chapter  11
The Utopian “Power to Live”: The Significance of the Miyazaki Phenomenon
ByHiroshi Yamanaka
Pages 19

It has been estimated that 23.5 million people in Japan have seen Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away, 2001), approximately one out of five Japanese people. The box office profits were said to be around 30.4 billion yen, which makes it the highest-grossing film ever released in Japan. The film also aired on television in January 2003, garnering a surprising audience rating of 46.9 percent. Even abroad, Miyazaki’s animation has been well received, as his numerous international awards, including the Academy Award in 2001 for Best Animated Feature, attest. The astonishing popularity of his work, both in Japan and internationally, can be described as the “Miyazaki phenomenon.” Even in Japan, anime has traditionally been regarded as an entertainment for children and young people, so the deluge of stories and articles concerning the film, which appeared in mainstream newspapers and magazines aimed at an adult readership, raises some interesting questions. Is there something behind Miyazaki’s anime’s phenomenal success other than its sheer entertainment value? Does the popularity of his anime among adults as well as children indicate important changes in Japanese attitudes toward anime as a form of cultural production? Beyond anime’s current vogue as an enjoyable mass medium for young people, do Miyazaki’s films and, especially, Spirited Away’s box office appeal reveal a deeper significance that his works have, not only for children, but also, increasingly, the adult audiences who watch them?