Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Spirited Away anime movie cover art
Spirited Away

Movie Overview

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi / 千と千尋の神隠し) is the fourth Studio Ghibli anime movie I’ve seen. And, it might be the best. The only other one (that I’ve seen) that can compete with it is Princess Mononoke.

Of the two movies, Princess Mononoke has a far more serious story, which I appreciate. But, Spirited Away is much more fun, both in terms of the setting and the characters. And while I know people like them a lot, My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service can’t compete.

What’s Spirited Away about, though? A young girl named Chihiro gets stuck in the spirit world. There, she finds herself contracted to work at an inn run by the evil witch Yubaba. Chihiro must save her parents, whom Yubaba turned into pigs, and return to reality before she forgets who she is.

Chihiro and No Face on a train from the anime movie Spirited Away
Chihiro and No Face on a train

Along the way, Chihiro makes some new friends, including a boy named Haku who also works under Yubaba. It’s Haku who teaches Chihiro how to survive in the spirit world. And, as we later learn, this might not be the first time Chihiro and Haku have met.

Now, one issue I have with standalone movies, in general, is that they don’t have much time to do things. It’s much easier to build a world, characters, and plot when you have, say, 12 episodes instead of under 2 hours. Ghibli movies are also geared toward children, which only makes this issue worse.

I’m not saying that Ghibli movies can’t be deep because they’re meant for children. And I’m also not saying they don’t appeal to adults. But, I’m always left feeling that we didn’t get to explore the interesting aspects of the movie. Everything gets set up and wrapped up too quickly.

Main Characters

Chihiro Ogino is the protagonist of Spirited Away. She’s also the character with the most development, which makes sense. But, it’s not that hard to have the most development. The majority of the characters really have no development at all. If they have any change, it happens with the flip of a switch.

I’ll discuss Chihiro more in the next section, so let’s move on to the other characters, for now. Haku is the male lead of the movie. He’s the first person Chihiro meets in the spirit world. And because he looks like a human, Chihiro feels comfortable with him.

But, despite being an important character, Haku doesn’t get much development at all. His “development” is that we later find out he’s a dragon spirit. Does that change who he is at all? No. Does it matter at all? Also no. There’s not enough time in the movie to make it matter.

Yubaba from the anime movie Spirited Away
Yubaba

The villain of the movie is Yubaba. She’s a witch who runs an inn as if it was a factory with no worker safety standards. Why is she evil? I’m still not sure. I guess she wants money. So, again, we have a major character we don’t know much about.

Kaonashi, or No Face, is a spirit that Chihiro lets into Yubaba’s inn. It seems to like Chihiro and wants to give her whatever she desires. But, Chihiro doesn’t have time to be friends with a spirit she can’t talk to. So, she spends most of the movie ignoring it while it eats people.

And the last character I want to mention is Kamajii. He’s a spider-like old man who runs the boiler room. Despite not being the most important character, I do like Kamajii’s role. He’s our first real exposure to this world.

Sen and Chihiro

A major plot point throughout the movie is Chihiro forgetting who she was. At the start of the movie, Chihiro’s body begins to physically fade away within the spirit world. Haku manages to stop this from happening. But, from then on, Chihiro’s sense of self fades away as the movie progresses.

Why does this happen, though? Well, according to Haku, it has to do with Yubaba’s magic. When she makes contracts with her workers, she takes their names and gives them new ones. In Chihiro’s case, she was renamed Sen., And over time, she forgets that her name was ever Chihiro.

This magic extends beyond Chihiro forgetting her name. She starts to forget where she came from and her goal of saving her family. If not for Haku reminding her, she could have forgotten who she was completely and worked at the inn forever.

Chihiro and Haku from the anime movie Spirited Away
Chihiro and Haku

But, as it turns out, forgetting who she was isn’t all bad for Chihiro. It’s also how she’s able to develop over the course of the movie. In the beginning, she was afraid of everything and preferred to stay within her comfort zone. But, as she forgets who she was, she becomes much more willing to try new things.

At the end of the movie, Chihiro makes it back to reality with her parents. She doesn’t remember any of the events that took place within the spirit world. But, the implication is that she internalized what she learned there. She’s no longer as afraid of the unknown as she once was.

Basically, the moral of the story is that the unknown isn’t as scary as you think it is. While you might be afraid of change at first, you shouldn’t avoid new experiences. Experiencing the unknown is how you grow as a person.

Conclusion

Despite all the complaints I had about Spirited Away, I still gave the movie a 9/10. It’s a great movie because it’s fun to watch and explores its lesson in an interesting way. But, I also don’t feel like it’s a movie that I need to rewatch. It’s a great movie, but once was enough for me.

If you enjoyed this review, remember to click the like button down below. And come join our Discord server to discuss anime with other members of the community. We watched Spirited Away for one of our monthly movie nights. You’re welcome to join us for the next movie.

Finally, I’d like to thank Roman and Key Mochi for supporting this blog at the Heika and Senpai tiers this month. To learn more about how you too can become a supporter of this blog, check out Patreon.com/DoubleSama.


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