How Hayao Miyazaki changed Spirited Away actress Mari Natsuki’s view on Yubaba

Spirited Away - Studio Ghibli
Spirited Away - Studio Ghibli /

Following the exciting news of the live-action stage adaptation of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, Mari Natsuki, voice actress for the 2002 character Yubaba, recalls her initial thoughts towards the seemingly terrifying witch as she prepares for her role as an alternate in the upcoming stage play.

Like many others, Natsuki perceived Yubaba to be a no-good villain who only served as the central antagonist to the story depicted in Spirited Away. However, according to Comic Book, Hayao Miyazaki didn’t hold these sentiments at all despite what many of the movie’s fans (as well as former voice cast members) believe.

Sure, Yubaba was immensely intimating throughout the film and seemed to only have malicious ulterior motives that often counter our lead protagonist, Chihiro, but in Miyazaki’s eyes, she is nothing more than a character with desires and dreams no different than any of ours. A person who, like each and every one of us, will stop at nothing to achieve his or her own personal goals.

Upon learning Hayao Miyazaki‘s view on Yubaba, Natsuki stated:

"When I voiced for the original film, I thought the role was a villain and I was prepared to act accordingly. But director [Hayao] Miyazaki said ‘Yubaba is putting all her efforts to protect the bathhouse. She is not a villain.’ It felt very emotional. I never thought that I would be playing the same role on stage two decades later."

This new perspective not only removed the scales from Natsuki’s eyes but also millions of fans all over the world who are now looking forward to viewing this Academy Award-winning film once more with a brand new outlook. And it’s safe to say that Mari Natsuki will, too, re-watch this film to prepare for her exciting old yet completely new role.

"Just like Kanna, I would like to play like a debutante and enjoy this stage version as a completely new one."

Finally, after a long 19 years since this iconic Studio Ghibli film’s debut, Yubaba has gone from an intimidating terrifying old witch to a bathhouse protector with a large (and still intimidating) personality. Hayao Miyazaki wouldn’t have it any other way.

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