spirited Away completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 6 July 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to scary scenes, themes, length and potential lack of interest.
Children aged 8–12 Parental Guidance recommended due to scary scenes. Parents with sensitive children please take caution.
Children over the age of 12 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Spirited Away
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Supernatural Themes
Length 125 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Chihiro is a ten-year-old girl who is moving to a new city with her mother and father. On the way to their new house, they take a wrong turn and find themselves at an abandoned and dilapidated theme park, which is a replica of an old-style Japanese village. Even though Chihiro is totally creeped out by this place, her parents are keen to take a look around, so they go exploring. Chihiro’s parents can smell some delicious street food cooking and take a seat at one of the stalls where some tempting food has miraculously appeared. Even though there is no one to serve them, her parents tuck in to the food with great enthusiasm. Chihiro is disgusted and annoyed, heading off down the road and crossing over a river that leads to a grand old bath house. She is just turning around to return to her parents when a boy appears, warning her to get out quickly before the sun sets. Chihiro runs back to find her parents but to her shock and horror she sees that they have been turned into pigs! It is now too late to get back across the river and Chihiro becomes trapped in a world of spirits. The boy reappears and gives her advice on how she can survive in this strange and terrifying spirit world, saying he will help her find her parents and change them back into humans. A surreal and epic adventure begins where Chihiro must secure a job in the big bath house, navigate the many strange characters who wish to do her harm, help her friend Haku, save her parents and return to her human life.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Supernatural; Spirits; Japanese Gods; Adventure; Loss of Parents.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Chihiro’s friend, Haku, has taken the form of a dragon. He is attacked by some paper demons and has cuts all over his body and is covered in blood. He is badly injured, and blood is spilling out of his mouth.
  • Chihiro is attacked by the little harpy who claws at her repeatedly.
  • Zaneeba threatens Chihiro, saying she is going to, “rip your mouth out”, and anyone who takes her special seal is going to die.
  • A giant baby kicks someone in the face.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • When Chihiro and her parents find the abandoned theme park, there is an eerie wind blowing and the feeling that maybe it’s not safe or is perhaps haunted. Chihiro picks up on it and thinks it’s a creepy place.
  • As soon as the sun goes down, the streets of the theme park come to life with spooky dark shapes, like ghosts, with glowing eyes. They move slowly and have a menacing air.
  • There are lots of monstrous, scary and odd creatures in this film. Many are quite menacing. For example: Yubaba is an old crone with grotesque features who can change to have the body of a large flying harpy; No-face is a spooky masked creature with a black transparent floating body who vanishes into thin air and reappears mysteriously; The Stink Spirit is a giant slug-like creature covered in oozing slime; Kamaji is an old man with the body of a spider.
  • A lot of the creatures have the ability to shape shift and change into scary monsters.
  • The scene where Chihiro finds her parents and they have been metamorphosed into pigs is very scary. They are large and grotesque and Chihiro is terrified.
  • Chihiro finds herself in some precarious and dangerous situations. For example: she is climbing along the outside of a high building on a pipe attached to the wall, the pipe detaches and hangs high in the air; she tumbles down a steep and precarious staircase.
  • Haku and Chihiro fall into a deep dark pit, falling through a dark tunnel filled with ghost-like black spirits.
  • Yubaba explodes with anger when she can’t find her baby, fire comes out of her mouth and she looks even more demonic.
  • A spell is used to zipper a girl’s lips together.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group are likely to find the strange creatures in this movie scary or disturbing (see more details above). They are also likely to find the scene where Chihiro’s parents become pigs quite distressing.
  • Children in this age group may be more affected by Chihiro losing her parents and the fear she feels being all alone in a strange world.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Younger children in this age group may still find the strange creatures in this movie scary or disturbing and are also still likely to find the scene where Chihiro’s parents become pigs quite distressing.
  • Chihiro forms a deep friendship with the boy Haku. He is attacked and badly wounded and she is desperate to help him and save him. Children in this age group may find this quite emotional.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • A giant baby’s bare bottom is seen.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A cigarette is smoked by an adult character.
  • Sake (alcohol) is offered to an adult character.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

Spirited Away is an academy award-winning Japanese film by acclaimed writer Hayao Miyazaki and animated by Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki created the film specifically to capture the imagination of children in the 10 -13 age bracket, feeling that current offerings for that age group were limited. Spirited Away is a creative and rich feat of storytelling that delves deeply into Japanese Shinto and Buddhist symbolism. Not only is it an epic and surreal adventure, but the animation is detailed and visually spectacular. Due to its extremely complex storyline, long length and scary themes, it is definitely better suited to older children. Younger children may find it simultaneously disturbing and boring!

The main messages from this movie are that greed and consumption lead us away from happiness and that we must fight for what is truly important in life.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Chihiro stands out as a positive role model as she is brave and determined to help her friends and save her parents despite terrifying odds.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • This film has powerful messages about consumerism and greed. Parents could talk to their children about why Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs.
  • Spirited Away explores themes of western consumerism taking hold in Japanese culture. Parents could discuss the symbolic significance of some of the characters such as Yubaba and The Stink Spirit.

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