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"Spirited Away", why is the mother so cold to Chihiro?

Apr 01, 2021

Nov 28, 2019 22:00

I'm Toshio Okada.

Today we bring you the highlights from the Toshio Okada seminar "13 Mysteries of Reading 'Spirited Away' [Part 1]" delivered on 11/10/2019.


The seventh of the thirteen mysteries of Spirited Away is the mystery of the parents.

(Showing the panel)

[Image] Chihiro and her mother © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM

Take a look at this. When Chihiro complains, "The building behind us is roaring," her mother just says, "It's just the wind making it roar," and turns around without looking at Chihiro's face.

Chihiro is pulling her mother's hand and talking to her, but she is saying, "That's a pleasant place. I should have brought sandwiches from the car," she says to her husband.

In this scene, Chihiro is trying to get her mother's attention all the time, but her mother is having a conversation with Chihiro without seeing her.

But her mother does look her husband in the eye and have a conversation with him. There is too much of a difference between her attitude towards her father and her attitude towards her daughter.

Already, everyone who has seen the film has noticed that "Chihiro's mother is acting strange" in this way.

(Showing the panel)

[Image] Chihiro's father and mother © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM

[Image] Chihiro's mother © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM

This is the mother walking on the rocks of the river. It's such a dangerous place that she can see it even when she's walking by herself. And she's hugging her husband, saying, "Whoa!" and she holds on to her husband.

But to her daughter, she just turns around and says coldly, "Chihiro, be careful."

The reason why she does this is because she unconsciously feels hard on her own daughter for letting her eldest son die.

Of course, she is not consciously aware of this. She knows that it is not her daughter's fault that her son died, and she cares for her daughter.

She understands this, but unconsciously it comes out in her actual attitude, such as "not looking at Chihiro's face" or "the color of her voice is cold".

Haku is Chihiro's dead brother, and her parents are hiding the fact that they lost their first son from her.

That's why this mother is cold to Chihiro.


So, this finally makes sense of the whole film.

Why does the mother clearly show on screen that she is cold to her daughter, but not tell us why?

Why does Haku say, "I've known Chihiro for a long time," but not tell us why?

If Haku is a river god as he said, then there is no way that his figure is visible to Chihiro from the scene of his first appearance.

Gods in this world are invisible to the human eye, and they materialize only after it gets dark at night and they come to a place like downtown.

In other words, Haku is not a god. "He is the Lord of the Kohaku River" is still in the process of becoming one.

In the second half of the limited broadcast, I will define what God is in "Spirited Away".

Haku died for Chihiro, and Chihiro went to apologize to Zeniba on the train with no way back for Haku.

This "ride on a train with no way back" means that she went to the world of death where she couldn't return for Haku's sake.

Here, at last, the theme of "I am alive because of someone else, and I'll live for someone else, too" is complete.

The scene where Chihiro prepares for her own death for Haku's sake, gets on a train with no way back, and runs along something like the Sanzu River (*1) is, as anyone can see, going to the world of death.

*1) Buddhist word. A river that people cross when they die on their way to the underworld.

That is to say, at last, here is a scene where we can say, "I am alive because someone once saved my life. I was not even aware of it. So now I will risk my life for someone else," and the theme comes full circle.

However, this theme, which comes full circle, is not said in the dialogue, but is brought out by Joe Hisaishi's moving music, which makes the structure rather difficult to understand.


In "Night on the Galactic Railroad," the main character, Giovanni, is living like a ghost at first. He listens to his school lessons in a daze.

The reason is that his father's boat, which is a sea otter poaching boat and his father is a fisherman, seems to have had an accident.

Giovanni is so worried that he spends all his time at school in a daze. It was as if he didn't know whether he was alive or dead.

However, when Giovanni rides on the Galactic Railroad with Campanella and hears the story of Campanella dying for others and the crew of the Titanic who didn't dare to live through other people for the sake of others and other children, he finally regains his will to live.

At the end of the story, Giovanni is calmly told by Campanella's father, "Campanella will probably not survive." At the same time, he says, "I met your father. He'll be home soon."

Maybe the fact that Giovanni's father was able to come back alive after the boat accident means that he was able to live thanks to someone else's sacrifice.

As a result, Giovanni understands "living for someone else" and comes back as a lively and bright boy.

This is the whole story of "Night on the Galactic Railroad," though.

It's the same with "Spirited Away".

In the first scene of "Spirited Away," Chihiro is in a state of no-face, not knowing whether she is alive or dead, without appetite, without desire.

It's a story about becoming a human being from a state of no-face, a state of no desire, a state where you don't know what you want to do.

The reason why the three members of Chihiro's family were drawn into the mysterious world in the first place was because "all three of them were in a state where they could not be said to be alive."

The mother can't face her daughter because of her dead eldest son. Maybe the reason why the father started to move out was to give the mother a change of scenery.

Because they don't say anything at all about their work reasons. The reason why they move in the play is not mentioned at all. At least, it's not Chihiro's reason. The reason why the father moves out is probably because the mother has been in a depressed state, and he wants to change her mood.

However, Chihiro is torn apart from her good friends, and she is in despair.

How will the three of them live after the movie is over? I'm going to talk about this at the end of the second half of the video. Actually, Hayao Miyazaki has prepared a big happy ending for this family.

But this great happy ending has a rather confusing structure.

Spirited Away is a film made by Hayao Miyazaki for Hayao Miyazaki, and he loves his characters so much that he prepared a big happy ending so that everyone would be happy.

I'll talk about that in the second half.


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- Romantic Album: Spirited Away, Tokuma Shoten, 2001.

- Spirited Away - Spirited Away", Bessatsu COMIC BOX vol.6, Fusion Ploducto, 2001

- Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli Storyboard Collection 13: Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli, 2001.

- Hayao Miyazaki, The Place Where the Wind Returns: The Trail from Nausicaa to Chihiro, Rocking On, 2002.

- Hayao Miyazaki, The Place Where the Wind Returns: How Film Director Hayao Miyazaki Began and How He Drew the Curtain, Rocking On, 2013.

- Hayao Miyazaki, Starting Point: 1979-1996, Studio Ghibli, 1996.

- Miyazaki Hayao, Turning Point 1997-2008, Iwanami Shoten, 2008.

- Toshio Suzuki, Blowing in the Wind, Chuokoron Shinsha, 2013.

- Mamoru Oshii, Let's talk about Ghibli that no one has talked about, Tokyo News Tsushinsha, 2017.

- Seiji Kano, The Complete Works of Hayao Miyazaki, Film Art Publishing, 2006.

- Kenji Miyazawa, "New Edition: Night on the Galactic Railroad" (Shincho Bunko), Shinchosha, 2012

- Sachiko Kashiwaba, The Mysterious Town beyond the Fog (new edition), Kodansha, 2004.

- Ghibli's Textbook 11: Hoho Kekyo to Narino Yamada-kun" (Bungeishun Ghibli Bunko), Bungeishunju, 2015

- Ghibli's Textbook 12: Spirited Away" (Bungeishun Ghibli Bunko), Bungeishunju, 2016

- Ghibli Textbook 19: The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Bunshun Ghibli Bunko), Bungeishunju, 2018

- The World of Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away: The Power of Fantasy, Eureka August Extra Edition, Seidosha, 2001.

- Newtype, "Spirited Away and the Mysterious Town: A Thorough Guide to Spirited Away," Kadokawa Shoten, 2001.

- Spirited Away: 40 Eyes to Read", Kinejun Mook, Kinema Junpo, 2001.

<Original JP site: https://note.com/otaking/n/n8684bfced9f9>

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