A classic story of a 10-year old girl named Chihiro, as she and her family drive around the forest in hopes of moving into their new house but unknowingly stumble upon the world of spirits, a place where humans aren’t supposed to be. Later on, the gluttony of Chihiro’s parents, as they ate food meant for spirits, has turned them into pigs. So, with the help of a spirit named Haku, he helps Chihiro by letting her work at the bathhouse of the spirits as both helping each other to remember each other’s names, as stolen from the witch of the bathhouse and to leave the world of spirits.
(Spoilers are beyond this point)
Ironically, it’s been 10 years since the last time I’ve seen Spirited Away. The last time I remembered watching Spirited Away was when I was around the age of 4-6 years old (2004-2006). I still have the movie myself, as I remembered that my parents originally bought it for my brother when he was around 6-10 years old. And sometimes it makes me wonder as to why my parents would buy multiple movies from Studio Ghibli such as Ponyo, Arrietty, Howls Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Grave of The Fireflies, and not remembering at all as to why they bought all of those films. Maybe it was a coincidence? And they were all films I’ve grown to watch and enjoy throughout my whole lifetime. But back on topic to Spirited Away, it’s been over 10 years since then.
My first time watching the film made me have a mildish course of fear and has made me feel this way throughout most parts of the film. But instead of always being in fear, it made me very sympathetic towards characters such as No-Face. In my childlike perspective, I felt that No-Face was this evil like character, a “monster” that gobbled everything and everyone. But No-Face was really a lonely person that needed someone to be with, and it was eventually not Chihiro, but Zeniba. And throughout my childhood and like most children, it’s hard learning a concept such as sympathy. But I felt that Hayao Miyazaki greatly made me as a kid learn the concept of sympathy, since it was from a perspective of an adolescent main character, Chihiro. As she sympathized with No-Face by letting it come along with her to Zeniba’s house. It was a short yet meaningful scene of always having the right person to always keep you company. A scene even today I haven’t forgotten.
But looking at the movie now, I wasn’t as nostalgic and I even forgot the concept of Spirited Away. As I always imagined the movie being a bathhouse filled with spirits and just Chihiro and Haku, and thought nothing much about the movie until now.
Much like my past self, I still sympathize with No-Face, but other than that concept, I started to notice a recurrent theme throughout the movie, and it was characters majorly understanding other characters. Mostly just Chihiro for the most part. Characters such as Lin, and Kamaji are great examples, as they hated Chihiro in the beginning of the story, but in a sense, they really just wanted to help her by staying away from the world of spirits, as well as to prevent her from being taken in by Yubaba. And despite an antagonizing and grumpy attitude towards Chihiro, they never really got used to Chihiro or openly warmed up to her, they understood her position, a deep understanding of who she is and how they can help her. Whether if it were to discourage her from working in the bathouse, or even if she were to work in the bathhouse. It was interesting as I continued to watch the film, as personalities like Lin and Kamaji are usually shown to be antagonizing, and that there would be nothing else about them but just to antagonize. Such as in other films, they would be depicted as evil characters, as they would usually be this antagonistic character without any good reason towards why they’re being antagonizing. These characters would usually be people you would hate, but they were characters who sympathized with Chihiro while having good intentions, and this made me think of it as more of an empowering moment in the film itself for showing a deep understanding of empathy and “love.” To understand what empathy truly looks like is what made this concept, to seem so beautiful.
Speaking of love, another minor detail about the movie that I really just can’t get enough of is, is the expression of “love.” Throughout the film, we continue to see the progression of Chihiro and Haku, as they both help each other and eventually come to care about each other deeply. Although this film is not a romance film, the idea of “love,” is personally for me, beautiful. And knowing how Hayao Miyazaki likes to stay away from cliches and stereotypes but also incorporating humanistic ideas mixed in with supernatural elements, his idea, and his incorporation of love in Spirited Away, is both figurative and literal. And you can see it within Chihiro and Haku, as they help each other but truly care for one another, while others pointing out the situation between the two for what the idea of “love” is (Kamaji and Lin).
Before the story of Spirted Away has even occurred where both Chihiro and Haku meet in the bathhouse of spirits, near the end of the film we know that Haku is a river spirit that no longer exists. And even though there was quite simplistic and cheerful dialogue between Chihiro and Haku that references this, I was surprised as to why this idea was even brought up, but knowing how Hayao Miyazaki’s deep fascination with nature, Haku was added as a character to be the symbolism of being a part of nature. As Haku says, “That’s why I can no longer find my way home,” and knowing how the construction of buildings such as houses. It can just destroy others homes (animals), destroy renewable resources, and even possibly destroy a part of nature itself. As people wouldn’t be able to acknowledge the importance or the potential scenery that nature can hold itself before construction or the depletement of nature occurs. Despite this slight reference of Haku being a river that once saved Chihiro from drowning, I always found the various references throughout the film of Chihiro drowning in the Kohaku river to being one of my most favorite scenes and references of being aware of nature.
As for the film as a whole, I came to find it as a beautiful masterpiece of its own kind. A film that finally has an adolescent as a protagonist, a strong female character, the deep incorporations and references throughout the film, the unforgettable orchestral music, the uncliched portrayal of “love”, and everything as explained to the reasoning on why this film is a masterpiece of its own.
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Hello, if you gotten this far, I just wanted to say that I truly love and enjoy Studio Ghibli films, and that after watching Spirited Away since 10 years ago, I’ve truly understood and fully appreciated the work that this film tells compared to my younger self and as to what I would have known 10 years ago. But watching the film today makes me glad that I’ve waited 10 years just to watch Spirited Away again, and that I hope one day I would hope to do the same thing for the next generation of children or even potential animation viewers to have their own views on the film currently as an adolescent, and after adolescence. As I couldn’t believe a film could get better with age, and the same goes to other films created by Studio Ghibli such as Princess Mononoke. Thank you the viewers for reading my blog post and I hope you’re inspired to do the same and thank you Studio Ghibli for creating beautiful films. There’s nothing quite comparable to the works of Studio Ghibli, and maybe there’s not quite as beautiful, adventurous, and diverse in stories as Studio Ghibli.
Thank you once again for reading. See you guys in the next blog post, peace!