Comparative Analysis of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth

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Words: 1361 |

Pages: 3|

7 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

Words: 1361|Pages: 3|7 min read

Published: Jun 9, 2021

There are always various efforts invested by directors and film makers to make films effective and worth watching. This essay is based on the similarities in style and narrative between movies Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo Del Toro in 2006 and Spirited Away directed by Hayao Miyazaki in 2001. Both movies are creation of immense imagination of the directors. We can see the journey of two girls in different movies. The main characters, Ofelia in Pan’s Labyrinth and Chihiro in Spirited Away are travelling to new destinations, but both are uninterested in moving to the new places. Both girls enter into magical world in the beginning of story and their life is filled with challenges and troubles. This essay will examine the use of classical Hollywood narrative, in both movies which include a main character who must face a series of challenges and meet a number of deadlines. Furthermore, both movies use same style of film making like, framing, Mise-en-scene the role of human and non-human figure in the movies.

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In both the movies, a classical Hollywood narrative is the main form. The narrative focuses on girls as main characters in both movies. In both movies, at the very beginning audience can notice chain of events linked to causes and effects which is similar in both movies (Bordwell and Thompson 28). There is lot of suspense in both movies because the focused characters are girls and they are trapped into magical world; it automatically draws audience’s attention toward the danger around girls. Firstly, In Pan’s Labyrinth, Ofelia has to move with her pregnant mother to her step father’s place which is an old mill. She does not like her new stepfather and don’t accept him as father. She likes only fairy tales and has her own imagination world. Her obstacles start when she moves to the new place where she feels abandoned because her mother is pregnant. Her mother is not able to walk and her step father does not really care for Ofelia. Ofelia starts experiencing magical fairies in her life and comes to know that she is a princess from an underground world. At the same time she meets a faun who does not look human but is a humble character in the movie. He makes her believe that she is a princess from another world by giving her proof of moon birth mark on her shoulder. Moreover, we can see Ofelia is very courageous and not scared of dark or any non-human face. Kermode illustrates “Ofelia chooses to enter this new world, despite the fact that her guide is unreliable and unattractive” she is very fearless girl and she uncovers a dark, magical world of Faun’s and Ferries at very young age she do not care for Faun’s unattractive look instead she trusted him. Her actions indicate that she is rebellious in her nature that only follows her own will to believe anyone. In contrast, 10 years old girl Chihiro in Spirited Away is fearful and a little hesitant not to touch everything or trust anyone. She is smart and tries to stop her parents from eating unattended food in abandoned park. Therefore, they are turned into pigs because they didn’t’ listen to their daughter. Chihiro’ harsh journey begins at this point. The situation also reveals the overreaching interest of parents in greed to eat food which turned them into pigs (Jaich 6). In this way, Chihiro has a goal to save her parents and get out of that spirited world where everyone forgets their identity and self. On the other hand, Ofelia has to complete the given tasks to return to her underground world as princess. They both have goals with deadlines to accomplish.

In both movies the directors use natural places and local traditional houses as setting. In Spirited Away, the abandoned park and a polluted river are used as setting. In this movie the issue of Japanese cultural identity caught between native tradition and modern influences is highlighted. It also shows the change between environmental security and modernism. Furthermore, we get a glimpse into Japan’s culture as there are many Japanese symbols to be noticed in the movie. Also, the audience can notice the way of greeting and thanking people by bowing down to show respect. Chihiro has the task of finding work to stay safe in that town and she meets with mysterious Haku who wants to help her, and he guides her how to stay safe in that spirited place. He gives her instructions about finding work and staying safe. In Pan’s Labyrinth, the story is set in Spain in 1944 in the middle of political unrest and World War II. The army camp can be seen in the movie and rebels are fighting against Captain (Orme 226). The style is the same in both movies which highlights the local issues of that time period in both countries. In both movies, the main characters are little girls which indicate that both the directors give preference to feminism, they are inspired to take girls as main characters which make the movies special and it draw audience’s attention. Moreover the journey of girls is not shown very easy like other fairy tales which is the uniqueness of the movies. These movies are not made like Disney where there are only prince and princess and their luxurious life is filmed contrary these movies are more about ordinary girls and their ordinary life filled of challenges in very young age.

Therefore, both movies represent their countries and cultural glimpse. In Spirited Away we can see Japanese way of greeting and we can know the history of Japan and that abandoned park. It also tells us about the belief of Shinto spirits. Zipes writes about Del Toro that he is highly creative and imaginative, “He employs a variety of camera angles, zooming and fading from scenes, blending black and white with a spectrum of colors” it tells the audience fineness of director in film making. Both movies indicate the range of emotions in the plot which shows to the audience that we are not perfect. In both movies non-human figure is used which is Faun looks like goat and weird face and standing is highlighted. Also the monster is seen in Pan’s Labyrinth having loose skin and creepy kind of eyes embedded in his hands. In Spirited Away spirits and negative characters are shown in dark make ups and in black colour long loose shapes to highlight them different. The make ups and used techniques do create the difference and those characters look scary and different than human figures.

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In a nutshell, the movies are almost same in narrative and style. It attracts audience’s attention in a unique way because the stories of both movies are unique. It gives us the message that innocence has the strongest power that evil cannot imagine. The sad thing about Pan’s Labyrinth is that we see Ofelia died but she goes to her real world of princess. Chihiro gets success in her goals and this movie shows the mix of good and bad people who become instrumental in Chihiro’s escape. Both movies left great impression on audience for years due to the idea and imagination behind the creation of movies.

Works Cited

  • Bordwell, David. and Kristine, Thompson. Film Art. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 1993.
  • Jaich, Ljubica Juve. “Caught Between Two Worlds: Resolving Japan’s Modern Identity in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001)”. UC Riverside: University Honours, 8 Dec. 2017, Accessed 2 Aug. 2019.
  • Kermode, Mark. “Girl”. Sight and Sound, 2006, Accessed 1 Aug. 2019.
  • Orme, Jennifer. “Narrative Desire and Disobedience in Pan’s Labyrinth.” Marvels & Tales, Vol. 24 no. 2, p219, 2010, pp. 219-234. EBSCOhost, Accessed 2 Aug. 2019.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, performances by Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi Lopez, Doug Jones, Alliance Films, 2007.
  • Spirited Away. 2001. Directed byHayao Miyazaki, performances by, Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, Mari Natsuki, Yasuko Sa, Studio Ghibli, 2003.
  • Thrupkaew, Noy. “Animation Sensation: Why Japan’s Magical Spirited Away Plays Well Anywhere. (The Critics Film).” The American Prospect, 21 Oct. 2002, Accessed 2 Aug.2019.
  • Zipes, Jack. ‘‘Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto Del Fauno) Review’’Journal of American Folklore, 2008, Accessed 1 Aug. 2019. 
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Comparative Analysis Of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away And Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. (2021, Jun 09). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
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