Easily one of the most revered and celebrated anime films of all time, Spirited Away is an unforgettable masterpiece by Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. Now celebrating its 20-year anniversary, the 2001 film's legacy has not only endured but grown in the two decades since its initial release.
It was the film that truly put Studio Ghibli on North America's radar, setting the precedent of what an amazing anime movie should look like. Once Disney acquired the distribution rights and was able to dub it with some talented English-speaking voice actors, Spirited Away became even more accessible for children and adults around the world. An unforgettable story paired with magnificent animation and musical score, the film set the bar extremely high for all anime movies that followed it -- including Studio Ghibli's.
Spirited Away was a gateway movie for many who hadn't yet immersed themselves in the anime world, and it allowed for other Ghibli films to have greater success once North American viewers were paying attention. Its story is captivating, covering themes that are even more relevant today like environmentalism, Western consumerism and supernaturalism. The story is also incredibly relatable at any age -- for those who watched it as children, it was about breaking out of comfort zones and being courageous in the face of obstacles. As adults, Spirited Away is a solemn farewell to innocent youth, as Chihiro experiences during her time in the spirit world. The story, unique as it is, is relatable to all ages and really instills a sense of magic and wonder in anyone who watches.
In 2003, Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film -- the first anime film to do so. It won over 30 more awards around the world and was critically acclaimed across the board. Even today, it still holds the #2 position on the list of top-grossing films in Japan, though it was recently surpassed by Demon Slayer: Mugen Train. For 20 years, it has remained near the top of the chart.
Spirited Away is far more than its accolades -- the last two decades have seen it successfully become a household name. The character No Face has become an iconic piece of merchandise around the world, from backpacks to keychains to chopsticks. The Soot Sprites are also heavily featured on various items. The fact that this merchandise sells 20 years after the movie's release is a testament to Spirited Away's legacy. Although there are lots of other successful anime movies, including Studio Ghibli's, Spirited Away is the primary one to be featured in merchandise around the world to this day.
Spirited Away has cultivated a lasting legacy that isn't losing speed. It's remembered fondly by those who watched it as children while present-day kids are still excited to experience it for the first time. Chihiro's magical journey through the spirit world took the real world by storm back in 2001, and now in 2021, her story remains relevant and exciting. It's a movie many people re-watch due to its comfort and nostalgia, and since Netflix brought the Ghibli movies to North America last year, it's become even more accessible. Two decades on, Spirited Away remains one of the most popular anime films ever released and still holds the bar high for all other anime movies to follow.