Latimer: On Christmas Day, Spirited Away popped up on my television screen like the ghost of Christmas past. I paused in my chocolate-coma induced mindless channel hopping and smiled. It had been a long time since I saw Chihiro and Kohaku. Then I frowned remembering my fan-girl grudge against this movie.
It was the start of the movie and despite my grudge (which will become apparent), I decided this would be a nice movie to sit down and watch. On the first break, I went out to the kitchen to make some tea and about 30 minutes passed by – the Christmas Day time vortex appeared. It’s the weirdest day of the year where time speeds up; when even getting some tea manages to turn into twelve other things that zap all the time away.
I never got back to Spirited Away that day. But it popped up again recently, urging me to confront my grudge.
Jumping briefly into the ‘way-back machine’ of nostalgia, I remember when this movie came out (13 years ago this year). Spirited Away was the first anime I’d seen that had a proper Japanese feel to it; from the moment Chihiro and her family step into the spirit world town, you get immersed in the Japanese-ness of it all, the food, the mythology (radish spirit?! Really?! That’s cool…!)
Spirited Away was also the first anime I saw subbed (it was an extra on the DVD). I was a fool and turned up my nose and stuck with the English dubbed version at that point though (damn fool Latimer!).
I love the feel of Spirited Away, the view into Japanese culture and mythology.
The animation is wonderful too. There’s the wonderful, beauiful moment where Chihiro is crying, falling through the air with Kohaku, and her tears are breaking off the little mouse and bird.
The story between Kohaku and Chihiro is so sweet and lovely… and well, that’s where my ‘grudge’ comes in….I always have this moment of sighing sadly at the end, when Chihiro leaves Kohaku…. I am a fan-girl, so of course I would be frowning at this!
The ending is a bit ambiguous; you can read what you like into it. Hayao Miyazaki (the creator of Spirited Away) said that Chihiro has lost her memories after leaving the spirit world.
This time, I watched it I came to my own conclusion (after, what 10 years or so? ha). When Chihiro leaves Kohaku, she asks, ‘will we meet again?’ and he promises that they will. And then she’s gone. I block out having read once that there’s one way of looking at this; Kohaku is a spirit and so, Chihiro will meet him again when she dies and becomes a spirit…
Okay, that’s too sad, so this is the way I choose to look at it! Kohaku also says in the subbed version that, ‘I’ll go back to my world’ – which means that the spirit world might not be his world after all. He saved Chihiro when she fell into the river when she was a child, so to me, it means he’s going back to being a river god – and where are the rivers – in Chihiro’s world (if he saved her before in her own world, then that’s the world he belongs in).
As to memory loss… hmm, well she still has her magical hair tie in the end (which holds ‘everyone’s feelings’) – so I’m not worried about that 🙂 Thinking of this as the ending makes this ending nicer to me after all these years; I think I’m letting go of my grudge at last!
Ah, ambiguous endings – are they a pain or a pleasure?