Hidden Meaning in Spirited Away (Miyazaki) – Earthling Cinema

Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Spirited Away, the
award-winning masterpiece from legendary animator and confirmed silver fox Ha-yowza Miyazaki. The story opens on a ten-year-old human female
named Chihiro and her parental units as they get lost in the woods. And if a human is lost in the woods and no
one is around to hear it, does it register as a sentient life form? Point is, these schmos accidentally stumble
their way into a magical land filled with delicious food that’s buy-none-get-a-million-free. The parents start stuffing it down their gullets
and lose their kosher status faster than you can say ew. Ugh. AH. OH G- Chihiro does what any child would do in this
situation, and abandons her porky parents to go beef up her resume. “Could you give me a job please? I’m not leaving until you give me a job! Please I just want to work!” After much haranguing, a wrinkly old cronut
named Yubaba hires Chihiro to work in her bathhouse, but changes her name to Sen as
a show of bad faith. “Answer me Sen!” This dreamboat Haku warns Sen not to forget
her real name like he did, or else it can cause a real headache at the DMV. “You can’t remember your name?” “No.” A stink spirit arrives at the bathhouse around
mid-afternoon, same time it usually arrives for me. Sen cleans him successfully, and to thank
her, the spirit bestows upon her the greatest gift of all: a little turd infused with ipecac. Elsewhere, a guy named No-Face pays for a
bunch of food with gold, which is the very foundation of a transactional ecosystem, so
it doesn’t really seem like much of a problem. Why is everyone screaming? Soon Haku gets poisoned, and oh by the way,
he’s also a dragon now sometimes. Sen gives him part of that turd to crunch
on, which makes him barf up a shiny little Egg MacGuffin. While she’s at it, she gives the rest of the
turd to No-Face just to see how much barfing is allowed in a PG movie. Turns out it’s a metric assload. Next, Sen visits Zeniba, Yubaba’s twin sister,
to give back the MacGuffin Haku stole during the breakfast rush. Zeniba informs Sen that it was her love for
Haku that broke some curse or another, which is gross because Sen is 10 and Haku’s gotta
be at least 18. Back off, creep, there are plenty of other
fish in the sea monster. Later, completely unprompted, Sen remembers
a time she fell into the Kohaku River, which they arbitrarily decide means that Haku is
short for Kohaku and he’s a river spirit. So he’s like a thousand and their relationship
is even more inappropriate! Shame on you, Japan. Yubaba gives Sen one last pop quiz where she
has to identify her parents, but Sen wasn’t born yesterday. I mean, technically yes, Sen was born yesterday. But Chihiro wasn’t. “None of these pigs are my mom or dad.” “Oh you got it!” And now that she’s Chihiro again, it’s time
to grab her re-humanized parents and blow this popsicle store. Spirited Away is a coming of age story in
the tradition of classics like Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and James Franco’s The
Wizard of Oz, which similarly portray a young girl transported to a strange place where
she has to do a bunch of stuff. At the start of the film Chihiro is naive
and inexperienced, with a dash of timid and whiny sprinkled in for good measure. “Look Chihiro, there’s your new school.” “It’s gonna stink.” It is only by solving problems and helping
those in need that Chihiro gains the self-reliance and empathy needed to terrorize a giant baby. Underneath this story of renewal and vomiting
lurks a cautionary tale of greed and overconsumption, particularly as it relates to postwar Japan. After the, shall we say, messy end of World
War II, Japan experienced an economic boom — no offense, none taken — that correlated
with a cultural shift towards capitalism and away from traditional values. The Spirit Realm takes the form of an old
amusement park styled after the Meiji period of the late 19th to early 20th century, which
are two of my all-time favorite centuries. Discarded shrines adorn the hillside, symbolizing
the relegation of cultural history in favor of more modern pursuits like leisure and interdimensional
slipstreams. In this economically-driven environment, overconsumption
has dire consequences, much like the type you might find in a pre-nup. Chihiro’s parents snarf down food from the
spirit realm despite its obviously suspicious lack of vegetables. “Don’t worry you’ve got daddy here he’s got credit cards and cash.” In return, they are
transformed into pigs, which were commonly used on Earth as a critical symbol of capitalist
cultures that would bring about the eradication of humankind. The bathhouse furnace is also shaped like
a pig, constantly gobbling resources just to give guests a slightly more temperate bubble
bath. When No-Face shows up overflowing with gold,
Yubaba and her workers milk that proverbial horse for every last fluid ounce. But as the staff showers No-Face in excess,
he can’t help but shower them in stomach acid. The film expresses hope that modern Japan
can find a balance between economic prosperity and spiritual heritage. There is much emphasis on remembering one’s name. “If you forget your name you’ll never find your way home.” And the identity of one’s parents. “Look hard it’s up to you to remember which ones they are.” And even though I forget both of those things
on a daily basis, Mom, they are important in forging a connection to one’s ancestry. The message deepens when we consider the context
of the film. Prior to making Spirited Away, director Hayao
Miyazaki was considering passing the torch to the next wave of artists at Studio Ghibli,
though he reconsidered when he remembered he was the f***ing man. Furthermore, at a time when many animated
films were visualized using computers, Spirited Away was drawn using an elaborate system of
levers and pulleys. And its story conveys the hope that future
generations will flourish and progress, while at the same time respecting the history of
the art form, whatever that was. For
Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Arigato.


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