Journeys are the exploration of new places, experiences we go though, the testing and pushing of our limits to recognise true potential. Journeys can also affect the way we judge others; by the new obstacles they face and the way they react to overcome these situations. These concepts are demonstrated in Hayao Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away. Chihiro, the protagonist of the film, undertakes a journey of maturity. Spirited Away begins showing Chihiro, and her parents relocating, Chihiro is visibly upset and refuses to think of the journey as an adventure, showing her unwillingness.
After getting lost on a side street, they arrive at an artificial building with an ominous tunnel on its front. The building conflicts with the purity of nature as portrayed in this film. Her ambitious father sets the family on their path into the spirit world, through the tunnel. The tunnel leads to an abandoned amusement park, this sense of isolation is symbolic of maturity, we know that as we get older theme parks seem less fun and the emptiness of the place is a reminder of fleeting childhoods.
Chihiro initially did not want to go down this tunnel as she stated “It’s creepy, Daddy. Let’s go back”. We see her as timid and one who submits to authority rather than making her own choices. We also see her unwillingness to accept an adventure into her life. Chihiro has a large respect for rules, when her parents eat at a restaurant, she refuses. This is the first part of her metamorphosis; she doesn’t obey her parents for the first time and decides to make her own choice in life.
Finding her parents have transformed into pigs, the human world transcends into the spirit world. The amusement park is presented by the dark colours; a world of spirits. This portrays the lack of harmony and peace which also enhances fear in Chihiro. She is aided in her journey by Haku, a fellow child who seems to have the sense of coping in this world. Yet he too is on a journey of his own to regain his identity- thus two adventurers, in a world they did not want to enter. A journey they are forced to undertake.
Music in this film is important, describing the moods of the surroundings. The theme song of the movie is light and peaceful, representing the movie and the spirit world perfectly. When Haku was caught taking Chihiro to the bath house, the music changed, so did the mood which reflected how they tried to escape. The music was sudden and intense, like the movements of the characters. Yubaba, the antagonist, rules the spirit world and changes people’s names of those to gain control over them, this shows us how our personal identity reflects and controls us.
By changing our image, we change our life. Yubaba changes Chihiro’s name, to force her to work for her. By doing this, Chihiro forgets her very nature. When Chichiro breaks the spells over herself and Haku, she and her parents are able to return to the human world. Lighting in this is at its brightest when Haku leads her to the edge of the grounds, right where she first entered the new world, showing us she took a circular journey to reach where she was.
But the world is different now – the ocean that was at this location during her adventure had returned to grassy hills like in the beginning. The two kingdoms were one; the spirit world merely existed within the mortal world. The spirit world is a representation of childhood imagination which shows that the journey may have only happened within her head. This leads to the idea that a journey does not need to physically take place for a person to experience new things and discover who they truly are.