Now, after an 18-year ban, China is finally releasing Spirited Away in Chinese cinemas on June 21, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
This follows the first time release of Miyazaki’s other classic My Neighbour Totoro in China last year.
Released in 1988, the film made $26 million in this run with Spirited Away expected to top this.
It’s widely known that the Japanese director has many fans in China who watch his films via pirated DVDs and downloads.
China has a strict government approval process for foreign films.
As for why Spirited Away was banned in the first place, it may have something to do with previous tensions in Sino-Japanese relations which have thawed in recent years.
Another reason could be the spiritual content of Spirited Away, since China’s official regulator prohibits films that “promote cults or superstition” because such ideas are not compatible with the ruling Communist Party’s atheistic secularism.
This resulted in the female-led Ghostbusters reboot being banned in China.
Ghostbusters’ producers knew something was up when the Chinese character for “ghost” was removed from the title, even though it’s there for the original films.
Movies like 2006’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest suffered a similar fate to Ghostbusters for such supernatural scenes and cannibalism.
However, lifting the ban on Spirited Away could be a sign of a more liberal view to cinema in China going forward.