Today marks ten whole years since Studio Ghibli first shared Spirited Away with the world. Thus far it is the only foreign film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which says a lot about it and its success with foreign audiences. Spirited Away is one of my favourite films for the simple reason that it has a lot going for it. A great coming-of-age story, a quirky yet layered set of characters, fantastic animation that stays true to traditional methods while incorporating digital technology and a superb score by Joe Hisaishi all combine to make it a very enjoyable film yet at the same time remain an emotional tale.
Its hard to believe its now 10 years old but it is. A true testament to the deftness and skill of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. John Lasseter also deserves an honourable mention for handling the better than usual English dub. Oliver Good over at The National has a nice write-up on how Spirited Away helped break the mould for Japanese movies.
Spirited Away (????????, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) is a 2001 film by the Japanese anime studio Studio Ghibli, written and directed by famed animator Hayao Miyazaki. Its original Japanese title can be translated as The Spiriting Away of Sen and Chihiro or Sen and the Spiriting Away of Chihiro.
However the name also forms a pun, with “Sen to Chihiro” sounding like “Sentou Chihiro”, which means “Bath-house Chihiro”. In Japan the film is commonly referred to simply as “Sen”. The film received many awards around the world, including the second Oscar ever awarded for Best Animated Feature and the only winner of that award to win among five nominees (in every other year there were three nominees). Chihiro is a sullen little girl moving to a new home, in a new town. While travelling to her new house, with her parents, she seems sad.
After taking a wrong turning, they enter a strange tunnel and find themselves lost in an empty town with restaurants everywhere. They’re hungry and find some food. Chihiro’s parents decide to eat, but Chihiro didn’t even try to touch the food. She goes elsewhere and when she gets back, her parents became pigs. Chihiro will discover that she’s stumbled into another world: a place where the spirits and gods come to relax in a big bathhouse, managed by the witch Yubaba. Chihiro will have to free her parents and herself from this world, while growing mentally from the little girl she was.
Chihiro Ogino / Sen Chihiro Ogino is the protagonist in the animated film Spirited Away. She has a very sullen, shy, and no-nonsense personality. She is none too thrilled about the move her family makes at the beginning of the film, nor the subsequent detour her father makes into what appears to be an abandoned amusement park. Her misgivings about the “park” are confirmed when her parents are transformed into pigs after eating enchanted food, which Chihiro herself refused to eat. She drops her more serious persona at this point and behaves like the frightened child she is.
After discovering, from a mysterious boy-like spirit called Haku, that the park is in fact a resort for Japanese gods, Chihiro gets a job at the resort’s bathhouse, which will be the backdrop for her own story of emotional growth. Chihiro was voiced by Rumi Hiiragi in the original Japanese version, and by child star Daveigh Chase, best-known as the voice of Lilo Pelekai in the Disney film Lilo & Stitch, in English-language dub.  Akihiko Ogino Chihiro’s father. Akihiko’s impulsive behaviour catalyzes the unfolding of events in the beginning of the movie, climaxing in his transformation into a pig.
Voiced by: Takashi Naito (Japanese), Michael Chiklis (English)  Yumiko Ogino Chihiro’s mother who, along with Chihiro’s father, is turned into a pig, at the start of the movie. Voiced by: Yasuko Sawaguchi (Japanese), Lauren Holly (English)  Haku / Nigihayami Kohakunushi (??, Haku/Nigihayami Kohakunushi) A young boy who helps Chihiro after her parents have transformed into pigs. He helps prevent her from becoming a spirit and gives her advice on getting work at the bathhouse in order to survive to see her parents again.
Haku works as Yubaba’s direct subordinate, often running errands and performing missions for her. He has the ability to fly and become a dragon. Toward the end of the story Chihiro recalls falling into the Kohaku (???, Kohaku? ) river, of which Haku is the spirit, and she thus frees him from Yubaba’s service by helping him remember his real name. While he seems often cold, and is not terribly popular with the bathhouse staff, Haku is unfailingly kind to Chihiro, perhaps because of his experience with her in the past. (He remembers her name, though not his own. Haku is only cold to Chihiro at certain times because he knew Yubaba was watching him and that they both could be punished if she knew that he helped Chihiro get into the bathhouse, or even that Chihiro might remember Haku (as he recognized her from the start) and remind him of his real name. Yubaba seems to care about Haku only as a magical errand boy: when he is dying in her quarters because of the seal she ordered him to steal, she is mostly concerned about getting rid of the body before he bleeds on more of the carpet.
In the end it seems that Haku grows to love Chihiro and vice versa. Voiced by: Miyu Irino (Japanese), Jason Marsden (English)  Yubaba Yubaba (??, Yuubaba, lit. “bathhouse crone”) An old sorceress with an unnaturally large head and nose who runs the bathhouse. She also appears to be extremely intuitive. She reluctantly signs Chihiro into a contract, taking her name and re-naming her “Sen” in order to hold power over her for the duration of the contract. Yubaba has an over-bearing and authoritarian personality, but she does show a soft side through her love for her giant baby, Boh.
In contrast to her simple and hospitable sister, Yubaba lives in opulent quarters and is only interested in taking care of guests for money. Though she is very intuitive (she senses the approach of No Face and realizes that the River God is not a stink spirit as he appears), she doesn’t notice that her own baby is gone. When Haku prompts her by telling her that something she values is missing, her first reaction is to scrutinize the gold. Her name is similar to that of another legendary witch, Baba Yaga.
Her appearance somewhat resembles that of The Duchess from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, possessing an oversized head, a child which is not treated properly (she does not notice he is missing until it is pointed out), and treats Chihiro much like the Duchess did Alice. Voiced by: Mari Natsuki (Japanese), Suzanne Pleshette (English), Nina Hagen (German)  Kashira Kashira (???) A trio of heads living in Yubaba’s office that move around by bouncing. They do not speak except in small grunts when they bounce about. They are later changed into an illusion of Boh by Zeniba in order to trick Yubaba. edit] Kamajii Kamajii (??, lit. “boiler old man”) An old man with six arms who runs the boiler room of the bathhouse. A number of Susuwatari (?????, Susuwatari? ) (Soot balls) work for him, by carrying coal into his furnace. Also, he has a large cabinet where he keeps all the herbs that are used in the baths. After some persuasion, he allows Chihiro to work at the bathhouse and even pretends to be her grandfather to protect her. He also takes an injured Haku into his boiler room and cares for him, while Chihiro, given train tickets by Kamajii, journeys to Zeniba’s cottage.
Voiced by: Bunta Sugawara (Japanese), David Ogden Stiers (English)  Lin A worker at the bathhouse who becomes Chihiro’s caretaker. Although cold at first, she warms up to Chihiro and grows a strong bond with her. She warns No Face, who had previously gone on a rampage, not to harm Chihiro or there would be trouble. At the end, she is very happy for Chihiro when she finally manages to find her way home. Voiced by: Yumi Tamai (Japanese), Susan Egan (English)  No Face No Face is an odd spirit that takes an interest in Chihiro. Chihiro lets No Face into the bathhouse through a side door.
At first he is a strange cloaked and masked shadowy thing that merely breathes and smiles. No Face is a lonely being who seems to sustain itself on the emotions of those he encounters, particularly their emotional reception to his gifts. He is helpful to Chihiro since she helped him. After observing the bathhouse staff’s reaction to gold and attempting to win them over with more gold, he reacts to their greed by becoming a grotesque monster and eating lots of food and some of the staff. He calms down and reverts back to normal after he leaves the bathhouse’s influence, and at the end he stays with Zeniba as a helper.
No Face’s mask, movement and name share many similarities with the Japanese Noh theater. He also assumes the voice(s) and personality of those he “eats”. Voiced by: Tatsuya Gashuin (Japanese), Bob Bergen (English)  River Spirit A customer of the bathhouse originally thought to be a “stink spirit” who is assigned to Chihiro and Lin. Yubaba suspects that he may be something more than a stink spirit, and when Chihiro helps him by pulling trash that had been dumped into his river out of his side, her suspicions are proven correct.
He is in fact a famous and wealthy river god. As a reward, he gives Chihiro a ball of plant material which we are told by Kamajii, in the English-subtitled version, is a “healing cake. ” In the English dubbed version he just states that it is medicine from the river god. The “healing cake” is later used to heal an injured Haku through ingestion and to cause No Face to vomit the people and vast amounts of food he ate during his rampage.  Boh Boh is Yubaba’s son. Although he has the appearance of a young baby, he is twice Yubaba’s size.
Yubaba spoils him and goes out of her way to give him whatever he wants. He believes that going outside will make him ill; Sen tells him staying in his room all that time will make him sick. Later, Zeniba turns him into a mouse. Though the spell wears off, Boh stays as a mouse simply because he doesn’t want to change back. He becomes good friends with Chihiro while in his mouse form and eventually stands up to Yubaba to protect Chihiro. Boh tells Yubaba he had a good time when he was with Chihiro. His little adventure may be seen as an analogy to Chihiro’s adventures and growing up.
This idea suggests that Boh is so overgrown because he has never really matured under Yubaba’s doting care. Voiced by: Ryunosuke Kamiki (Japanese), Tara Strong (English) Note: Elements of Ryunosuke Kamiki’s voice can be heard in the English language version (i. e. : when Boh cries during the scene where Chihiro/Sen gets her contract. ).  Zeniba Zeniba (zeni can refer to both money and public baths, making her name a play on Yubaba’s) Zeniba is Yubaba’s twin sister and rival. Although identical in appearance, their personalities are almost polar opposites.
At first she appears no kinder than Yubaba when she becomes enraged at Haku for stealing her magic seal and threatens to take it back, regardless of what happens to Haku. Hoping to gain Zeniba’s forgiveness, Chihiro journeys to Zeniba’s cottage to return it and apologize. It is then that Zeniba reveals her true character as being a kind, grandmotherly figure not at all like Yubaba. She even tells Chihiro to call her “Granny” in the English version, makes dessert and tea for her and No Face, and does her best to help Chihiro while realizing that there are limits to what she can do.
She forgives Haku for stealing her seal (in the Japanese version she states that she no longer blames him, prompting some fans to speculate that when Chihiro told her about the control-slug that Yubaba put in him, she realized that Yubaba was more guilty than Haku ever was) and sees everyone off, assuring Chihiro that she will be just fine. She also takes No Face in as a helper, giving him a place to call home at last. Note: Zeniba is voiced by the same actors as Yubaba in both the English and Japanese versions. Chihiro is a girl who is moving to a new town with her parents.
She is unhappy about the move and only considers how it will affect her, complaining about everything from her new school to the bouquet of flowers she was given as a leaving gift. While trying to find a shorter route to their new home, Chihiro’s father drives down a small road that ends at a mysterious building. Chihiro’s parents are curious and walk through the dark entryway of the building. On the other side, they assume they have found an abandoned theme park, but the entryway is a corridor into the spirit world.
While strolling across a dry riverbed, Chihiro’s parents smell food and follow the scent across a grassy plain to a small village full of restaurants. Although the restaurants appear empty, the tables are heaped with food. Chihiro’s parents help themselves, but Chihiro is reluctant to enter. When they offer her some food, she refuses and runs off. She discovers a large bathhouse and approaches a bridge leading to it. Before she can reach it, a boy named Haku approaches her and warns her that she must leave before night falls. At that moment, the sky darkens and the lamps of the bathhouse are lighted.
Haku tells Chihiro to cross the river as fast as she can. Chihiro runs back to the restaurant where her parents are still eating and discovers that they have been transformed into pigs. She is terrified and tries to find her way back to the car. She is stopped in her path when she discovers that the grassy plain is submerged by a large body of water. Chihiro’s distress is compounded when she notices that she is becoming transparent. Haku finds her and gives her something to eat from the spirit world so that she will not vanish.
He helps her sneak into the bathhouse, which is managed by a sorceress named Yubaba. He tells her that the only way she can safely stay there long enough to rescue her parents is to work in the bathhouse. Chihiro follows Haku’s advice, and goes to the boiler room to ask the boiler man Kamajii for a job. He rebuffs her until one of his workers, an enchanted ball of soot, collapses under a lump of coal. Chihiro picks up the coal and carries it to the boiler. Although the coal is extremely heavy, she completes her task.
Kamajii is pleased and decides to help Chihiro find a job by enlisting a young woman named Lin (Rin) to take the girl to Yubaba. Yubaba (left) and Chihiro Ogino Yubaba (left) and Chihiro Ogino Chihiro discovers Yubaba to be a regal but monstrous woman. Chihiro asks for a job, despite Yubaba’s repeated refusals. Yubaba eventually consents, on the condition that Chihiro give her name to Yubaba. The witch takes possession of Chihiro’s name, grasping the signature from the contract and leaving Chihiro only one part of her two-character name on the paper.
The kanji character (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing) with one stroke removed is pronounced “Sen. “ Now known as Sen, she is assigned to be Lin’s assistant. The next morning, Haku shows Sen that her parents are in a pen with other pigs. Haku gives Sen her old clothes and the card from her farewell bouquet of flowers. Sen reads the card and remembers her name. Haku warns her that Yubaba controls people by stealing their names; once they forget their names, as Haku forgot his, they belong to her. Sen (Chihiro) and No Face. Sen (Chihiro) and No Face.
Sen has difficulty adjusting to a life of work but wins respect by helping a difficult customer, a hideous “stink spirit. ” Sen helps clean the stink spirit and discovers that he is a rich and powerful river spirit who had been polluted. Sen succeeds in this task with the help of a mysterious spirit called No Face (Kaonashi), who is attracted to her because of her kindness toward him. The river spirit rewards her with an herbal cake ball (a medicine ball which acts as an emetic). The bathhouse brings out the dormant monster in No Face.
Able to create gold, he thrives on the greed of the bathhouse’s employees. Eventually he becomes ravenous and eats everything in sight, including three bathhouse workers. While No Face is transforming into a gluttonous monster, Haku returns to the bathhouse in the form of a dragon, pursued and attacked by a large flock of enchanted kirigami (paper) birds. Badly injured, he finds his way into Yubaba’s office. Sen recognizes the dragon as Haku and goes to look for him, unaware that she is followed by one of the paper birds. While looking for Haku, Sen encounters Yubaba’s baby Boh, who wants to play with her.
She escapes his grasp and finds Yubaba’s servants, three disembodied heads called Kashira, trying to push Haku down a shaft. The paper bird that followed Sen transforms into Zeniba, Yubaba’s twin sister, who was chasing Haku because he had stolen her seal. A spell is placed on the seal that kills anyone who steals it. Zeniba transforms the baby into a mouse, Yubaba’s flying servant into a small bird, and the three heads to look like Boh, in order to fool Yubaba. Haku cuts the paper in two with his tail, which causes Zeniba’s presence to disappear.
He then falls down the chimney, taking Sen with him, but they land safely in the boiler room. Sen feeds Haku a piece of the river spirit’s herbal cake, which causes him to spit out the stolen seal. The seal has a black slug on it which Sen accidentally squashes with her foot as it wriggles around to escape. She resolves to help Haku by returning Zeniba’s seal and apologizing on his behalf. Kamajii gives Sen a train ticket and tells her how to find Zeniba. Before she leaves, Sen returns to the bathhouse to confront No Face, who is calling for her in his delirium.
She feeds him the remainder of the herbal cake, which causes him to regurgitate the food and three bathhouse workers he has eaten. His gluttony is cured once he follows her outside. Sen and No Face, accompanied by Boh and Yubaba’s flying servant, take a train to Zeniba’s home in Swamp Bottom. Back at the bathhouse, Haku recovers from his wounds, but when Yubaba learns that her baby is missing, she is enraged. Haku makes an pact with her to retrieve the baby, and in return, he demands that Yubaba send Sen and her parents back to their world.
At Zeniba’s cottage, Sen learns that the black slug she squashed was put in Haku by Yubaba, and allowed her to control him. Zeniba tells Sen that the only way the spell on her seal can be broken is by love. Haku, again in the form of a dragon, finds Sen at Zeniba’s cottage. Zeniba forgives him for stealing her seal and invites No Face to stay with her. Haku carries Sen back to the bathhouse, and while soaring through the air, Chihiro remembers that she and Haku had met before: When she was young, she fell into a river and survived because she was carried by the current to the shore.
She was saved by Haku, who was the spirit of the Kohaku River. Upon remembering this, Chihiro tells Haku that his name is Kohaku, and he is freed from Yubaba’s control. At the bathhouse, Chihiro must perform one final task to free her parents: She must choose them from a group of pigs. Empowered by her newfound courage, Chihiro accepts the challenge and correctly answers that none of the pigs are her parents. As a result, they are allowed to return to their world. Haku promises her that they will meet again one day.
Cite this Review of Film “Spirited Away”
Review of Film “Spirited Away”. (2016, Oct 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/spirited-away/