Greetings and salutations all! Let me ask you this, have you ever watched Spirited Away as a child or when you were growing up? Well… that must’ve been a very scary experience. Although, the movie does contain some life lesson we could learn from and perhaps a refresher for our adult selves. Let’s take a look at few what Chihiro learnt along her journey.
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi or more commonly known to English speaking audiences as Spirited is the Japanese animated fantasy film by Hayao Miyazaki, the Godfather of Japanese animation (or at least one of). While the animation was done by Studio Ghibli famous for classics like Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke- all of which were written and directed by Miyazaki himself.
Spirited Away marks Miyazaki’s sixth directorial and writing credit for the animation studio, and arguably one of his most remembered and critically acclaimed film of the 2000s. To this day, the film has continued to attract the attention both children and adults alike. The basic premise of Spirited Away revolves around a 10-year-old name Chihiro who is trapped in the spirit world where she must work in a bathhouse of the gods in order survive.
Now, on to the lessons:
1. Never be influenced by greed
This really is a no brainer, greed in general is bad. We see this most evidently near the beginning of the movie where her parents eat too much food that didn’t belong to them, thus turning them into pigs in the process. There’s a symbolism to this as well, as pigs are often depicted to be greedy, lazy, foolish, and ugly. Another notable example is when the No-Face spirit was impressed with our heroine for not succumbing to temptations of gold like the rest of the inhabitants of the bath house.
2. Hard work often pays off
It’s very obvious to say that Chihiro is not a lazy person… but she is by the standards of the spirit world. Before the events of the movie, she clearly has never done any hard work ever in her life many children do, and is very dependent on her parents for everything; but that all changed after were turned into pigs.
We see her throughout the whole movie working tirelessly to save her parents. Slowly but surely, she begins to realize that with hard work, anything is possible. As the movie progresses, she doesn’t whine nor complain anymore when working and takes things seriously, thus earning the respect of those around her.
3. It’s okay to rely on people from time to time
As mentioned before, Chihiro is very dependent on her parents. It’s safe to say that after her parents were taken away from her, she’d be very lonely and helplessly alone. Despite that, as her journey continues, she meets many spirits along the way lending a helping hand.
The character of Lin in the movie acts as big sister of sorts to Chihiro as emotional support. Another is Kamaji as he made sure Chihiro is safe and taken care of when he found her in the boiler room. Lastly, there’s Haku, despite being under Yubaba’s control, he was able to return Chihiro’s name to her.
4. Life is not fair
We often hear the phrase “life isn’t fair” and that is very true. This unavoidable truth is much harder to except at very young age- Just like Chihiro, she has to find out about this the hard way shortly after she is hired at the bath house.
This is mainly due to the fact that she’s a human and they’re generally not all that liked by those in the spirit world. During her time serving in the bath house, Chihiro is given the hardest jobs, little to no respect, and is faced with prejudice from her co-workers.
5. Thing’s aren’t always as they appear
People tend to hide their true selves or seem nicer than they ought to be. For example, when Chihiro first meets Kamaji, he introduced to the audience as this monstrous creature, but once she can move past his physical appearance, she learns that he’s just an argumentative old man but a nice person underneath.
Many characters in the movie can be perceived this way initially too- particularly the spirits. Take Yubabu for one, at first glance, she seems to be very money-obsessed and takes in watching the grief of other around her, but is also a loving mother who would do anything to protect her child. The opposite is also true, the spirit No-Face appears to be friendly but can change of a dime depending the location, and can be very dangerous to be around. Like Chihiro, we meet many people like these in our lives every day.
6. A little bit kindness goes a long way
We’ve been thought at a very young age to be kind to others, but as humans, we’re very selective. Sometimes showing a bit of kindness to random strangers can lead to positive results. In the movie, Chihiro is generally polite to those she meets on her journey, despite opposite of the spirits around her. If it were not for her kind actions, the river spirit would’ve never been healed. Also, her actions were returned as well when the river spirit give her some medicine. That said, genuine acts of kindness will eventually be repaid (just in ways we don’t expect).
Well, that’s about all I’ve managed to gather from revisiting this timeless Miyazaki classic. Whether you’re young or old, do take the time to watch this movie- not just for the entertainment value, but for what we can learn from it.