I have always been an avid fan on Hayao Miyazaki’s movies and I will try very hard not to be biased with my opinion on his 2001’s Spirited Away. I first watched it when I was in my schooling days and have been watching it repetitively once in a year or two. Although my most favourite Ghibil movie would be Howl’s Moving Castle, mainly for its romantic story line and incredible soundtrack.
However, since the film review is on Spirited Away, let’s not get spirited away (Lelz). A brief synopsis of the movie is about a young girl named Chihiro who is one her way to her new home in a new city with her parents but they lost their way and ended up in an abandoned place that looks like a theme park. As they were walking, both Chihiro’s parents smelled delicious food being cooked nearby and they took a seat and started eating whereas Chihiro kept bugging her parents to leave the place be but they didn’t listen to her. As the night approaching, Chihiro found herself being surrounded by what seems to be ‘spirits’ and when she came back to the place where her parents were eating, she found out that her parents has turned into pigs. Frightened, Chihiro tried to escape the place but the river that was not there when she first came, has filled up the land and she was trapped. Luckily, a rather human-like figure named Haku came to help her and she was forced to work at the bath house that was in the area where all sorts of spirits come to cleanse themselves until she managed to save not only herself and her parents, but her rescuer, Haku.
Like all of Miyazaki’s movies, the main character is usually depicted by a girl or a woman and in Spirited Away, it was portrayed by Chihiro. It was not mentioned in the movie on how old Chihiro was but it was certain that she is in her primary school years, so, I’d say she is probably 9-11 years old. If I were to put myself in her place, where my parents were turned into pigs and I am compelled to work in a world that is not mine, I would probably be super stressed, depressed, alone and might just give up in living but Chihiro was surrounded by people that she eventually trusts and that includes Haku, Lin and Kamaji. She was not accepted because she was a human and the rest are supernatural beings but because of her determination in wanting to save her parents, Chihiro did what she had to do in order to survive.
Upon rewatching the movie as well as reading facts about it, there are some theories made up by viewers about the movie. For a children’s movie, I find it a tad bit inappropriate when the ‘bosom’ is being showed but then again, it makes sense if we see it in this way where the bathhouse is doubled as a brothel. At the front door of the bathhouse is a Japanese hiragana ゆ that is translated to ‘hot water’ and the woman who works there are called yuuna and the one who is in charge of the bathhouse is called Yubaba. Yubaba is the name given to the old witch who runs the place. Not only that, those who has come to work in the bathhouse were given a contract as well as a new name and in this case, Chihiro is now known as Sen. And what makes me think that the place is actually a brothel is when the character, ‘No Face’ keeps on offering Chihiro or Sen bath tags and then, gold. From what I read on the internet as well as my knowledge on Japanese culture, No Face is probably offering Sen all kinds of things to be the first to ‘have’ her. This is not my first encounter on Japanese movie about all these, back in the days where maiko and geisha are widely popular, there were bidders to maikos who still has their ‘flower’ and they were paid handsomely to be deflowered by the highest bidder. Thus, it is possible that the same scenario is happening in Spirited Away.
But then again, this is just a theory although it has been acknowledged by the creator of the movie itself in an interview. Despite all that, Hayao Miyazaki’s movies have an immersive detailed artwork. I love, especially the decorations in Yubaba’s office as well as the outdoors. It is done in minute detailed and that’s what makes Miyazaki’s movies being internationally known other than the great storyline.
Despite it being subtly made as a prostitution or not, Spirited Away has got to be one of the best Ghibli film I have watched and am super glad that I am writing this review for my class. 🙂