In light of Spirited Away finally being released in China and a renewed interest in this classic, I decided to re-watch it with the snobbish eye of an analyst (I hate snobs, please kill me if I ever become one) in an effort to materialize subconscious thoughts regarding its meaning that were born in my head since the very first time I watched it. You know the smarty pants feeling when you watch a movie and you notice some patterns with worldwide phenomena but you do not really delve into them and they remain just like premature babies that eventually die because you did not even bother to put them in intensive care or anything? Yes, this is the kind of premature analytic thought I am talking about. (Bah, you spend a whole paragraph on something stupid. Why are you so scattered? Back on track!)
I am Chihiro by the way. I want to be Chihiro. Me is Chihiro. Now, Chihiro represents the naïve child that is still not corrupted by evil or money. Her spirit is free, yet she experiences fear like any kid. She is leaving her town with her parents and they run into these abandoned buildings. She feels there is something wrong with the place but her parents do not listen to her and start to explore it. They enter this city full of food shops but no living being can be seen in the horizon. Her parents decide to eat the delicious food and pay later for it. Chihiro warns them but they do not listen. She is then shocked to discover them turned into pigs. Now, her parents might represent greed and the food represents wealth (Good job! Wow! Such a keen eye for details!).
Night starts sweeping in and weird ghost-like beings appear out of nowhere. Chihiro finds out she is vanishing and losing her substance. Her skin becomes transparent and Haku, this boy she meets in this magical world, gives her an antidote so she will not disappear. Yet, he tells her that in order to survive in this place, she has to find a job. Now the ghost beings might represent adults who eventually lose their magical essence and only care for wealth and position. Chihiro, who is a child, cannot survive in this colorless world and is about to vanish was it not for Haku who saves her. But in order to blend with this adult world she has to work. This represents all those adults that have not lost their inner child and in order not to be judged and not to vanish in this capitalist society, have to find a job to survive.
Another way of looking at it may be that Chihiro is in fact every artist in communism. Their true self, their ideas and their free spirit, are in danger of being eradicated by censorship, yet if they get a job like all the rest, they may live yet another day.
Chihiro goes to work in this bath house where everything seems to take place. Yubaba is the leader of this bath house and she might represent every dictator. She gives Chihiro a job because she is forced due to a contract that she made long time ago to give work to anyone who asks for it. Yubaba makes her sign and gives her another name. She robs Chihiro of her real name and this is like dictators robbing people of their individuality. This bath house might represent every communist country where people live in cooperatives and work. Workers complain that they cannot stand Chihiro’s smell, maybe because artists or children are distinguished from the rest, yet Haku assures them that her smell will go away after three days of staying with them.
Afterwards, this stinky spirit covered in mud enters the bath house and they are forced to receive it and offer it their services. Chihiro prepares the bath but she needs the help of the rest of the people to free the spirit from its mud. Yubaba takes a rope and orders everyone to pull it to free the spirit. This is the same situation when dictators build this idea that community work without much incentive is how the world should be like.
Now, I am a bit confused whether the stinky spirit represents capitalism or what. When they liberate the spirit from its mud, tiny pieces of gold are spread around and this pile of trash gets out of it. Maybe this is how every capitalist country is seen inside a bath house aka a communist country? Yubaba orders everyone to treat the stinky spirit as their guest, because he is very rich. Maybe this is a last effort of every communist country to get some money or some help from capitalist or other communist countries? Maybe how Albania benefited from China or Russia until their relations were severed for good (Oops)? I am not sure on this. Please go ahead and illuminate meh.
Now another spirit enters the bath house and starts to eat people and everything in its sight. People start giving him plenty of food and in exchange he gives them gold. Chihiro is the only one who does not want the gold even though the spirit called No Face wants desperately to give her that. No Face might represent corrupted members of the party of communist countries. Maybe that is why it is called No Face, because they hide under their party but actually have no real ideology and only want to be safe and benefit for themselves?
Now we move on to another scene, where Haku is greatly injured from stealing a seal from Yubaba’s twin sister, Zeniba. Haku is also an artist but one whom Yubaba has succeeded in taking his real name and dreams and has put him under her orders. He has to do her dirty work but he still has some inner individuality and hope left inside since he cares for Chihiro and does not want her to forget herself and her goals. Chihiro succeedes in breaking the controlling spell cast upon him by Yubaba through pure love. We are not talking here of romantic love. Pure love! Only pure non labeled love!
Now Yubaba deeply cares for this gigantic baby whom she adores. This might be the communist ideology hidden behind the figure of this enormous baby. Zeniba, Yubaba’s twin, comes and turns the baby into a mouse and replaces it with another fake gigantic baby. Yubaba does not notice anything when she comes back until Haku tells her. This is the moment when Yubaba notices that her ideology was a fake one and the gold she had received from giving food to No Face was actually dirt (And what meaning can you give to this uh?).
Meanwhile, Chihiro goes to bring the stolen seal back to Zeniba and she takes No Face back with her since she says “Being in the bathhouse makes him angry”. Maybe, being in such an isolated, poor society and with some power turns every spirit into an angry one and a No Face one?
Zeniba turns out to be very kindhearted. She lives in this very simple house by herself and knits and works for herself only. Maybe Zeniba is actually representing individualism since she says she is the complete opposite of her sister?
Haku comes to get Chihiro back and they leave to go to Yubaba. This is where Haku remembers his real name and discovers himself again. He makes a deal with Yubaba to let go of Chihiro and her parents who are turned into pigs. Another point I was unsure of was what did her parents represent in this world beside greed? In the beginning, it seems like the bath house was actually a place to replenish rich ones and get rid of their dirt. Moreover, the ghost like figures wearing cloaks might be capitalist people who think of anyone who uses their services and is not able to climb the career stairs as pigs. Or Chihiro’s parents might be those people who want more than is available in a communist society?
In another perspective, the bath house can also be a place where the low income people work for rich ones and Yubaba is herself a capitalist who wants to serve the rich ones. Actually this also makes sense, just as much as the communist version. Chihiro is again an artist or a child who has to work to survive.
Spirited Away is indeed a world with so many meanings behind its magic and beautiful animation. One can give it any interpretation and I guess either communism or capitalism would work just the same. Most of the details would stay the same since one has to work themselves to death in either of them (I don’t wanna work. Me is sad. Monkey did not become a human because he came down of his tree to work, did he?).
I did not check any article regarding the hidden meanings behind Spirited Away for fear of being influenced without myself knowing (goes to check the articles). Alright, gentlemen and fearedwomen! I read them and it seems the bath house most likely represents a factory or capitalism at its finest (OMG why are you so dumb?) but yet again; it is all about our own meanings. With this said, I hope you did not read this without watching Spirited Away first, because now your imagination is contaminated by my own version of meanings.