Spirited Away Review : A Coming-of-age (Week) Among the Spirits

(Coming of Age Week)

“Spirited Away” is a 2001 animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It is critically acclaimed as one of the best, if not the best-animated film of all-time. It’s undoubtedly a masterpiece of storytelling, a beautiful surrealist story, and I’ll maybe call it my favorite film ever depending on what day of the week it is. Most of all, “Spirited Away” is a fantastic, universal coming-of-age story, one of the greatest ever put to screen.

Miyazaki tells the story of Chihiro, a young ten-year-old girl, forced to take care of herself in a hostile looking, strange, spirits’ world after her parents get changed into literal pigs. She’s left completely terrified, hiding, desperate, until she meets Haku, a young boy that guides her towards asking for a job at the spirits world’s bathhouse.

Chihiro is unable to do anything but put her trust in the spirits she meets and faces her fears. She’s entirely dependent first on Haku, who tells her to go find Kamaji a spider Yokai and ask him for a job. After showing him her willingness to work, she’s sent to Yubaba, the witch who runs the bathhouse. Chihiro trades her name for a job and is now entirely under Yubaba control. She’s assigned to Lin, a worker, who’s in charge of showing her the work. Through it all, Chihiro is under another character’s guidance or control. She’s a kid and feels completely out of her depth. But, what shines the most, through the film is the flashes of determination Chihiro shows facing both her fears and the unknown.

It’s Chihiro’s determination and courage when faced with adversity that helps her grow, helps her overcome every obstacle in her way. While she starts out as powerless, she quickly becomes useful to the characters around her. She`s the one that leads the cleaning of a stink spirit at the bathhouse because no one else wants to deal with it, but, even then, she rises to the occasion. This marks a shift for Chihiro. She is no longer only trying to make it through, she`s no longer only a terrified young girl. From this point on, she actively tries to help the people around her. She wants to help Haku that is being hurt and controlled by Yubaba, she wants to help the bathhouse deal with the faceless spirit No Face, she wants to help No Face find purpose and, most of all, she wants to save her parents from being slaughtered as pigs. She doesn’t only want to reach these goals, she does.

In the end, Chihiro saves the day thanks to her ingenuity, her courage and her inner strength: Haku is free of Yubaba, her parents are no longer pigs, No Face has a new home and even Yubaba has become less hateful. She leaves the spirit world with her parents who have no memories of the adventure as a changed girl. She`s no longer the fearful, stubborn and out of place kid. She found, in the spirit world and in all the friends she met there a new confidence. She has become ready to face any change, any challenge life will throw her way because she knows that she can make it through anything and be better for it.

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