Spirited Away: Change as a Positive Force

Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki’s film, Spirited Away, depicts the journey of a young girl, Chihiro, into the spirit world, the loss of her identity, and the subsequent struggle to escape back into the living world with her parents. In Susan Joliffe Napier’s essay, “Matter Out of Place: Carnival, Containment, and Cultural Recovery in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away,” Napier argues the film is a reaction to globalization and its perceived threat to sustaining Japan’s unique culture and national identity: “Spirited Away is less an upbeat fantasy than a complex exploration of a contemporary Japan that is searching for what might be termed cultural recovery … in a corrupt postindustrial society” (288-89).

Napier’s thesis is certainly probable as evidenced by the spiritual creatures’ stigma against humans, Yubaba’s baby’s fear of the outside, and the act of losing one’s name, which is symbolic of losing one’s identity, to become a cog in the machine. Perhaps the most striking physical manifestation of the outside creating disruption in the daily life at the bathhouse is the presence of No-face—a character who has a mask for a face and whose identity is associated with wealth.

In fact, it is No-face’s ability to use his gold to manipulate the greed of the bathhouse workers, and subsequently feed his own desires, that parallels the idea of globalization’s corrupting effects on the people in postindustrial Japan. While Napier’s thesis views Miyazaki’s film in the context of globalization, I’d like to argue that Spirited Away can be interpreted not as a personal statement against outside threats to Japanese culture and identity, but a film whose message lies in the necessity of change.

Personal Growth

Chihiro (right) asking Yubaba for work at her bathhouse in exchange for giving her name.
Chihiro (right) asking Yubaba for work at her bathhouse in exchange for giving her name.

Perhaps the most obvious example of change as a positive influence in the film can be observed in Chihiro’s maturation. Prior to entering the spirit realm, Chihiro behaves as a typical, stubborn child unwilling to accept change; this can be observed in the way she responds to seeing her new school as she and her parents drive into town: sticking out her tongue as she says, “It’s gonna stink. I liked my old school.” During the same scene, Chihiro’s responses to her parents even slightly suggest that she is a bit spoiled as she complains how “depressing” it is that this is the first time she has gotten a bouquet of flowers and it’s a “goodbye present.”

When her mother reminds her that her father had gotten a rose for her birthday before, Chihiro responds with, “Yeah, one. Just one rose isn’t a bouquet.” What’s remarkable is that this same ungrateful child is the same one that manages to secure work and a place to eat and sleep soon after, setting aside her personal feelings in order to survive. However, Chihiro receives work and housing at the price of giving up her original name to Yubaba. In Noriko T. Reider’s essay, “Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols,” Reider discusses the significance of losing one’s name in the context of Japanese folk symbols: “The act of depriving a person of one’s name has far more reaching consequences and implications than simply affecting how one person addresses another; the very act implies total control over the person whose name is being withheld” (9).

One can view Chihiro’s lack of control over her life as negative, but it is important to consider that while the circumstances Chihiro finds herself in are difficult at first, the long-term effects of Chihiro’s stay at the bathhouse benefit her in terms of personal growth. She learns to appreciate the simple things she is given—whether it is the kindness of Kamaji covering her with a blanket when she’s exhausted, or the big sisterly protection and caring by Lin.

Chihiro also earns respect in the bathhouse by working hard and dealing with the stink spirit that no one else can bear, in addition to resolving the trouble No-face wreaks when no one else can handle him. As a result of Chihiro’s experiences, she changes from being an obstinate, incapable girl to a wiser, more appreciative person.

Chihiro traveling to Zeniba's home with her friends by train.
Chihiro traveling to Zeniba’s home with her friends by train.

Some of the most compelling evidence for Chihiro’s transformation is her decision to journey to Zeniba’s home later on in the film despite not knowing what obstacles or frightening creatures she might face along the way; this is in stark contrast with her earlier behavior when she first came to the spirit realm and was incapable of going anywhere on her own.

Had Chihiro remained static in character development, then it is possible that she would have never been able to escape the spirit realm. Therefore, taking into consideration the outcome of Chihiro’s personal growth, the film suggests that change is necessary and beneficial.

A Stagnant Environment

In addition to Chihiro’s internal change, her presence in the bathhouse aids in benefiting other characters’ lives as well. Since the bathhouse is an area where day in and day out, characters go through the same motions again and again, the area is symbolic of a state of stagnancy. An example of how living in such an environment can negatively influence a person can be observed in Yubaba’s baby’s belief that going outside will make him sick. When Chihiro speaks to the baby, “Staying in this room is what will make you sick,” the fact that Chihiro associates a state of “sameness” with sickness reaffirms the film’s message regarding the necessity of change.

One of the aspects of the baby’s character that reinforces the naivety of believing only harm comes from change is the fact that it is a baby that is making such a claim; the implication being that a baby, lacking experience and having remained in ignorance for the brief time of its existence, does not know better. A baby cannot rationalize that change can have positive effects on its life, and because it is only in innocence that it stakes the claim that it makes, viewers are able to see what having such a belief can do to a person: leave them completely useless and dependent on others. Another instance from the film that suggests how harmful of an influence the bathhouse has on characters is with the character of No-face. When No-face arrives at the bathhouse, all he tries to do is prove himself useful to Chihiro.

No-face trying to be useful to Chihiro by providing her with special bathwater cards
No-face trying to be useful to Chihiro by providing her with special bathwater cards

However, when No-face finds himself incapable of helping her, he settles into a state of inertia and overindulgence, which eventually leads him into a crazed descent where he eats everything and everyone in sight. When Chihiro confronts him, she leads him out of the bathhouse to go on a trip with her: “I think being in the bathhouse makes him crazy, he needs to get out of there.”

Both in the cases of Yubaba’s baby and No-face, Chihiro brings them into the outside world and gives them new insight into themselves: the baby becomes capable of standing on his own and enjoys the outside, “Sen and I had a really good time,” and No-face is provided with a sense of purpose and the approval he always sought from Chihiro by coming to work for Zeniba. While both Yubaba’s baby’s circumstances and No-face’s are fairly different with regards to how they encounter Chihiro and what they achieve as a result of their trip with her, both are prime examples of how remaining in a state of “sameness” prevents the individual from personal growth, and actually harms them in the long-run as well.


During Chihiro’s trip to Zeniba’s home, two images that strike the viewer—albeit brief ones—are of the isolated island the train passes along the way, and the girl that stands at one of the stations unwilling to board. Since Chihiro’s traveling on the train with her friends facilitates both the baby’s and No-face’s experiences with change, the train may be interpreted as a kind of catalyst of change.

Thus, when Chihiro observes the island as they pass it, the fact that the island does not connect to any town or city across the ocean symbolizes a state of isolation and inertia. And the girl that Chihiro observes standing at one of the stations implies the same idea that the island does—that those who refuse to connect to the rest of the world will ultimately be left behind as everyone else moves forward.

Chihiro leaving Yubaba's bathhouse to return to the living world.
Chihiro leaving Yubaba’s bathhouse to return to the living world.

While Napier’s essay interprets the film as a statement against the outside world’s influence on Japan and its people, or at least a statement of fear from how globalization will shape postindustrial Japan’s identity in the future, it seems fair to argue that while corruption and globalization may be correlated, correlation does not imply causation. As Chihiro is an agent of change, as well as subject to change, the result of her personal growth and the effects she has on the people she encounters at the bathhouse showcases the impact and necessity of connecting to the outside world.

When Chihiro finally manages to return home, it is only because she has grown as a person. Spirited Away’s depiction of the harmful effects of isolation and stagnancy thereby convey the necessity of change for the sake of personal growth and development, and despite being a film that came out back in 2001, it still proves relevant to our time—if not in the context of globalization, then at least as a coming-of-age story that resonates with countless children and adults.

Works Cited

Napier, Susan Jolliffe. “Matter Out of Place: Carnival, Containment, and Cultural Recovery in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.” The Journal of Japanese Studies 32.2 (2006): 287-310. Web. 26 November 2014.

Reider, Noriko T. “Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols.” Film Criticism 29.3 (2005): 4-27. Web. 26 November 2014.

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Graduated from the University of Connecticut with a major in English. I'm a lover of literature, film, and anime, and I can be followed on Twitter @AlanPolozov

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  1. Terry Adams

    This was a very interesting essay. The idea of “change” certainly does appear throughout the film; Chihiro’s own metamorphic transformation and changing characterization certainly does allow her to accept other changing aspects of life, as opposed to her original personality at the beginning of the film.

  2. I love this essay. I to read Napier’s essay on this film but I like this explanation much better. It feels more in line with the coming of the age theme of the film. Well done!

  3. Just finished watching this! Thanks Google for bringing me to this wonderful article! Great movie!

  4. I love this movie to death. Reading this brings back so many wonderful memories of watching it (and other Miyazaki movies) with my family. It’s making me cry. I can hear the theme song playing in my head.

    Thank you, Hayao Miyazaki.

  5. They really forced the supposed love thing down our throats and it didn’t go anywhere, she didn’t even say goodbye to No Face and it did end very abruptly. Apart from those flaws, it’s quite a stunning film, saw it last night. It made $230m in Japan alone, how crazy is that?!

  6. Sina Larose

    We rented this movie for our children, but were spellbound by it ourselves. I remember that, when it finished, we immediately started it again. It is indeed one of the most beautiful films ever made.

    • Ryan Errington

      Most Studio Ghibli films have a spellbound quality. They are such wonderfully crafted stories and characters. It is always an engaging viewing experience.

  7. I saw it theaters thanks to an old family friend taking us. I really did not want to go because I thought it was a different movie but I am so glad I got to see it on the big screen with surround. For my birthday I was lucky enough for my mother told a friend of mine that I already owned Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets (she got confused as I did not own it) so instead my friend got me a blockbuster card. when I went I found spirited away and bought it on VHS instead of Harry Potter on DVD.

  8. I remember looking over at my friends face and seeing the joy he had by watching Sprited away. Now he shares that film to his two daughters.

    On to find and read Napier’s study.

  9. Lush animation pairs with a complex, interesting plot to create a wonderful movie experience. I also love Princess Mononoke and Ponyo and have great affection for the other films he has made. Miyazaki’s pays close attention to detail in his creations, and the payoff is big.

  10. One of my favorite movies of all time.

  11. LozaKay

    Great movie, and a great insights here. Miyazaki’s sentiments on the concept of “ma” are priceless.

  12. Cher Fay


  13. Third-Bridge

    Just pure genius! The images stay etched in my brain.

  14. This movie was such a trip, especially on the first sober night after a week long alcohol and drugs binge…..jesus i will never forget it.

  15. To sum up my thoughts of the film in one word, it just “beautiful”. I may have a really small issue with slow pacing that I felt happen in the film a few times, but the film offers so much to me, that I can easily forgive.

  16. Lynna Barclay

    I watched it with my 8-year-old son, who also loved it, and he found moral lessons to be learnt from the story too… Gorgeous.

  17. The difference between the Miyazaki animated movies and the disney-pixar ones is the final objective of the creators. The Miyazaki’s objective has always wanted to give a spiritual message to the audience on all his films, Disney-Pixar’s objective to sell the movie, and the characters, songs, the american way of life, etc. To put it another way, Miyazaki is the good guy that try to tell you the best way to do something, and disney is the guy that sells door by door.

  18. The best animated works come from japan.

  19. I love how after 13 years, Spirited Away’s animation still looks AMAZING.

  20. Neville

    Spirited Away is by far the most over hyped of the Ghibli movies. Honestly, the main character is unbearably stupid, whiny,weak and just an overall crybaby. The story is jumbled and veers off course so often that it’s uncountable. My first time watching it, i almost forgot what the hell the girl was actually trying to accomplish.The only thing the movie has going for it is the animation.

  21. when I watched Spirited away, and I got to the end I interpreted it as having taken the same amount out time in both places. 20 to 30 years would have left the tires flat on the car and it would have been mossy, not dusty. this could be because I am older than dirt, but there is a long tradition of stories where people visit a place spent some time there and then go into the town and find out the place visited burnt down years ago. So the appearance of the entrance in the beginning is a magical illusion, the appearance at the end is because the spell was broken for her, and therefore her family.

  22. This article is very interesting and explains my fear of this movie as a kid. I was always very uncomfortable with the scenes involving the bath house, although they were colorful and more kid-friendly than some of the other scenes.

  23. Jemarc Axinto

    I love this film and I am so pleased that you wrote on it. I’ve always viewed the film as a “coming of age”story but never thought to look at how changing affected the other characters as well. What are your thoughts on the change the parents went through?

  24. Siothrún

    I like the perspective that this article takes with one of my favorite movies. I, too, normally associated the movie with a coming of age story, and did not necessarily attribute Chihiro’s ability to react to change positively as a factor in her maturation. I admire how this article brings with it a subtle, nostalgic feel that allows the readers to understand what you’re saying without bashing them over the head with your points. Great read!

  25. Milliken

    I ALWAYS feel sad when the movie ends… i already watched it 13 time…. really amazing

  26. Princess mononoke is my absolute favorite!

  27. Jovita Diehl

    Thanks for this post, I am going to go on a rewatch spree.

  28. I remember seeing this film when I was younger now I have the pleasure of re-watching and I have mixed-feelings….The film wasn’t bad in anyway but after watching I don’t know what to think…just blank just blank.

  29. Ty Cash

    Studio Ghibil’s best.

  30. This movie, still to this day, scares the living crap out of me. It was the first time I’d ever seen anime and I was six. My dad heard it had good reviews so he showed it to me. I was one of those kids who took everything literally, so this especially scared me and I hated anime for years after that. Now I’m 15 and I don’t hate anime anymore, but I’m still disrecommending it to all six-year-olds who take things literally. Just saying.

  31. Bertrand

    Nice intellectual study. On another note, Spirited Away could be my favorite MOVIE, not just Anime, of all time. Hard to explain, but almost — very easily so. Evangelion 1.0, and 2.2 have come close, but it’s still shaky.

  32. This is a very interesting article. An avid lover of Studio Ghibli, I grew up watching this movie, and many of their other movies, many times. Interestingly enough, I had never once thought of the ideas as listed in Napier’s essay, but always viewed it as in your article. Sometimes, I think people long to make things more complicated than they are.

  33. Anneka

    It’s too bad that such a wonderful, beloved director has retired. His art certainly captures the imagination of everyone who encounters it.
    Though I agree very much with this argument, I also think that globalization is perhaps the wrong word to use, since it has been happening since ancient times. Whenever people encountered new cultures and groups, globalization was in progress. Therefore, the argument would progress in a very interesting manner if the threats of globalization now were examined in relation to the movie. What, in particular, might relate in present times to the creation of a movie that addresses the complications of holding onto a national Japanese identity?
    Also, it strikes me as interesting that the girl turns hero in the movie by remembering the name of her friend, and by recognizing her parents. Perhaps movie is also addressing something else: Japan is not only needing to recreate an identity that allows for change and globalization, but in order to thrive, it should also remember and be proud of, as well as respect, the past that made it what it was.

  34. I love the fact that Chihiro’s change is accompanied throughout the movie with beautiful music and aesthetically pleasing scenery, which makes it much more interesting to witness. I also think that her change has given her a sense of humbleness as well. At the beginning of the movie she seemed to be a bit over dramatic. At the very end however, when her parents tell her that a new town and school can be scary, she simply responds with, “I think I can handle it.”

  35. I watched it just to keep kids quiet and found that not only were the kids silent but I was completely taken back by this movie. A stunning piece of work that you have to see to appreciate. 

  36. this movie is very beautiful and creepy at the same time. and it leaves something depressing in your heart. for me when I had to go back home from my gramma house in my last day of summer holiday :”) like you have to wake up in short dreamy days. idk what i’m talking about :D

  37. I’m interested in the idea of the spiritual world is a symbol for postmodern Japan, or as exemplified in your essay, a traditional world that is in the process of becoming corrupted by globalization. It sparks the question of what the real world, or the world Chihiro is from, stands in as? Also, I really enjoyed the idea of Chihiro as an agent of change, and I wonder if she can become a symbol of hope for change catalyzed by the newer Japanese generation.

  38. Hello! First of all, it was such a pleasure to read your article. Very well written and you explain your views on the film flawlessly. (Also I’m a sucker for proper citations and you did that flawlessly too!) Second of all, Spirited Away is one of my favorite Miyazaki films; thus, I always find it very intriguing to read all the different intrepretations fellow Miyazaki viewers have. I must say, your article completely opened up Spirited Away in a whole new light to me. I know Chihiro changes as her journey in this new world plays out and grows into the brave and wise girl that was always bubbling beneath her spoiled demeanor. However, I never thought of all the symbols of how important change is in the film. Particularly your mention of the train. This sequence is my favorite of the whole film (the music is just so damned awesome in this part); I am completely enamored with this scene. Mostly because I am always trying to figure out what it means to Chihiro and to me as a viewer. I could never move past the little girl standing there as the train moved away. Yet your article just blew my mind. You write that “the train may be interpreted as a kind of catalyst of change”, and I feel this sums up this scene beautifully. I really enjoyed reading your article; thanks for writing it!

  39. remembrance

    Relating to the larger, chaotic, ever-changing world will always be a classic, relatable, credible, and fascinating theme for literature and film.

  40. remembrance

    Relating to the larger, chaotic, ever-changing world will always be a classic, credible, and fascinating theme for literature and film.

  41. I wish Chihiro and Haku had ended up leaving the world together

  42. Minh Gladden

    I watched this for the first time when it premiered on Cartoon Network at about the age of five. Although I didn’t completely understand everything in the movie, I immediately fell in love with it. A while back I remembered the first time I watched the movie and decided to go back and see it again. I did not regret it. I understood so much more.

  43. This is by far one of my favorite movies. I saw this movie when I was about 10 years old and I remember wanting to watch it over and over again. Spirited Away is saturated with creative detail, from the personalities of each character to the unique story line. I now own the movie & show it to my friends who in turn love it as well. A masterpiece of a movie in my opinion!

  44. I’ve always loved this movie and I like to take the time to watch it again once in a while. I was always taken by the way Chihiro morphs throughout the film, into a respectable, accepting and self-reliant young lady (though she is still a child in it). As a child myself at the time of viewing, it always inspired me and on particularly whiny days, I would think back to how irritating Chihiro had been in the beginning of the film.

    Considering the analysis, I think I might take the time to look into Napier’s essay because I’d like to say what she’d said in her article. In terms of culture and personal endeavors, I think that change is necessary in both accounts. I’ve read articles of similar themes about my home — I live on Guam — where the author contends that while the ancient culture should be recovered or at least respected, it is of importance for a culture to adapt and change in order for it to survive. The Chamorro people (indigenous people here) have been able to adapt certain traditions and make them their own in order to keep their culture alive — in ways that satisfy both themselves and whoever was colonizing them at the time. So perhaps Spirited Away can be a way to say that culture must change and adapt in order to stay alive? Of course, I don’t know if Napier covered this in her essay so I would have to see about that.

  45. This is an enchanting anime.

  46. By far my least favorite Miyazaki film. I’d take Whisper of the Heart over this.

  47. Helen Parshall

    I need to watch more Miyazaki, I was resistant for a while but Spirited Away captivated me – from the beautiful art to the enchanting story. Thanks for sharing!

  48. You definitely make some good points! I never realized the bigger themes of isolation and stagnancy the first time I watched this film, but they fit in well with the storyline without being overt. Spirited Away is ones of those films you can enjoy just as it is, or delve in and find the deeper meanings. Miyazaki is truly a master of storytelling.

  49. While I love his artwork, I have to admit that I think Miyazaki’s films are overrated.

  50. Ben Hufbauer

    CriticalOtaku: Thanks for this sensitive analysis of one of my favorite animated films of all time. You effectively highlight how the positive aspects of embracing change are found throughout the film. Very nicely written too!

  51. BigLew

    Critical Otaku: Your analysis was very insightful. I was not aware that globalization had such a corrupting effect on Japanese culture due to my lack of knowledge of the Japanese culture. This article helped me to understand that industrialization may not be at the heart of all cultures. I’d like to visit the ‘Old Japan.’ I bet it’s a lot more meaningful and tranquil environment than my current residence. Thanks again!

  52. The value of identity is such an integral part of the movie but it never really struck me until reading this how metaphorically resonant the idea of “identity” is in this movie. Miyazaki really ties all agency and individuality to how you know yourself, names being a central part of that. Super interesting.

  53. I really enjoyed reading your article about such a timeless classic! To be frank, I never realized the overall message of the film because I was so caught up with the stunning animation. However, I loved how you associated No-Face as a symbol of wealth and greed, especially after he cannot provide for Chihiro and ultimately he goes on this spree of overindulgence. Your points were remarkable!

  54. my favorite childhood movie!

  55. I think this article is well written and eloquently linked together with Susan Joliffe Napier’s essay, “Matter Out of Place: Carnival, Containment, and Cultural Recovery in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.”

    While the argument for this film being representative of the inevitability of change in regards to post-industrialism in Japan is a very valid interpretation, as you have stated “correlation does not imply causation.”

    The concept that Miyazaki created “Spirited Away” in order to expose the still relevant issue of adolescent sex-trafficking ( http://cornellsun.com/blog/2014/09/24/wang-ruined-childhoods-sex-slavery-and-spirited-away/ ) is in essence a more abstract, but meaningful interpretation in terms of artistic capability. It definitely wasn’t an idea which I would have associated off the bat with this film, but it is one which after extensive research and lots of re-watching that makes a world of sense!

  56. I’m intrigued by the idea that the act of depriving Chihiro of her name at the beginning of the film and by giving it back at the end is a way of recognizing the importance of who she’s become. There’s almost a religious tone to it in the same way that our names mean much more than what family we belong to or where we live. In this sense, Chihiro has to earn her name (which interestingly enough means “depth of a thousand waters”) by becoming less selfish and more aware of the world around her.

  57. Zeigler

    This film is fantastic, Found it by accident on Sky one evening and was transfixed.

  58. i suppose when we’re looking at the film through this lens, how could we view Haku as an extension of the change metaphor? His situation seems to illustrate both the healing and corrupting properties of change through both the industrial pollution that robbed him of his home and the influence of Chihiro that cleansed him of that pollution.

  59. the ending made me cry

  60. Samantha Brandbergh

    I loved this movie when I was younger and still do! Although Chihiro gave me nightmares as a kid, this movie is still great and the animation is incredible.

  61. Very good analysis. It’s amazing to realize as an adult of things that you would never noticed as a kid, so i’m definitely going to watch this movie again some of this days, and i totally agree to your conclusions

  62. Just finished it last night for the third time. Not knowing the context of Modern Japanese Politics I took this movie in a lot differently, but know seeing this lens applied, it just enhances the message of necessary change and personal growth.

  63. I love this article! I have never sat down and fully thought through how each character develops throughout the plot. This argument about change really reminds me about another of Miyazaki’s film, Princess Mononoke, where it is very clear that there are two sides in the story. One fighting for change and the other fighting against change. Although, both sides lost, we see one side striving to create a change for the better.
    Although, I have always wondered about No Face. We never knew about his past. All we know is that he is a lower spirit who wandered into the bathhouse. I’d like to argue that his change wasn’t only to find a purpose, but also an identity. We see at the bathhouse that when No Face swallows a person, he takes their identity, and as discussed in your article, there’s an emphasis on identity theft when the workers sign their contracts.
    I don’t know, just a thought. 🙂

  64. Dominique Kollie

    This is amazing. Spirited away might be Miyazaki’s best work, and that’s saying a lot. Chihiro’s growing pains is something that sticks with me to this day.

  65. hannahleety1217

    Spirited Away is one of my favorite pieces from Miyasaki. I like your analysis about Yubaba’s baby as the issue is obvious in nowadays society.Maybe the baby can also reflect the anxiety of changing in ages.

  66. Oh, I loved this movie, but never applied quite an interesting spin to it! I suspect there is much more that could be done with this article, if you were ever interested in expanding it. For example, I can’t help but feel there is some sort of symbolism involving her parents as animals. If I am remembering correctly, her parents become pigs after eating spirit world food, while she herself is hesitant to. Perhaps there is some connotation of a correct, self-preserving way to change?

    Regardless, you’ve approached the topic much more skillfully than I could. Great job!

  67. The Writer Sits in the Back

    Spirited Away was an anime film that my sociology class once analyzed for a class project. We noticed a lot of Marxist inspired concepts in the film such as how Yubaba controls the whole bathhouse (means of production) and how each worker has a specific job or duty to fulfill, as where Chihiro fits in by working hard to get her parents back. I saw the film in a different light back then and I still believe its one of Ghibli’s best.

  68. Simply one of the best animated features ever. Webby didn’t it win an Oscar??? Because the academy is made up of Disney.

  69. SStevens

    This movie is one of my all time favourites. I always loved how Chihiro became this strong and independent girl by the end of the film, and how her time at the bath house positively effected so many other characters. The hopeful theme associated with change is perhaps one of the most attractive features of this movie. Thank you for writing such an in-depth and thoughtful article.

  70. Spirited Away is probably one of my favorite films and while I was able to appreciate the theme of change before, this article was great for really fleshing out some of the more subtle examples of the necessity of moving forward and growing as a person. It’s probably one of the best coming-of-age stories that I’ve ever encountered.

  71. I absolutely love this movie so much!!! I didn’t really get a chance to watch this movie until I was in college but it still sucked me in! I can definitely watch this movie over and over again. Great post!

  72. This movie is truly a classic! I never thought of it this way, before! I couldn’t agree more!

    For some reason, my favorite character as a child was always No-Face, I still don’t know why, but I still love that spirit.

  73. ShelbyLee

    Miyazaki’s films always fuel great discussion. Good article!

  74. Joseph

    An interesting read (although I’m not sure how your thesis is that different than Naiper’s) and quite insightful, but nevertheless I still hold the position that–at least filmicly–this is Miyazaki’s weakest film.

  75. Interesting article, thanks for your views.

  76. I have always found the train sequence to be fascinating. It’s such a contrast to the loud fast paced scenes in the bathhouse. It’s quiet and the only other characters are shadows. I’ve also thought perhaps the shadow of the young girl on the island symbolizes Chihiro officially leaving her old self behind. It becomes a shadow in her past as she travels forward on the train. Wonderful piece!

  77. “… I’d like to argue that Spirited Away can be interpreted not as a personal statement against outside threats to Japanese culture and identity, but a film whose message lies in the necessity of change.”

    One observation can be noted is that both are consistent with each other. They also are both consistent with impulses within recent Japanese History.

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