Mar 16, 2021
14 mins read
What is Haku's true identity? A complete explanation of "Spirited Away," which is both moving and scary.
Nov 27, 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 sixth of the 13 mysteries of "Spirited Away" is "The Mystery of Haku".
[Image] Chihiro hugging Haku © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM
Here is "Chihiro hugging Haku, who came back covered in blood".
To begin with, what kind of existence is Haku designed to be? Not thematically, but as a structure in the story, how he is designed to be a bad boy as seen from a girl's point of view.
A pure boy is ordered by a powerful adult to do bad things in the outside world, and comes home covered in blood. This is the hero and boyfriend setting in Shoujo manga, "He's like that, he's scary to everyone around him, but he's kind to only me."
I once read a Shoujo manga called "Hot Road" in the Showa era, and it was just like that. I'm sure "Banana Fish" is like that, too.
There is a scene where this Haku says to Chihiro, "I've been watching you all my life."
"How do you know my name?" Chihiro asks. "I've known it since you were little," he replies.
This is the scene from earlier, where Haku gives Chihiro the rice ball. In this scene, Haku can't remember his own name. It's because Yubaba has taken his name away from him.
Haku can't even remember his own name, but he says, "But it's strange. I remembered Chihiro."
If you follow the storyline as it is written, Haku is the guardian god of the Kohaku River, and he saved Chihiro from drowning when she was little.
But why would such an incident be enough for him to "know you since you were little"? The line, "I forgot my own name, but I only remembered yours," doesn't add up.
Other than that, seeing Chihiro's concern for Haku who collapsed, Kamaji says, "It's love."
This is also too different from the previous rules of Miyazaki's anime. Even if there were romantic feelings between the main characters, they don't say "it's love" in a very clear way.
So why did he say it so clearly?
There was also the issue of the mysterious lyrics. When Hayao Miyazaki made "Spirited Away", he sent the image lyrics to Joe Hisaishi, who was in charge of the music.
[Image] Image lyrics
The poem is called "In the River of That Day". If you read the whole thing, it goes like this.
> "In the River of That Day"
> From the sunny backyard, through a forgotten wooden door, along a path shaded by a hedge
> I'm the little girl running from the other side
> Soaking wet and crying, we pass each other
> Following the footprints in the sandpit, further and further
> To the river that's now buried
> The water plants among the garbage are swaying
> In that small river, I met you
> My shoes are slowly flowing
> In a small whirlpool and disappear
> The dust that covers my heart will clear
> The dust that covers my heart clears away
> My hands touch the air
> My feet catch the ground's bounce
> I live for someone else
> Someone who lived for me
> I went to the river that day
> I went to your river.
So these are the lyrics.
"I'm coming home soaking wet", "my shoes are flowing slowly", "someone lived for me." These are strange lyrics that seem to want to say something.
Although the lyrics were not adopted for the main story after all.
What is even stranger is the scene where "Chihiro remembers her past".
It's really the last scene of the story, where she rides on top of Haku, who has taken the form of a dragon, and flies with him. She goes to see Zeniba, who forgives Haku, and flies in the sky on the white dragon, which is Haku's incarnation. This is the most exciting part of the drama.
Here, Chihiro suddenly remembers.
(Showing the panel)
[Image] Hand reaching for water © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM
It's a scene like this, where a hand reaches into the water.
However, the size of the splash is too big to be "a shoe fell into the river and she tried to pick it up", isn't it?
Then, I wonder if it's the spray from Chihiro's fall, but it's not, because the spray appears even before her hand reaches out.
It looks like the hand is reaching toward the splash when something big falls into the river.
To make this clear, let's look at the storyboard for this scene.
(Showing the panel)
[Image] Storyboard of a hand
If you look at the storyboard, you'll see that it depicts the same thing that's shown on the actual screen.
What is noteworthy here is the description drawn on the storyboard. It says, "A child's hand stretches out quickly."
The reason why it says "a child's hand" is so that it doesn't say "Chihiro's hand".
In other words, it's not Chihiro who is reaching out her hand.
That's because he doesn't want to reveal who it is.
He wants to depict a situation where someone's hand is reaching out and trying to save the person who fell into the water.
Next is the scene where Chihiro recalls the memory of that time.
(Showing the panel)
[Image] Chihiro in the water © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM
Here, look at Chihiro's shoulders. Her face and shoulders are the same color. In other words, she is naked.
The reason why Chihiro was naked in her memory is because she was naked when she fell into the river as a child.
Some children often play in the river in just their underwear, right? The same thing happened to Chihiro when she fell into the river, and she was actually half naked.
However, when the child is reaching for something in the water, you can see the sleeve of his T-shirt.
Strange, isn't it? A child wearing a T-shirt is reaching for something. When he fell into the river as a child, Chihiro was naked on top. It's a contradiction.
So what exactly is this trying to depict?
As I mentioned last time, Hayao Miyazaki said this in an interview about "Spirited Away".
> "I've been thinking that I have to do 'Night on the Galactic Railroad' someday."
> "I think I've achieved that this time."
> "The theme is the fact that when you are alive, it is because someone has kept you alive."
That's what he wants to say.
He says it this way.
That's really what he's saying. In the pamphlet of the film, it is said that "someone kept me alive.
However, if you only follow the story of the animation of Spirited Away, it's not clear why Hayao Miyazaki emphasizes this over and over again.
There are a lot of research books on "Spirited Away" out there, but of course there are many people who say that "Night on the Galactic Railroad" is an homage to the Unabara Electric Railway scene, but I can't find many people who say that it is a thematic part of the film.
The reason for this is that everyone is trying to understand "Spirited Away" from the story or, more importantly, from the dialogues.
But Hayao Miyazaki is an artist who tells his story through pictures.
(Showing a panel)
[Image] Two Houses © 2001 Studio Ghibli/NDDTM © Asahi Shimbun/TV Asahi/KADOKAWA/Asmic Ace
For example, take a look at this. The top picture and the bottom picture look almost identical. This way, there is only one house standing. In the upper picture, it is built in the water. In the lower picture, it stands on a hill.
The upper picture is the scene of the Unabara Electric Railway in "Spirited Away". Below is the scene from the animated version of "Night on the Galactic Railroad" where everyone is about to go to the afterlife.
As you can see when you look at them side by side, they are almost identical in composition. This is one of the ways Hayao Miyazaki respected Night on the Galactic Railroad. So he intentionally used the same composition.
In "Night on the Galactic Railroad", the main character Giovanni is sitting alone on a hill on the night of the festival of stars.
In the next scene, Giovanni is on the Galactic Railroad before he knows it. And somehow, his best friend Campanella is in front of him, soaking wet.
(Showing a panel)
[Image] Campanella ©The Asahi Shimbun/TV Asahi/KADOKAWA/Asmik Ace
When Campanella wipes his shoulder with his handkerchief, many drops of water fall.
Giovanni wonders, "Why is he wet? But he soon becomes happy and says, "Campanella, we'll always be together." But then Campanella just smiles sadly.
As the film progresses, three characters come on board.
[Image] The three characters ©The Asahi Shimbun/TV Asahi/KADOKAWA/Asmik Ace
In the anime version of "Night on the Galactic Railroad," almost all the characters are portrayed as cats, but these three are the only exceptions, and they appear in human form, which makes me a little nervous.
Here are the three characters, the younger brother, the older sister, and their tutor. This brother, from the beginning, is not wearing one of his shoes, which really makes me nervous.
[Image] Brother with water on his head ©The Asahi Shimbun/TV Asahi/KADOKAWA/Asmic Ace
An older sister comes in with a younger brother who is not wearing shoes. This brother's head is full of water beads, so the sister gently wipes them off.
So these three people are the people who were on the Titanic. The ship they were on hit an iceberg and had a terrible accident, sinking everyone into the water.
This is the only scene in the film where human characters appear, so when I watch it, I get really nervous and think, "This atmosphere is scary."
The tutor talks about the accident that happened to them in a very calm and gentle voice.
> I thought about this as I pulled these kids by the hand and forced them past the kids in line for the lifeboats.
>Is this really going to make these kids happy?
> I wondered if it was my duty to take the blame alone and let them live.
>As I passed the children in line and approached the boat, I saw a mother crying with only her child in the boat, and many other parents just like her. I started to not care about these things anymore and hugged them tightly on the sinking boat.
There is a scene where he tells the story slowly like this.
While the tutor is telling this story, the older sister wipes the younger brother's wet hair and helps him put on the shoes she found from somewhere.
This is the essence of Kenji Miyazawa who wrote "Yodaka no Hoshi". It's about happiness for other people based on self-sacrifice.
This is a theme that Hayao Miyazaki had been wanting to depict for a long time.
That's why the poem "In the River of That Day" came up.
The theme of "my shoes flowing slowly," "disappearing in a small whirlpool," and "someone who lived for me."
That's what he was actually trying to do.
In Night on the Galactic Railroad, the tutor says, "But it's all going to be alright; once we get to Southern Cross, all the pain will be gone," and the three of them get off at the Southern Cross station.
[Image] Southern Cross ©The Asahi Shimbun/TV Asahi/KADOKAWA/Asmik Ace
This Southern Cross station is a place where a huge cross stands far beyond the horizon, and there are endless lines of worshippers facing it.
In the midst of such a line of cats, these three, the tutor, the elder sister, and the younger brother, also dressed like worshippers, walk all the way.
After passing the Coalsack station, Campanella says to Giovanni, "I can't go with you anymore." And then he goes straight to the back of the car and disappears.
In fact, Campanella had saved a classmate named Zanelli who had fallen into the river and drowned. That's why Campanella, his tutors, and the other three were all wet.
Campanella sacrificed his own life to save his friend.
Let me go back to the story of "Spirited Away".
Someone's hand is reaching towards the splash of water where something has fallen. On the storyboard, it says only "child's hand".
Then you wonder if this is Chihiro's hand, but it's not. Chihiro is half naked at this moment. A child's hand is reaching out to save Chihiro, who is half naked.
In other words, there must be a child wearing a T-shirt who reached out to the half-naked Chihiro and saved her.
Who is that? Um, this is the main part of the first half of this discussion.
When Chihiro says, "How do you know my name?", Haku says, "I've known it since you were little."
Why does Haku know Chihiro from a young age, even though he can't remember his own name? It's because Haku is Chihiro's dead brother.
That day, Chihiro didn't lose her shoes in the river, she fell into the river.
And her brother pulled her hand to save her, but instead, he was swept away and never came back.
Because he gave his life for others, he was able to become a god in this river.
That is the story.
Chihiro doesn't remember the events of the day. She says, "I don't remember. I heard it from my mother."
In other words, "I shed my shoes" is just a testimony that Chihiro heard, and she doesn't remember the incident itself.
Her mother never told Chihiro that her brother was there or that he died because of her. She only told her that she almost drowned in the river when she was a child.
That's why she doesn't remember it. Haku said, "I've known you since you were a child. It's strange. I remembered Chihiro."
Kamaji assures that this is the power of love, because this is brother-sister love.
Haku probably doesn't want to hurt Chihiro, so even if he remembers this, he will never tell her, and neither will Kamaji. Or maybe Haku himself doesn't even realize it.
On the line, it says "Haku's river has been buried." This word "buried" also implies death, as in "buried in the ground." As a metaphor for a funeral or a corpse, the word "buried" is used to describe a river that has been buried and is no longer visible.
But Haku isn't a complete god yet. Because Chihiro can see him.
If it were a real God, he would not be able to be seen until night time, when the lights are on and he is close to Aburaya. Haku is not a complete god yet.
Spirited Away is a story about how Haku becomes a complete god in the end.
To talk about this, the free broadcast will continue. At the end of the free program, I would like to talk about the "mystery of parents".
(Witten by Toshio Okada)
<Original JP site: https://note.com/otaking/n/n7aadd59a7743>