Arts Movies

Spirited Away

no-face

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi / 千と千尋の神隠し) is an animated Japanese movie.  It was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.  It was released by Studio Ghibli in 2001.  Spirited Away perpetuated the success of Princess Mononoke and became one of the highest grossing Japanese films of all time.  It made over three hundred million dollars and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.  It became the first hand drawn and non-English film to do so.

Chihiro is ten years old and traveling with her parents to their new home.  They drive through the woods and the road turns into dirt.  The car continues and they head into a tunnel.  An abandoned theme park greets them on the other side.  Chihiro’s papa decides that the family should take a break and explore.  Everyone jumps out of the vehicle.  They are greeted by a wonderful smell.

The gang walks down the empty main street to investigate.  All of the shops are restaurants.  They continue and locate the source of the odor.  Several delicious dishes are out in the open and no one is around.  Chihiro’s parents decide to dig in and pay when the owner returns.  Chihiro hesitates and decides to explore the park instead.  She finds an ostentatious building and looks down at a bridge. A boy with green eyes appears.  He warns her that her family is not allowed to be here and needs to cross back over the river before nightfall.  The mystery boy uses a spell to send her back and she rushes towards her parents.

spirited away
Spirited Away movie art – Photo Credit: Amal FM

Ghosts materialize and roam the town.  Chihiro finds her parents and discovers that they have transformed into pigs.  She panics and flees for help.  Her body begins to disappear as a ferry docks close by.  Strange figures and spirits deboard and head into town.  The protagonist continues to fade fast and the boy arrives and says he is her friend.  He gives her something to eat from the spirit world and her body solidifies. 

The friends cross a bridge.  Chihiro is told to hold her breath to hide her presence.  A frog startles her at the end and she is discovered.  The boy uses a spell to stun the amphibian and they run away.  An uproar follows when the smell of a human is discovered.  Chihiro learns that the boy’s name is Haku.  Big H tells her to ask Kamaji for work or the sorceress Yubaba will turn her into an animal.

Chihiro heads to Kamaji.  He works in a large furnace and little soot ball creatures are everywhere.  Kamaji asks Lin to bring Chihiro to Yubaba for employment.  Lin scowls and leads her through the bathhouse.  Weird and various sized creatures populate the halls.  They reach Yubaba’s office and the witch berates her, but gives her the worst job available.  Chihiro signs a contract and is given the name Sen.

soot balls
Soot balls at work – Photo Credit: nhanlucnhatban.com

Sen is mistreated by most of her coworkers.  Lin and Kamaji show her compassion.  Time passes and she invites a masked spirit named No-Face into the bathhouse.  He disappears and Sen heads to her first customer.  The guest is a monstrous stink spirit.  Sen struggles to clean him up.  When she completes the impossible task, the spirit is revealed to be a River God.  He thanks her and hands her a small round ball before he flies off.  No-Face witness everything from the shadows.

Sen eats and goes to sleep.  She awakes and the bathhouse is exploding with activity.  A dragon soars by and crashes into Yubaba’s private quarters.  Sen recognizes the dragon has Haku.  She hurries to his aid and passes No-Face.  He showers the employees with gold and swallows a few of them after Sen leaves.  She reaches her destination and Yubaba’s twin sister Zeniba appears.  She casts some spells and claims that Haku has stolen a magic golden seal from her.  Sen is warned that the seal is cursed.  Haku destroys the manifestation of Zeniba and they all fall down into the furnace room.  Sen gives Haku the gift from the stink spirit and he throws up a black slug and a seal.  Sen stomps out the slug as it tries to escape.  Haku switches to his human form and collapses.

Kamaji talks about Haku’s past as they recover.  Sen expresses that she wants to return the seal to Zeniba to ask for her help with healing young Haku.  News spreads to Sen that No-Face is rampaging in the bathhouse.  She visits the massive creature and feeds him.  He regurgitates everyone he has swallowed and leaves with Sen.  They board a train to visit Zeniba.  Yubaba is furious and threatens to kill Sen’s parents.  Haku awakens and offers to find her missing son to assuage her.

chihiro and haku
Haku and Chihiro – Photo Credit: changehali

Sen arrives at Zeniba’s and learns that her love for Haku has saved him and that the black slug was used by Yubaba to control him.  She says she cannot save her parents, but gives her a magical hairband for protection.  Haku appears and they fly back to the bathhouse.  No-Face remains behind, spirited away.  Haku tells stories of his past and Sen learns that he is a river spirit that she met in her past.  She remembers his real name and breaks Yubaba’s spell.

It is morning when they enter the bathhouse.  Yubaba brings out a selection of pigs.  She offers Sen a test for her freedom.  The quiz requires the heroine to identify which pigs are her parents.  Sen sees through the scheme and identifies that none of the pigs are her parents.  Her contract dissolves in Yubaba’s hands and Chihiro is free.  Haku leads her to her parents who have no recollection of what happened.  The happy family returns to their dust covered car.  Chihiro looks back through the tunnel in wonderment.  The car speeds off and the hairband glistens in the sun.  Spirited Away ends.

Spirited Away Cast

CharacterJapaneseEnglish
Akio OginoTakashi Naitō Michael Chiklis
AniyakuTakehiko OnoJohn Ratzenberger
AogaeruTatsuya Gashūint Bob Bergen
BabyRyūnosuke Kamiki Tara Strong
ChichiyakuTsunehiko Kamijō Paul Eiding
Chihiro Ogino / SenRumi Hiiragi Daveigh Chase
ForemanYō Ōizumi Rodger Bumpass
Haku / Spirit of the Kohaku RiverMiyu Irino Jason Marsden
KamajiBunta Sugawara David Ogden Stiers
LinYoomi Tamai Susan Egan
No-FaceAkio NakamuraBob Bergen
Radish SpiritKen Yasuda Jack Angel
River SpiritKoba Hayashi Jim Ward
YubabaMari Natsuki Suzanne Pleshette
Yūko OginoYasuko SawaguchiLauren Holly
ZenibaMari Natsuki Suzanne Pleshette
no-face
No-Face – Photo Credit: nhanlucnhatban.com

4 comments on “Spirited Away

  1. This is definitely one of my all time favorites!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: