When the bizarre Spirited Away becomes ‘normal’

Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away

When I was 15, Spirited Away to me was nothing more than a nightmare-ish animated film and how I hated watching it because it only reminded me of unusual dreams, which I’d rather really be not reminded of.

But fast forward to 23, the film suddenly appeared to be a replica of the society we have today. 8 years later, it started to look a lot like normal to me.

Perhaps this is because 8 years ago, I wasn’t aware how in life, there really are instances when parents unknowingly make bad decisions and then their children will have to figure it all out on their own later on; and that in life, there really are Yubabas who wait for vulnerable souls to take advantage of, and that there are Hakus who will help and will (with all his might) stand up for what is right; and that the “real world” can (sadly) be filled with human frogs—souls that failed to notice how they slowly got eaten by the template of the conventional, with Lins who are not yet human frogs but are already starting to look like one, & with No Face who, when given even just the shortest time under the limelight, can lose himself to greed; and that someone who looks the weirdest, like Kamaji, can actually be the most reliable and the most full of love; and that a seemingly helpless naive can try and win in standing up on his/her own; and that someone who bears an unlikely appearance, like Zeniba (Yubaba’s identical twin), can be truly good and warm inside.

Had I surrendered to the thought that Spirited Away is “just plain weird,” I would have missed the wonderful opportunity to see how two unidentical realms (the Spirited Away universe and the real world) can actually be each other’s reflection in the mirror. And had I chosen to leave the characters alone (because they are strange!), I would never have been able to see how I actually have the ability and the tendency to be a Chihiro, a Haku, a Zeniba, a Kamaji, a Lin, a No Face, a human frog, or even a Yubaba in real life.

Had I shelved Spirited Away as “nonsense and not to be watched again,” I would have completely lost touch with an art that can actually help always keep my morale in check.

Both my hands are forever down to the Hayao Miyazaki for this timeless work of art.


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