Beneath the surface of Hayoa Miyazaki’s animated film Spirited Away, lie deep and meaningful messages about Japanese life and culture. The film’s protagonist Chihiro, undergoes a remarkable transformation as she is forced to get a job and find a way to save her parents from being slaughtered. At the beginning of the film, Chihiro seems spoiled and unappreciative of her parents. Once Chihiro begins work at the bathhouse, she is forced to do things that she never would have dreamed of doing at home. Lin, her superior, even suspects Chihiro of never working a day in her whole life. Little by little Chihiro learns to work diligently and is rewarded for the colossal task of cleaning the stink spirit. Chihiro’s hard work helps transform her into the mature and capable young woman she becomes at the end of the film.
Some other recurrent themes found in Spirited Away include greed and food. The workers at the bathhouse are ravenous when it comes to gold and will do whatever it takes to get more of it. Chihiro’s parents’ greed for food causes them to turn into pigs. No-Face has an insatiable hunger while he is at the bathhouse and it turns him into a cruel monster, eating any people who get in his way. Certain foods also prove to be incredibly useful to the characters in the film. For example, Haku gives Chirhiro food after her arrival to the spirit world so she does not disappear. Chihiro also gives Haku and No-Face a special piece of bread that cures them and kills any spells that may be affecting them. Food and greed play a vital role in the film and illustrate how destructive greed can be to a community.
Hayoa Miyazaki does an incredible job at creating a thought-provoking film that deals with universal problems. This aspect makes it incredibly relatable to people of all different backgrounds including children who are able to enjoy the film simply because it is entertaining. I think everyone, no matter what their age, can learn something and appreciate the film Spirited Away.