Spirited Away Review & Characters – Trying to Find a Way Back Home

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Trying to Find a Way Back Home

  • Episodes : Movie
  • Genre : Adventure, Drama, Supernatural
  • Airing Date : Jul 20, 2001
  • Producers : Studio Ghibli

Spirited Away Preview / Plot (No Spoilers)

No other movie depicts the feeling of being lost and alone in a hostile environment as good as Spirited Away. Separated from her parents and alone in a parallel world Chihiro has to find her family and get back home.

With earnings of ¥30.4 billion Spirited Away is the highest-grossing film in Japanese history. But it’s not only a Japanese phenomenon. Spirited Away was well accepted all over the world and managed to capture the hearts of viewers from different cultures. Critics and movie lovers agree: Spirited Away is a timeless classic and a must-watch for everyone.

But what’s the secret behind its great success and what makes Spirited Away so special? Allow me to introduce you to Chihiro’s world and explain the mystery behind its vast achievements. Enjoy!

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What is Spirited Away Like? This Anime is for people like what?

Spirited Away is one of those few movies that almost everyone can enjoy. The main strength of Studio Ghibli movies is their versatility, so it’s hard to think of someone who cannot relate to them at least to some extent. They are not only aimed at children but grown-ups as well. Of course you can enjoy Spirited Away as a young child, like I am sure many of you did, but there’s so much more to discover than just Chihiro’s journey.

The story is surprisingly deep and can move young and old, men and women. Studio Ghibli movies are timeless classics that can be watched multiple times without ever getting boring. So if you haven’t watched it yourself or know someone who hasn’t seen it yet sit down together and give Spirited Away a try.

What's so appealing about this piece of work.

Trying to sum up the appeal of Spirited Away in a few sentences is as impossible as summing up the special charm of every other creation of genius Hayao Miyazaki.

Spirited Away shows the struggles of getting lost, not only in a foreign world but also in life. There is so much symbolism and so many metaphors in Spirited Away that one can watch it numerous times and still find something new with each view. That’s what’s really special about Spirited Away in my eyes: the story changes with you depending on where you stand in your life. Sometimes it’s an uplifting story of a girl that goes on an adventure and sometimes it’s a depiction of the struggle of finding your way back home.

Spirited Away Officital Trailer

Spirited Away Main Characters List


spirited away Chihiro

Voice Actor :Hiiragi Rumi

Chihiro is the heroine of Spirited Away and also one of the most charming child heroes out there. She’s an only child and thus has a strong connection with her parents. At the beginning of the story you can see the family moving into a new town much to Chihiro’s dislike.

Even though she’s only ten years old and understandingly scared, she still manages to find her way around the Spirit Realm. She’s a kind-hearted girl that doesn’t want to hurt anyone on her struggle of finding a way back home. Once she starts working in Yubaba’s bathhouse she has to change her real name into Sen.


spirited away Haku

Voice Actor :Irino Miyu

Haku is Chihiro’s first friend and supporter in the universe she was thrown into. His appearance might be cold and emotionless at first, but as the story progresses it gets more and more obvious that he doesn’t hold any bad intentions.

Even though he works for the witch Yubaba he doesn’t support her and her selfish goals. He might look human but he’s actually a River Spirit and has the ability to shapeshift into a silver dragon. As such, he tries to help Chihiro as much as he can and to reunite her with her parents.


spirited away Yubaba

Voice Actor :Natsuki Mari

Yubaba could be seen as Chihiro’s antagonist. She’s the owner of the bathhouse and forces all her employees, including Chihiro, to sign a contract that binds them to their job and changes their names. She’s a powerful witch and is able to turn into a black bird if she wants to.

Yubaba is a greedy woman that’s only concerned about her own profit and how much money she can earn with the bathhouse. The only affection she ever shows is towards Boh, a giant baby that lives together with her.

Contains Spoilers

Spirited Away Review / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi Review

Now, let’s get down to business. What are my thoughts on Spirited Away as someone who has watched it more than just a few times?

Well, obviously I like the movie to say the least. Why else would I sit down and watch it again and again at multiple points in my life? So let me talk about a few of the things that make Spirited Away really stand out in my eyes and also some hidden meanings of the story that have been floating around the Internet for some time now.

Let me start off by appreciating the great soundtrack. Composer is Joe Hisaishi who has been working together with Studio Ghibli for quite some time now, creating the soundtracks to My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and many others. So it comes as no surprise that each song is breathtakingly beautiful. As expected from Studio Ghibli, the music fits the images of the movie perfectly. The scenes draw you in and show you every side of the Spirit Realm.

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I guess it comes as no surprise when I say that I really love Spirited Away. It has a great storyline as well as memorable characters. Their designs are outstanding, starting from the witch Yubaba up to the figure of No-Face. Then again, Miyazaki also understood when to restrain himself; heroine Chihiro is a plain girl with a simple haircut and boring clothes. She doesn’t have any outstanding or crazy features and this character design really fits the story. You believe that she is a normal ten year old girl that gets lost in a foreign world.

Also, you can never be sure of what’s about to happen next. That’s the best part about a story set in a mythical world. Chihiro has to understand that there are no rules and that she has to adapt to every new situation she encounters. There are so many aspects to Spirited Away that it’s hard to cover all of them. Let me just say that there are a lot of different elements that still fit together and interact perfectly to create one beautiful movie.

What most of you are interested in I guess is the hidden meaning behind Chihiro’s adventure. What I am talking about is the rumor that Spirited Away is actually a story about child prostitution.

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According to several sources the story of Chihiro depicts the state of prostitution in Edo Japan. In this time, bathhouses were not only places where one would go to relax in steaming water but also to buy certain services from the women working there. Another clue is the fact that Chihiro had to change her name once she started working under Yubaba. Prostitutes were known to work under different names to protect their identities. Also, if you know a little bit more about Japanese mythology you will notice that all the spirits and gods coming to the bathhouse are actually Otokogami or male deities.

This gives No-face, a pretty popular character, a whole new meaning. Do you remember how he kept on trying to give Chihiro bath tokens and gold? You could say that he got a little bit more than just interested in Chihiro and tried to buy her.

You might think about this what you want, but Miyazaki himself admitted that this is the main thought behind Spirited Away. Studio Ghibli is known for creating movies that not only appeal to younger audiences but also show some darker themes for older viewers. I am sorry if this ruins your childhood, but in my eyes this fact makes the movie even deeper and even more meaningful.

1. Spirit Realm

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The Spirit Realm or Spirit World is the parallel universe in which Chihiro and her parents get lost. It could be seen as a mirror image of the human world, only with spirits and gods living in it. Unlike Chihiro’s world most of them appear after dark so all of their activities happen during the night. The Spirit Realm is a peaceful world with lots of nature and traditional Japanese architecture. The only connection between the two worlds shown in the movie is the tunnel that Chihiro and her parents walk through.

2. Sootballs

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These black round creatures can actually be found in a number of Miyazaki’s movies, most obviously in My Neighbor Totoro. They are mostly friendly beings that help out in the boiler room of the bathhouse. Even though they seem to not have vast mental capacities, they are able to understand human language and to take orders given to them.

3. The Bathhouse

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Most of Chihiro’s life in the Spirit World is revolving around the bathhouse. She starts working there mainly because Haku tells her to and in order to stay close to him. It’s a traditionally Japanese looking building with multiple floors where spirits gather in order to enjoy a nice hot bath. It’s usually buzzing with customers and employees running around serving them. Using bath tokens they can request several special herbal baths.

Coming back to my initial question, I think it’s clearer now what makes Spirited Away so special. It discusses universal themes and issues that can be understood by almost everyone. Also, it features characters that act like real humans; Chihiro is not a fearless heroine but a little girl that has to keep moving forward even though she’s scared. But most importantly you can see the love that Miyazaki put into every little detail. Of course, there are many people that enjoy his earliest creations the most, but no one can deny that Spirited Away is a timeless masterpiece.

What are your thoughts on Spirited Away and also some of the hidden meanings behind the story? Feel free to leave your opinion in the comment section down below.

Cornelia Wagner


Author: Cornelia Wagner

Coffee enthusiast, world traveler and writer at heart. Left Europe to live and study in the insanity called Tokyo.

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