This is a story about me, a kid. I was a spirit. I was so young, when I first went to live in the human world. I was so young, I didn’t know what it meant to be alone.

It’s been 20 years since Hayao Miyazaki’s Japanese animated classic, Spirited Away, was first released in Japan. Since then, the film has become a classic, a beloved children’s movie, and a beloved cult classic. The film follows the story of Chihiro, a girl whose family moves to a creepy old house. After accidentally breaking a series of rules that keep the spirits inside of it, Chihiro must venture deeper into the spirit realm in order to rescue her parents.

I don’t really have a lot to say about this title, it’s just that you have probably never seen it. It’s one of those japanese animated classics that has been around since 2005. It’s a pretty good movie, and it gives me a chance to talk about movies I’ve never seen and am probably too old for.

The first time I watched a movie alone, I was 16 years old. It was deliberate on my part. There wasn’t a single date that didn’t show up, and there wasn’t a single buddy that dropped out at the last minute. I recall buying a ticket at the box office, fearful of seeming pitiful. Then I pondered whether anybody would find it odd if I ordered food for myself. My anxiety accompanied me inside the dimly lit theater. I had a weird feeling of growing up as I sat down without my jacket or pocketbook to reserve the next seat over and let strangers bookend the chairs alongside me. There was no fanfare, no crescendo of music, but I had accomplished something significant, and I had done it all by myself. I was OK by the time the lights had completely faded.

 

That’s what’s so ironic about solitude (not loneliness, never loneliness). You’re so preoccupied with other people’s concerns about your isolation that you never seem to see that the only person you should be concerned about is yourself.

 

Looking back a few years, it seems appropriate that the film I saw on that particular day was Spirited Away.

 

In Hayao Miyazaki’s famed coming-of-age fantasy, a young girl named Chihiro finds herself in a strange world of monsters and mayhem after her parents explore a mysterious tunnel in her new town. When her parents break the cardinal rule of new lands (never eat the food!), Chihiro must find her way home. In this adventure that brings her into a strange new world, she encounters a malevolent witch, a spectre of a character aptly named No-Face, and most importantly, the spirit of a river that once saved her in her childhood.

 

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There are many ideas floating around the internet regarding the real meaning of Spirited Away, ranging from prostitution to an adaption of the Odyssey to a reflection on traditional vs contemporary Japan. But, in reality, Spirited Away’s essence (or spirit, if we’re being cheeky) is maturing. Most importantly, it is about the bravery it takes to do it alone. Chihiro receives a lot of assistance along the road, but it’s her independence that gets her through the remainder of the movie. Chihiro riding the spirit train to Zeniba is maybe the most famous moment from the film. Despite the fact that she arrives with the aid of her friends and is accompanied by No-Face, the almost two-minute journey across the ghostly water seems like a meditation on loneliness. You must do it alone in order to mature. There are hands to help you up, but the only way to get there is to confront it head on.

 

The fact that no one from the spirit realm follows Chihiro into the actual world in the end tells a lot. In a conclusion as uncertain as its beginning, she is left staring at the tunnel. So, what exactly happened? What happened during Chihiro’s adventures? Although there is no definitive response, we, the viewer, are aware that Chihiro has matured. She’s not the same girl she was at the start of the movie.

 

It’s been 20 years since Spirited Away was released. There’s a reason the picture has gone on to become a part of the canon of not just cinema, but animated film as a whole, as well as a poster child for Studio Ghibli’s other films about childhood. Spirited Away stands out because it’s about a little girl’s development and what it’s like to have no one to hold your hand but your own.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Spirited Away about growing up?

Spirited Away is about a young girl who is lost in a strange world and must find her way home.

How many years did it take to make Spirited Away?

It took about three years to make Spirited Away.

What is the plot of Spirited Away?

The story follows a young girl named Chihiro, who is moving to a new town with her parents. On the way, they get lost and end up in a strange place called “Sen.” There, they meet Yubaba, the witch of the bathhouse. She forces them to work for her in the bathhouse, but Chihiro is determined to find her parents. She eventually does, and they are turned into pigs. Chihiro must then work for Yubaba in order to free them from the bathhouse.

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