One of the most successful films from Japan that has reached many hearts worldwide, Spirited Away is the highest grossing film in Japanese history, winning numerous awards for its much-admired story and renowned animation. Created by Hayao Miyazaki and his team at Studio Ghibli in Japan, it was bought worldwide through Walt Disney Pictures and remains to be one of the most popular films to watch, ever. 15 years after its initial release, it still holds its own against present animation, and will be a film remembered for many generations for its beautifully drawn art to its heart-warming tale of a young girl’s journey into the spirit world.
After watching the blissful ending of the film, you may wonder what would’ve happened next, though it's a given that a sequel will most likely never happen. However, that doesn’t stop us from theorizing and making fan fiction with the beloved characters that we came to know and love. One of the most sought after questions from the film is ‘Will Chihiro and Haku ever meet again?’ Miyazaki, of course, won’t tell us this, so we have to come to our own conclusions.
So let’s begin to dive into the theories and reasons to why we think Chihiro and Haku will meet again.
1. Open to interpretation.
The movie has an open ending, which means that there is certainly the possibility of another encounter sometime in the future. Let’s breakdown the actual ending, there is a theory suggesting that a lot of time has passed in the real world since Chihiro and her parents went through the portal. However, this can’t be true as the car’s battery would not have been able to ignite the engine of their Audi Quattro. Taking this into account, the actual time that has passed would have been no longer than around a month. What we think really happened is that the tunnel is able to change appearance because at the beginning it was clean and red, almost as if it was inviting curiosity, or to draw in unsuspecting people. At the end, however it was messy and green, as if it was to keep people away by closing itself off with nature, in some way protecting itself from outsiders.
What we can take from this is that there was some sort of magic involved that controlled the portal opening and that something was luring people inside, especially with all that unattended food. Meaning that the portal cannot stay closed forever, as there is something involving the trapping of humans that needs to take place, whether it’s to turn them into pigs to feed spirits is a whole different and dark theory which we won’t get into.
When they were leaving the spirit world, Haku tells Chihiro not to look back until she leaves the tunnel. This can be interpreted in different ways. Does it mean that Chihiro should just move on and not look back again at her past? Referring to the fact that Chihiro has changed as a person and to not go back to how she was before, helpless and spoiled. Or does it mean that she shouldn’t look back so she can return to the human world safely? We don’t know for sure but it could also refer to the spirit world itself, not to look back at the events that took place, or the spirits that she had to depend on and to just live on with her life using her own strength. Perhaps that’s why she loses her memories of it?
2. Memory loss isn’t permanent.
Some people suggest that Chihiro doesn’t lose her memories because she remembers to not look back when exiting the tunnel. Though it may just be that she loses the memories after crossing the threshold into the human world. One thing that Miyazaki tells us is that Chihiro does in fact lose her memories of the events in the Spirit world as she leaves it. But does she truly forget? Though magic is used to wipe her recently made memories, is it forever? We think not, and here’s why.
One part of the film that you may have forgotten was when Chihiro was at Zeniba’s house. Zeniba said, “Memories are never forgotten, they are just difficult to recall.” which means that she will struggle but eventually remember.
The English version added a subtle hint where Chihiro says to her dad “I think I can handle It.” meaning that she has been through a lot worse, referring back to the spirit world. Think about it. At the beginning of the movie, Chihiro was quite sceptical of moving to a new place, worried and lacked confidence. However, at the end of the movie she has a different outlook on her new life. Even after her changes in development throughout the film, we find it hard to believe that she could change her mind that suddenly without having a reference to base her change in decision on. Considering the fact that no time has passed in her memories. Though this could probably just be a mistake in translation or interpretation, however we’d like to think that this was purposely added to tell us that she will remember as opposed to her having her memories wiped.
3. The promise
Before Chihiro departs, she makes a promise with Haku that they will meet again.
“Will we meet again sometime? Sure we will. Promise? Promise.”
This could be interpreted in two ways, either they will meet again by crossing into one of each other’s worlds or that Chihiro will see Haku later in the afterlife.
Chihiro will most likely try to find a way back to meet Haku, when she eventually remembers. After discovering something that has changed her way of life so drastically, one would be certain that Chihiro will no-doubt try to rediscover the spirit world, especially because of the promise to meet Haku again.
One important theme from the film that Miyazaki encompasses is the use of Shinto motifs as a basis for the film, where they say that every living thing has a spirit. Haku’s real name was Nigihayami Kohakunushi, the spirit of the Kohaku River, which Chihiro fell into and almost drowned when she was little. It was Haku that saved her by carrying her to the bank. However we learn that this river doesn’t exist anymore, we find out that the land was developed into apartments. The Japanese version, however, explains that the river still flows underground. This is why Haku was working for Yubaba, as he was lost and had no way to get home.
Haku is no longer bound to Yubaba because he was released from her contract after recovering his real name, which means that he is able to go where he pleases, even possibly to cross between worlds, in order to fulfil the promise.
4. The hair tie.
"It will protect you. It's made from the threads your friends wove together." - Zeneba
Given by Zeneba and woven together with No-face, Boh and Yubaba’s Bird, friends that she had made in the Spirit World. This item proves that her time in the spirit world was not just a dream. But what is the significance of this hair tie? We believe it is her connection to the spirit world.
Zeneba explains that the hair tie will protect her, meaning that it contains magic. It is here when she mentions the thing about memories never forgotten and that she’ll always remember her friends. It is the key which will help her recall the memories and it’s meant to be a reminder for her that she is not alone and there will be people that will watch over her, or spirits. The glittering at the end when Chihiro returns to the human world further reinforces the fact that the hair tie contains some kind of magic.
5. They’ve met more than once already.
Being in separate worlds means that it will be hard for Chihiro to ever meet Haku again, but who is to say that the worlds cannot cross again? If Chihiro was able to enter the spirit world once, why couldn’t she return there again? Also there is the possibility of Haku entering the human world, as he has done once before.
When Chihiro and her parents left the spirit world, there weren’t any indications of the worlds’ connection severing, which means that it is possible for another portal to open between the two worlds. How the portal opened in the first place is a mystery, but the movie gives us a suggestion that there is in fact more than one portal. Looking back to the beginning of the movie when they first enter the spirit world, Chihiro and her family enter through a tunnel beside two other tunnels. This could mean that there are in fact, other ways into the spirit world.
Haku has been released from his shackles and he is no longer bound to a certain place, which means he is now a free spirit. As Haku is a river spirit, perhaps he can only move where there is water. However that wouldn’t be a problem because rivers are made of water and all water is connected, therefore he’ll somehow find his way to Chihiro one day. After all, he promised.
There is also a rumoured ending that was originally only released in Japan, along with the original release of the DVD before it was translated to English. Rumours suggest that the only way to view this 30-second clip is to see it in a museum located in Japan. Apparently, it shows when Chihiro goes to her new school and finds out that a new student had just transferred, who is Haku. There is no proof that this ending does actually exist, it may have spawned from fan-fiction, plus there are some flaws behind this theory. First off, if Haku is a spirit, how is he able to become a human in the human world? Miyazaki has never made any secret endings in any of his other films, he has neither confirmed nor denied this clip’s existence, so we don't know for sure, but it is highly unlikely.
So there we are. That concludes our list for the reasons why we think Chihiro and Haku will meet again. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think they will meet again? If so, why?
We love to hear your thoughts and theories too, please be sure to leave a comment down below and we look forward to seeing you on the next article!