Adulting with Spirited Away (2001) 千と千尋の神隠し

Most things I do are either in happiness or in sadness. This one was on the later, to all the people who watch cartoons won’t understand the beauty of anime. I love cartoons but Anime’s have so much depth that one can have so much out takes from them. Cartoons mostly are entertaining. I watched and watched a lot of them. Every anime has some spiritual drive. Just kidding, they are inspiring.

After running into mid life crisis over and over again. I found this beautiful masterpiece. It is a masterpiece no doubt about it.

This is solely based on my interpretation. It may not be what it is about. Like I said to each their own perspective views. As I watched this in sadness and transitioning from a child to an adult I could relate to Chihiro Ogino.

This isn’t an animé I watched on TV but I searched for it. It being so old, I think it was meant to be for me to find it at that time.

I am not rewatching it, many times when I rewatch things my interpretations become different. It may be a stale one but I will try my best.

Story and Thoughts

Chihiro is a young child who is moving to another place. She is less enthusiastic as well as grumpy. It is sort of convened in short duration that she is yet to understand responsibility and change.

As Chihiro is sitting in backseat, she views a lot of beautiful things which pass by them and as she does. She also metaphorically is a back-seater in life. As children we all tend to see things like a rainbow. If our parents are good and have shown us their best of world. We see a complete different life, even as with difficult most parents child is already wise enough to know how to cope. Being a child is the best thing and yet it is incomplete.

Childhood is more about being in the backseat and enjoying life. We still think at every level we face hardships which our parents don’t understand. It’s more or less about like a game level. Everything is new therefore difficulty level varies, importance varies and values vary. I consider age divided into adult and child. Why not 3? Child, adult and elderly? After coming in my adulthood I realise elderly are more like children.

As people grow they have a lot of experience but that doesn’t really equate to wise choices or having wisdom.

Age is just a number and stupidity has no age. – Me

Chihiro before coming at this point, I will consider her as a child.

The parents come at a halt after watching a huge stone blocking the way. Out of interest they walk past through into the dark tunnel. But Chihiro is skeptical. She sees the area as sketchy rather than an adventure.

Chihiro soon runs and walks into a village which is completely vacant. The shops and streets are vacant and they are decorated for some festival.

Chihiro walks in and finds her parents hogging all the food. They don’t at all question the meat just lying around and they hog everything up. Pun intended! Chihiro wanders further into the town and soon she finds everything changing. The day turns into night and everything lights up.

She walks back to her parents who seem to have become pigs. Not figuratively but actually turned into pigs. She gets scared and starts running towards the entrance only to find it an unfamiliar place. She finds herself stuck in this new fantasy land where she is unable to back.

She spots a boat and further more spots creatures and ghosts. She is taken aback by this sudden shift of paradigm where she has to be the responsible one to find her way back.

She realises that the whole ghosts and creatures are walking into this temple like place which is a bathhouse. Chihiro meets Haku who casts a protective spell to stop her from disappearing from this world.

Chihiro is both scared and confused at everything she sees and hears. She starts feeling helpless and….

Today I am not going to tell the story. Watch the movie you will understand and appreciate the beauty.

Haku warns Chihiro before the night arrives to return but she is unable to do so. If we think about it. Our childhood is filled with transition zones. Sometimes they are so intense that they happen all of sudden and we find ourselves looking for an adult but we realise that we are the only adult around.

Chihiro has little to no understanding of the place she is in now. Out of the normal real world, into this spiritual reality where ghosts exist. With time I felt that Haku is like that friend we grow up with. The friend who we are fond of because of their empathy and helpfulness without expecting anything in return.

Chihiro is forced to work in the bathhouse because she is stuck in this world. Aren’t we all stuck at jobs we hate? Where we don’t understand where things are going or how they work. The boiler man helps her and asks a fellow bathhouse worker Lin to help her. While asking for a job she is pushed and intimidated by the bathhouse witch who runs it. Chihiro having no choice believes in the direction she is going and she remains persistent.

People treat her badly overall. The witch is called Yubaba who gives Chihiro tough time. Chihiro is given a mission to attend to ghost or creature costumers to give them the best of service.

In return for the job Yubaba takes away few letters from Chihiro’s name. Later Chihiro unknowingly invites in No face thinking him as a costumer.

The ghost which looks like a mask with no body. Chihiro is given a task to take care of Stink spirit. Who everyone gets grossed out about. After getting cleaned the spirit gives Chihiro a token dumpling which makes one throw up.

While watching the Stink Spirit, No face tries to mimic the coins and ask to be served. Because the servers delay. He starts devouring people of bathhouse. Going on eating everything to satisfy oneself like a greed filled human. Chihiro gives him the dumpling which makes him puke out all the materials and people and ghosts out.

I really felt that Chihiro is like a lost child. You know as children we observe and learn but most times we observe and think we know better to make better choices. When the situation arrives as difficult as other faced we are left speechless with a blank space playing in our head.

Chihiro entering this world symbolises to me of entering adulthood. Where one is uncertain about the present and the future. Where one goes on wandering empty places in our minds and meeting people and having family around but for only us to deal with the situation life brings.

Adulthood is a transition. We say that people before 13-19 people are teens and above is young adult. So where is adult actually? In true meaning adulthood means the awareness that you are responsible. A person even in young age can live in a lot of adversities and grow faster than others becoming an adult at younger age. Chihiro is just a representation of them at this point. She is 10 years old and she has to look at uncertainty in the eye. Ask for a job like an adult, work her way in the place where people treat her poorly. Work and feel like she has no idea how to get out.

Chihiro meeting No face made me think of depression. Depression is no different from No face. It likes to mimic comfort and leisure. It devours everything in its way. Many people try overeating as a way to comfort themselves. And Stink monster though looking dirty and rotten does turn out to give her something useful. She uses that to make No Face puke out all the people.

Have you ever wondered how a stage of sadness and depression looks like? You don’t just go through it. It sometimes grows and becomes big like a monster. There is no strength in depression as such. It is like the floating Ghost, No face. People keep away and yet many are consumed by our own depression. Depression and food is not the accurate description. What does one really do in depression? Sleep alot, think a lot, do everything in a way where we carry something extremely heavy on us without letting others no. It’s like a mask we hold onto our face. The mask doesn’t let others know how we feel or are dealing with life and situations but underneath the mask there is a huge monster consuming our heads.

No face is not a bad spirit. Yes it eats and devours and tries to mimic. Depression isn’t entirely a bad thing. Depression sometimes means you have been having strength and you are tired and exhausted. Just like No face tags along with Chihiro.

Thinking about it, everyone around Chihiro working with her behaves obsessed with greed. No-face is like the company he holds. Because he was around greedy creatures he became one himself. Chihiro somehow helps him become calmer and less aggressive. It’s like an acceptance. We think pain and sadness is the monster while it can be a friend trying help us feel and understand something different about life. What is life just with happiness? It has no meaning but with some sadness, we come to appreciate happiness. Many resent having to go through pain and misery.

I think we grow from pain. Comfort never helps us grow. Chihiro living in the shadow and comfort of her parents like a child doesn’t understand that. When she starts working she grows, not because she is working but because she steps out of the shadow and comfort and learns to embrace herself.

She doesn’t really know herself. When she tells Haku that Yubaba took her name. Haku warns her thats he might forget. I think this signifies that somewhere from birth to adulthood we lose ourselves. We come to a turning point where we start asking questions. Where we learn to question who we are and what we want to be in life. Walking everyday with this lonely No-face with uncertainty of the present and future.

I think my favourite character after Chihiro is No face.

Chihiro finds a Big baby hidden in Yubaba’s chamber. One day she stumbles on the baby who follows Chihiro.

Yubaba has a sister who is different from Yubaba, Zeniba.

She is pleasant and also helpful. She tells Chihiro about the curse. Her parents turning into pigs and her losing her name is one. Haku is cursed too.

This sort of reminds me of the fact that we can’t help others who are dear to us when we really do want to help. Knowing about the curse she still is helpless and works. With the baby gone, Yubaba threatens Haku.

Haku takes her back and No face embraces this new found master.

The part of knowing and being released when she calls out Haku’s name. Knowing her own name is like understanding and coming face to face with our own value and true nature. Only by embracing who we are in the most difficult times can we be released in situations no matter how difficult times can be.

Yubaba asks Chihiro to identify her parents out of these pigs. After this is given and after going through all this journey she understands everything.

She recognises that none of them are her parents. The baby now also having Chihiro’s influence tells Yubaba to give her back her name. Releasing her from the curse.

She runs out taking her parents out of the tunnel.

Before Chihiro found this place she was a different version of herself. Scared and worried, worrying and helpless. When she walks out of their she is a new person. Sometimes life is all about perspective. What you go through in life, no one else can experience, see the way you see or be the way you are.

When she comes out of the tunnel. She wonders if this magical spirit land was true. Her parents having no recollection after their meal and their car covered in dirt and leaves.

The reason why I love this movie is because it’s a leap of hope. A leap to finding oneself. It inspires us to take a step in our life towards a better self. Grow a little.

There is one thing I didn’t like about this is that they symbolise Chihiro being able to help Haku is out of love. Sorry not sorry Japan. This is friendship. Not the love you want, Chihiro is just a child while Haku is at the end stage of teenage. I think them more like true friends than lovers.

One more thing, Kamaji and Lin are more like those people whom you grow fond of but are skeptical to begin with.

While looking at these figures criticising the difference of Chihiro from them. I am reminded of society constantly focusing on our differences to treat the other badly or unfairly.

None the less our protagonist prevails and blooms like the butterfly.

People criticise everything a lot. A child is criticised to be less listening to adults, throwing tantrums and ventures of their own. The way Chihiro accepts No face who is not accepted just like her. I think it’s all about love. The level of affection we are able to show and care about others bring the connections strength. It creates the base for a relationship. Love, affection, care, consideration, gesture, everything is meaningful and worth living for.

I was struggling with adulting and I wondered if there is any movie which can come even close to what it feels to be in it. I think this anime pretty much does that.

Thank you for reading.

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