How Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away (2001) Taps Into Our Inner Child

How Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away (2001) Taps Into Our Inner Child

Spirited Away is an animated film created by Hayao Miyazaki. It was released in July 2001 by Studio Ghibli. As a visual masterpiece, this story is nothing short of a captivating plot. Miyazaki’s work inspired me to write about how Spirited Away represents our inner child. Our “inner child” is a person’s childlike aspects. We’ve always heard of the phrase ‘Embrace your inner child’ but what does it mean? Maybe Spirited Away’s, Chihiro can help us understand a little.

Chihiro’s Spirit

The story starts with Chihiro Ogino and her parents driving into a rural town. Chihiro is saddened by her migration far away from her friends and her school. She seems a little frustrated and openly vexes her opinion. Her little tantrums remind us of the tantrums that we, as adults, throw around when something doesn’t go our way. As they drive further, they take a path that leads to an abandoned amusement park.

kaonashi and chihiro with a sea in the background
Spirited Away

On the way, she seems observant and curious about the things she sees around her, unlike her parents. She is also intuitive as she feels like they are lost in the forest. As adults, I think we lose that sense of wonderment and curiosity almost like we are robots, due to the many issues that weigh us down.

As the story progresses, Chihiro meets Haku, her soulmate, who helps her find her way into the park, which is a resort for spirits to take a break from the earthly realm.

With Haku’s much-needed help, she is forced to work in the resort to free herself and her parents from the park. She seems determined to work and curious. While working there, she meets suspicious Yubaba, who manages the resort. She has a sort of uncanny wickedness to her, as a witch, and traps her.

As we then see, Chihiro is faced with many obstacles and problems, and like any child, she is scared but set on facing evil. It often reminds me of myself, and how obstacles and problems cause my inner child to awaken. As children tend to learn and embrace new emotions and face them with vigor, it is something to look up to.

Chihiro learns from others around her. She learns how to deal with the spirits, though lifeless, seem almost eccentric and human-like. She learns to deal with the harsh reality, which is ironic as she seems to be in a dream-like world. Spirits are something that some believe in and some do not.

Facing them seems even more overwhelming. Chihiro, with courage blends into the working environment of the spirit realm. Yubaba, with her intentions clear as day, works for the profit and the rewards, unlike her sister, Zeniba. Throughout her time working in the resort, she faces criticism and annoyance from those around her, because of No Face. No Face is a lonely spirit who seeks to be friends with Chihiro.

The Spirits of Spirited Away

Further, into the story, Haku gets into trouble with Yubaba, who is enraged and wants to kill Haku. Chihiro, who is in love with Haku, takes the help of Zeniba and No Face and saves Haku. Toward the end, she manages to save Haku and free herself and her parents. Throughout the film, I was constantly reminded of my inner child, through the different characters who possess human-like traits along with supernatural power.

The plot subtly shows real-life societal circumstances through an intriguing story. Chihiro’s personality especially stuck with me to focus on the “inner child” and embrace it. It meant healing and facing it. To embrace my inner child, meant to be exactly like Chihiro, a determined, curious although temperamental, courageous, and accepting individual.

She had a goal and she focused on it with the help of others, which also tells me to not be afraid to ask for help. She is not egotistical which, many of us are, but her sense of justice brought me to realize that one can be forgiving and brave like her.