Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spirited Away: Not just a children’s movie

Having watched Spirited Away, I can safely say that it is one of the more layered and thoughtful children’s films that I have ever seen. It’s entirely possible to take the film at its face value as a young child would – a story of a young girl who must cope with rather strange circumstances in order save her parents. Or, one could see the film as a story highlighting the importance of love and the pitfalls of greed.

Many times throughout the movie, Chihiro is offered, yet refuses, material goods. At the beginning, she refuses to partake in the buffet with her parents. She continually refuses the gold No-Face produces, and she insists on returning the magic Haku stole from Yubaba’s sister. Chihiro is always juxtaposed against the other characters of the film – whenever someone is doing something wrong, Chihiro always steps in and does the right thing. She recognizes that no good can come from an excess of anything- from having too much food, too much gold, and possessing that which belongs to someone else. I read Emmitt’s post and he did a good job of highlighting the concept of materialism in the movie, which I think is an important lesson one may glean from the story. Having too much will do more harm than good.

In addition, like most fairy tales and animated children’s films, the theme of love and friendship is prevalent in the movie. It does not gag us with dripping sweetness but gently reminds us that love/friendship is the strongest kind of magic that exists, able to protect us from harm. Haku’s friendship and guardianship protects Chihiro from the evil clutches of the witch Yubaba and protects her parents in turn. Her friendship helps to free the bounds of servitude placed on him by the witch- by rescuing him in his dragon form and by helping him to remember his name.

I really enjoyed watching the film because I think it went places not typical of most animated films. Perhaps having grown up with so many Disney films, I have a certain expectation of where the story will go in an animated film. In Spirited Away, however, I was completely blind as to where the story would take Chihiro and always anxious for her. I think that’s part of what’s great about the film is that it is not predictable- not that obvious plot line that a children’s movie might usually take.


  1. I agree with the the idea that this film can function as both an entertaining story for children and lesson in important values. That is what makes this film so enjoyable; it has all the funny and cute moments that one would expect from a cartoon, but at the same time there are underlying lessons to be learned. Kaitlin hit most of these lessons in her post but I thought I would add a few that I picked up throughout the movie. The most obvious theme in this movie is the idea of maturity but I'll skip that since it has been exhausted on this blog. The majority of this movie takes place in a fantasy world of spirits, yet the characters and their situations reflect types of people that one would meet in the real world. Yubaba represents that boss or professor who seemingly wants you to always fail. When Chihiro originally meets Lin, she appears to be a person who is grumpy about life as she is stuck in her dead end job (Lin always expresses her desire to get a train ticket to escape). She soon finds her to be a good friend, however. No Face is that person that uses you to get whatever he or she wants. I thought it was interesting to analyze the characters like this because it had to be in the filmmaker's thought process when developing the characters. In this sense I agree with Kaitlin when she said this was not typical of an animated film. It can keep the interest of both adults and children because it satisfies a child's yearning for a fantasy world, while also serving as a representation of an adult's world.

  2. Hey. I like how you connected characters in the movie to types of people one might encounter in real life- particularly Yubaba as a boss or professor who wants you to fail. Yubaba doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities, does she? That part really made me laugh. ;)