I watched Spirited Away yesterday and I must say, I didn’t expect to like it so much at the end of it.
As many of you know, Spirited Away is a Hayao Miyazaki film and I love Miyazaki’s stories. I especially love his films because of the talented Joe Hisaishi who composes all the soundtracks for his movies. I really went through various feelings while watching the show and it really touched my heart in the end.
I can’t believe that I dragged watching this show. I should’ve just gave it a go back when I was still having Japanese classes. This is the third Miyazaki show that I’ve seen and I’m really interested in watching other works of his.
Spirited Away is about a 10-year-old girl, Ogino Chihiro who learns how to survive and adapt to the Spirit World, which she accidentally gets trapped in. Her adventure in the Spirit World changes her and she matures into a caring and charming woman by the end of the movie. Initially a whiny, easily frightened and petulant girl, Chihiro is forced to be brave in order to survive and save her parents, who have been turned into pigs after eating food from the Spirit World.
She makes friends along the way and many of them lend her their support. The deuteragonist is Haku, a boy who claims that he has known her since she was a child and is her first friend. Haku is later revealed to be Yubaaba’s apprentice and the God of the swift amber river.
Chihiro’s first task in the Spirit World was to ask for a job from the old boiler man, Kamajii and insist that she be given a job no matter what. Kamajii refuses but after seeing Chihiro’s compassion to help the susuwatari, his helpers, he tells her that she has to ask Yubaaba herself to give her a job and that that is her best chance of surviving in the Spirit World. He entrusts her to Rin, a weasel spirit who somewhat reluctantly agrees to take her up to see Yubaaba.
When Chihiro sees Yubaaba, she single-mindedly insists that she be given a job. Even when Yubaaba silences her and then allows her to speak again about her thoughts about becoming a piglet, the first words that come out from her mouth were that Yubaaba let her work there. Yubaaba, of course, blows up until her son, Bou makes a ruckus. In order to placate Bou and get him to calm down, she gives in to Chihiro’s insistent request.
She makes her sign a contract and takes away Chihiro’s original name, changing her name to Sen. She then summons Haku to show Sen to the bathhouse. Haku is now cold towards Sen and his cold demeanor puzzles her. Sen is assigned to work as Rin’s helper and later on, both of them are assigned to clean the biggest bath (which is meant for the dirtiest and filthiest guests).
Sen and Rin take their task into their stride and soon after, Sen is assigned to attend to a guest who is assumed to be a stink spirit because of the foul smell it has and sludge-like appearance that pollutes everywhere it goes. The bathhouse workers try to chase away the spirit but it refuses to turn back; the bathhouse has no choice but to evacuate all the guests in it. Yubaaba goes to greet it, suspecting that it is more than just a stink spirit and when she goes to greet it, note that her expression is priceless XD
Sen does her best to clean the guest and finds out that it has a ‘thorn’ in its side. They tie a rope to the ‘thorn’ and pull it out, revealing a bicycle and a lot more pollution in its body that comes pouring out of it.
When the last of the pollution is pulled out, the guest is revealed to be a famous river spirit and that as his thanks, he left them lots of gold, which the bathhouse workers fight for. Yubaaba embraces Sen, telling everyone else to learn from her and that sake is on the house that night hahaha.
The next morning, Sen witnesses a white dragon being attacked by a bunch of paper shikigami and notices that it is injured. She tries to protect it, realising that it is actually Haku transformed. Haku crashes into the bathhouse workers’ quarters and when Sen tries to approach him, he snarls at her and flies out of the balcony, up to where Yubaaba is.
Worrying that Haku is going to die, Sen finds her way up to Yubaaba’s office. She overhears Yubaaba saying that Haku is no longer of use to her and tells her three green head thingies to dispose of him. Sen rushes over and throws herself over Haku’s body, refusing to let the 3 head thingies push him down the disposal chute. One of the paper shikigami that has followed Sen by sticking to her body reveals a projection of Zeniiba, Yubaaba’s older twin sister. Zeniiba tells Sen that Haku stole a precious seal from her as her sister’s lackey and that a spell is cast on it that anyone who steals it must die. Sen refuses to believe that Haku would do such a thing and Zeniiba remarks that all dragons are kind and stupid, eager to learn her sister’s magic and that he would do anything for her.
Haku then wakes up and smashes the paper shikigami and falls down the chute along with Sen and the transformed Bou as well as Yubaaba’s crow. He wakes up when he hears her calling his name and crashes into Kamajii’s boiler room.
Sen tries to get him to eat the herbal medicine she obtained from the River God she cleaned upon hearing that there’s something inside him that’s killing him. She bites half of it and gives it to Haku, opening his mouth and shoving it in before quickly securing down his mouth as he begins to react violently to it.
Haku vomits out the seal, together with a slug-like creature that tries to escape but is squashed by Sen. Haku transforms back into his human form, confirming her doubts that it was him.
Kamajii tells Sen that just like her, Haku turned up one day out of the blue. He said that he wanted to learn magic; Kamajii greatly disapproved. Kamajii told Sen that he became Yubaaba’s apprentice and as the days passed, he turned increasingly pale and his eyes took a sharp gleam. Sen then voices her desire to pay a visit to Zeniiba and return the seal. At the same time, she would apologise for Haku and ask Zenniba to cure him. Kamajii tells her that Zeniiba is a witch and that the train ticket is one-way only, meaning that she would have to walk back herself. Sen agrees and Kamajii gives her train tickets.
In the meantime, a Kaonashi (No-Face) has been interested in Sen and has helped her twice because she invited him into the bath house when she first started working there. He swallowed three workers and had started to throw a terrible tantrum because Sen refused to take his gold. He demands to see her and Yubaaba summons her to placate him. Sen goes to see him and he tells her that he wants her because he’s lonely. Sen then gives him the other half of the herbal medicine and he angrily starts to chase her around the bath house while vomiting out the three workers he swallowed.
Sen then leaves the bath house to go to the train station and take the train to the Swamp Bottom. The Kaonashi follows her. They reach Zeniiba’s place and Zeniiba reveals herself to be the complete polar opposite of her sister, kind and caring. Sen returns her the seal and apologises on Haku’s behalf. Zeniiba is impressed that she didn’t get hurt while carrying it and notes that the spell that she put on the seal is gone. Sen apologises again, saying that she stepped on the slug-like thing that was on the seal and squashed it. Zeniiba roars with laughter and explains that the slug-like thing was snuck into Haku so that she could control her apprentice.
Zeniiba invites her guests to tea and when Sen asks her to help her, she says she can’t because it’s one of their rules. Sen then asks for a hint because she feels that she and Haku met a long time ago and Zeniiba tells her that that’s easy.
‘Nothing that happens is ever forgotten, even if you can’t remember it.’
A while later, Sen tells Zeniiba that she wants to go back because Haku could be dying any moment. Zeniiba hands her a hairtie which she says will protect her. At that moment, she notes that there is a guest and tells Sen to get the door. She does and is surprised to see Haku out there.
Sen runs to greet him and her relief is shown all over her face. What a truly wonderful scene.
Zeniiba forgives Haku for what he did and tells him to protect Sen.
Sen rushes to hug Zeniiba goodbye and tells her that her real name is Chihiro. Zeniiba remarks that it is a wonderful name and to take care of it because it is hers.
She then bids her goodbye and takes off on her flying dragon boyfriend
On the way back, Sen starts to have vague recollections of her falling into a river. Sitting on Haku’s back starts to seem familiar as water, like a river. She tells Haku that when she was younger, she dropped into a river. That river was drained and things were built on top soon after but she remembered that it was called the Kohaku river. She gives him his real name, Kohaku and Haku turns back into his human form.
As they fall from the sky, Haku thanks her and tells her that he remembers his real name and that he remembers how she fell into him as a child because she lost her shoe. Sen says that she’s grateful because he swept her to shallow waters and they smile happily at each other
They return to the bath house and Haku tells Yubaaba to keep her promise to let Sen go if he bring back her son, Bou. Yubaaba doesn’t give in so easily so she asks Sen to identify her parents from a group of pigs and that she only has one chance. Sen correctly guesses that her parents weren’t there and she joins Haku who takes her back to the edge of the Spirit World. At the border, he tells Sen that he can’t go further and he promises that they’ll meet again.
The way he tells her to go and lets go of her hand made me want to cry, I swear T.T
Chihiro finds her parents waiting for her, with no memory of their time as pigs. They go through the tunnel and Chihiro nearly turns back to look but doesn’t. She follows her parents and they come out on the other end of the tunnel. Their surroundings look different from before though and they go back into their family car before driving off.
– Final Thoughts –
The soundtrack was PERFECT as expected from Joe Hisaishi. All the emotional scenes were enhanced by the mood of the music and this film really made me go through many feelings as I mentioned in the beginning.
A few great songs from this soundtrack are Reprise, One Summer’s Day, Day of the River, The Return and The Dragon Boy. Here below is ‘Reprise’.
I felt shock when Chihiro saw that her parents had transformed into pigs and couldn’t leave the Spirit World and I felt attached to Haku the moment I saw him hahaha. His seiyuu has a really nice voice, really. Then, I felt worried for Chihiro as she was on her way to see Kamajii as she had to go down a flight of stairs that didn’t have railings for safety. I felt tensed when she asked for a job single-mindedly; it was clear that she wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Then later when Haku seemed cold and distant, I had mixed feelings because I didn’t know what to think of him. I felt disgust when Sen was tasked to clean the ‘stink spirit’ – they were clearly picking on her because she was a newcomer. I felt happy for her when she was praised and when she stood her ground, refusing the Kaonashi’s gold. I felt scared for her when she had to deal with the injured Haku who constantly snapped at her. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside when she hugged Haku outside Zeniiba’s house and I felt like crying when she let go of Haku’s hand to reunite with her parents.
So many emotions. Miyazaki is a genius. My apprehension of watching and liking this movie turned into like, more than like actually. Spirited Away completelely won me over by the end of the show and I loved it. Miyazaki really gave the 10-year-old girls out there a role model to look up to and this is a story that you do not want to miss.
Spirited Away has the same romance element as in Princess Mononoke in the sense that Miyazaki puts romance in his stories and makes it nice and sweet but he doesn’t delve deeper into it and expand on it. What happens to San and Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke and Haku and Chihiro in Spirited Away is left for us to imagine if they ever end up together again. I guess Haku and Chihiro’s isn’t expanded because she’s just 10 years old and Haku is somewhat young too (I mean, he looks like a boy, right?)
But I really liked this movie and it totally has the Miyazaki flavours to it. Feminism, pollution of nature (Haku and the ‘stink spirit’) and a reflection of ourselves (the Kaonashi). Truly a wonderful work of art, it’s a pity that Miyazaki is retiring.
Rating: 10/10 overall