Home Again: Spirited Away

Alright, take a seat. We’re talking about Miyazaki again. I may get a little emotional, just prepare yourself for mass amounts of excitement and blabbering. It’s going to be awesome.

If you missed my previous post on Miyazaki’s final movie, The Wind Rises, click on the link!

This time I will be talking less about Miyazaki himself, and his personal touches in the movie, and talk about character development instead. For those of you not familiar with the movie Spirited Away, it is about a girl named Chihiro, who sells her name to the lady of a bathhouse for spirits in order to save her parents.

Shoot, I’m already getting teary-eyed! I’m such a nerd! But may I just say, I love stories about kids who realize their self-worth. They’re incredible. It also doesn’t help that I have the Spirited Away soundtrack playing right now, haha. Anywho, back on track!

We meet Chihiro as a, “lazy, spoiled cry-baby with no manners.” So says Yubaba, the owner of the bathhouse, and, admittedly, she isn’t wrong. We have one major scene with Chihiro before the bathhouse. She is complaining about moving to a new home (as any child might) and whining about how the flowers from her friends are wilting. “I finally get a bouquet and it’s a goodbye present. That’s depressing,” she says sinking into the backseat of the car. The biggest indicator she is spoiled is hinted at in her parents’ indulgence. It’s what lands them into trouble in the first place. They saw food and helped themselves. Her parents encouraged her to eat, but Chihiro had a bad feeling and begged her parents to leave. While her parents are eating, Chihiro sees that one of the buildings in the “abandoned theme park” has smoke billowing out of its chimney. She goes to investigate and meets Haku* who urges her to leave. Chihiro runs back to her parents and discovers they’ve been turned into pigs.

After trial and error, meeting spirits and frogs, Chihiro is hired by Yubaba to work in the bathhouse, all she must do in return is give Yubaba her name. And Chihiro becomes Sen. Sen/Chihiro works with the cleaners of the bath. She learned to wash the floors (which she’s no good at and goes to show she hasn’t worked before) and clean the baths. All the while trying to stay out of trouble, because should she prove to be a nuisance the workers of the bath have permission to eat her.

Where Alice was new to Wonderland, she wasn’t treated as an outsider but rather like she had always been there (which adds to the nonsense of the book). Chihiro, however, was never supposed to have been in the spirit world. And everyone knows that. She is treated like an outsider, given the dirtiest jobs, and expected to handle them at only ten. She deals with the harshness of her situation the way any one of us might: she cries –more than once– feels homesick, dreams about her parents. She has no concrete friends in this world, even Haku is an unknown variable as he is kind to Chihiro in private but works with Yubaba in public. Yet she rises above all of it.

She meets every challenge she’s given and behaves as no one less than herself. She finds strength in her mission of getting her parents back, and helps people along the way –whether or not she sees them as her friend, or even an ally. She goes from spoiled and lazy, to brave and strong. She finds her inner-strength in these miscellaneous trials, from dealing with a man-eating spirit to getting her parents back. She believes in herself, in the power of her memories, and in the people she meets. It is through all of this; trials and uncertainty, that she makes friends and is able to return home, parents back to their human selves. She learned, from being in that world where she was so unwelcome, that her new town and school would be something she could handle.

It’s stories like this that let us know we can do the same. It’s not until we’re uncomfortable and unsure that we realize exactly how brave we can be.

 

Thank you for reading,

-M

 

 

 

Featured image is by Gokupo101 you can find more of their work on Deviantart.

*WHO IS MY FAVORITE, P.S., ONE DAY I WILL GET A TATTOO OF HIM.

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