30 December 2015

Finding an Identity Amid Total Spiritual Entrapment

In Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, Chihiro Ogino (Daveigh Chase, the English voice actor) ventures inescapably into the nearby world of spirits—her parents stolen from her and transformed into pigs before her eyes—and strives to take back her family, and her own rediscovered and reformed identity, in the midst of all of the madness.

On her family's move to a new town, while Chihiro wishes only for a level of control within her newly hectic life, her parents insist upon exploring the area, soon destined to fall into a trap of the spirits, by devouring someone else's well prepared meal in a seemingly abandoned amusement park. Left alone with her new mentor, Haku (Jason Marsden, the English voice actor), who pushes her to assimilate into the local bathhouse, the home of the local spirits, Chihiro hopes only to return with her parents.
In the bathhouse, Chihiro quickly realizes, with the help of her friend Lin (Susan Egan, the English voice actor), that the spirit world's only hold over her is her name, as, from her entry onwards, Chihiro is referred to only as Sen. Thus, having lost her home, her family, and her name, Sen must blend with the very elements of the system, in order to escape from them and rediscover her own name.

While fleeing from the bathhouse with Haku, Chihiro is engulfed in her memory of the Kohaku River, letting her grasp Haku's real name, Spirit of the Kohaku River, breaking him from the chains of his imprisonment. To find her bounty at the end of the journey, it is thus clear that Chihiro must only find herself.

Perhaps most powerful, however, is Chihiro's perpetual willingness to expand her own interpersonal relationships, even with the unlikeliest of characters, in a time when all exploration appears to only yield entrapment and regret. Discovering her own identity amid chaos and kidnapping is only half the battle for Chihiro; indeed, appreciating the intricacies of everyone else is ultimately what saves her, bringing her back to the world of humanity a stronger and braver girl.

Chihiro Ogino (Daveigh Chase, the English voice actor) holds onto her friend and mentor, Spirit of the Kohaku River (Jason Marsden, the English voice actor).
Image Courtesy of The Walt Disney Company

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