Posters - The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro (Japan)

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi - "The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro," Japan's all-time box office champion. This is often regarded around the world as Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece, and is the film most responsible for catapaulting him on the global stage.

I really love Japanese movie posters. They have a very unique look and feel to them, and Spirited Away continues this classic look. The dense compositions, the richly drawn colors, the mass of text littered all around. There's a sense of history to this poster, which is very fitting because this film addresses these very themes.

Miyazaki has professed his belief that children are born with knowledge of their cultural history; the collective unconscious speaks to them clearly in a way that becomes lost during the journey to adulthood. In a sense, this is what Sen and Chihiro is all about. It's about a cultural awakening, a celebration of Japan's vast heritage, its mythology and its archetypes.

The movie doesn't deal in specifics, certainly not on the documentary scale of Isao Takahta's Pom Poko, which Miyazaki's film comments on. I think that's a key element to its worldwide appeal. Westerners can appreciate the symbolism on their own terms - the value of hard work, the need to make a name for yourself independent of family, yadda yadda. You might also just enjoy it as pure escapism, a Japanese Alice in Wonderland.

Of course, I would suggest there is more going on here than pure escapism. There's a far greater depth than what you see in American animated features (Pixar, the dutiful students, remain the clear exception). There's none of those simple-minded, "pweachy mowal wessons" that insulted me when I was seven years old. Why are American cartoons so obsessed with such stale pastry? Miyazaki's stories are grounded in an honest dialog. He respects his audience.

I really do believe he looks to children as peers, and I think that's a key to his success. This was also the secret behind the great works of Virginia Lee Burton and Joel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss and Charles Shultz. Those are the teachers we should take our inspiration from.

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