Spirited Away Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Hayao Miyazaki is a true master and genius of Japanese animation. His films are considered among the best, so they constantly receive a huge number of awards at various animation festivals. It is often compared to Disney, but this is fundamentally wrong, because only Miyazaki’s cartoons can be called alive and real. Disney paintings are as artificial and unnatural as possible. Therefore, Hayao, according to a huge number of fans, is the best animator (and now the director with the screenwriter). His cartoon called “Spirited Away” is a truly cult work that you want to review again and again. In addition to the beautiful visuals, Miyazaki filled the picture with a deep meaning, which is divided into several micro-themes. In this article, we would like to analyze the main messages of the cartoon, because this is the only way to fully understand the picture! Excitement of consumption, overprotection, loss of individuality and other hidden ideas of the anime “Spirited Away”.

The world shown in this anime by the great Hayao Miyazaki is strange, confusing and saturated with subtle symbols. That is why there are a huge number of different interpretations – ranging from political to almost Freudian.

It can be assumed that the meaning of the cartoon “Spirited Away” is how important it is to follow the call of the heart. But for Miyazaki, it’s too easy. There is a hidden meaning in this magical, wise and slightly sad tale.

What is the cartoon about

Brief description of the content of the cartoon. Ten-year-old Chihiro Ogino moves to a new place with her parents. The girl does not want this at all – there, far away, her former school remains, her friends remain, whom she misses greatly.

The family’s path lies through the forest park, in which the amusement park is located. It seems abandoned, but in fact it is not – here you can eat and relax. Hungry, Chihiro’s parents immediately go to a local cafe, order a bunch of different dishes and start eating them. The girl herself is interested in food much less than the place in which she ended up.

And this place is very difficult – after sunset, the frozen life is reborn, and passers-by appear on the deserted streets … So Chihiro and her parents find themselves in a different world inhabited by spirits, ghosts and monsters.

Here the witch Yubaba rules the show, who reports that Chihiro’s parents ate the food intended for her guests – and punishes them by turning them into pigs.

In order to find a way to free himself and his parents and return to the human world, Chihiro goes to work at Yubaba’s bathhouse. But first, she signs a contract with her, and there is an interesting side note in this mise-en-scene.

Yubaba notices that Chihiro is a beautiful name, but now it does not belong to the girl. The witch leaves only one hieroglyph for her – “Sen”. According to an ancient belief, people never told strangers their names – they were afraid that an evil spirit was hiding under a human mask. The root of fear is this: by naming an evil spirit, a person can forget him – and at the same time forget “himself” – his past and present. Such a person is easy to control – and easy to destroy …

At the baths, Chihiro meets a girl named Rin, Kamazi’s grandfather, and a boy named Haku, who becomes her friend. Working for a witch, Chihiro rescues Faceless, the mysterious river spirit, breaks the curse, and has many other strange and wonderful adventures…

The meaning of the cartoon Spirited Away

Growing up and becoming a personality

Chihiro, the main character of the picture, initially appears to us as a lazy and not very good girl. Her behavior leaves much to be desired. You can see it from the first frames. However, as the story progresses, she completely changes for the better. And, of course, this is supported by the author of the animated film.

The girl understands the value of work and the hardships of an adult life. This makes her truly mature morally, which, of course, is reflected in other aspects of her life. The same behavior becomes mature and reserved. The way it should ideally be. And the viewer grows with it, which allows even a small child to realize the norms of morality. Not every animated work can achieve a similar effect.

The real world where there is no pure white and black

Hayao Miyazaki also deliberately presents us with a world where there is no division into black or white. This does not happen by chance, because real life is also multifaceted. We understand that, unlike Disney cartoons, reality cannot be expressed only in white or black. The world is closer to gray. The author understands this, so the characters change and make mistakes. And that’s okay! This theme is intertwined with the theme of growing up, because it is it that is most often filled with mistakes. However, this is not a reason to lose heart, because every mistake can be corrected in the future. This is the moral of the cartoon. The instructive lesson for Chihiro is a great example of correcting your own mistakes!

Greed of mankind

From the very beginning of the story, we see the global problem of human greed. Even Chihiro’s parents succumb to it when they start eating spirit food. Hayao Miyazaki presents this attitude to the world from the worst side. He strongly condemns such actions, which is clear from the first seconds of the cartoon. Only a new generation in the person of Chihiro can fix this. It is to those like her that he gives an important mission to purify human souls from greed and greed.

Environmental problems

Haku, the river deity, appears to us as a dirty creature. Even Yubaba takes him for a garbage dump spirit. However, after washing, we see the purest creation, the most beautiful of which cannot be found in the whole world. Later we learn that before the appearance of people, Haku was always like this, but then his river was covered up, so he became dirty.

Hayao Miyazaki draws the attention of the younger generation to the mistakes of the old. It is important to learn how to correct them, otherwise the beauty of nature will become just a dump, devoid of life.

Too Influential West

If you take a good look at the characters of the cartoon, you can see that only the Yubaba witch has a European type of appearance, besides, her home is furnished in a European way. However, her personality leaves much to be desired. She is greedy, impudent, her workers are poor – all this refers to the fact that the West is destroying the rest of the world, making her poor. Leaving her domain, even the Faceless becomes kinder. Perhaps Miyazaki wanted to emphasize the destructive influence of the West on the whole world and its economy.

The meaning of the ending

In the finale, Chihiro manages to save his parents. At the same time, the girl saves the world around her from the “infection” that is sitting in it. The meaning of the ending of “Spirited Away” is that Chihiro, as a representative of a new generation, eliminates the mistakes of those people who lived on Earth before her. At the same time, Miyazaki hints that time can be turned back. And only pure, selfless love is capable of this.

In the ending, Chihiro saves his parents and the world around him from the “infection” that reigns in him. She personifies the new generation, which will have to eliminate the mistakes of the past inhabitants of our planet. However, the result is worth it – a harmonious and bright world, where absolutely every element of it pleases the eye!

This anime has another ending – fabulous. In the finale, a typically folklore plot unfolds – the witch asks Chihiro to guess who her parents are. The girl replies: “My parents are not pigs,” after which the spell is broken. The explanation for the ending is as follows: Chihiro grew up and stopped looking at the world with “childish” eyes – she understood who she was, found out the value of everything that surrounds her, and clearly outlined her position.

In parallel, other heroes of the picture also changed: Haku remembered his name and ended his slavery with Yubaba. Faceless stopped wandering and misbehaving, and found a home for himself. Yubaba’s son got out of prison, visited the outside world and learned what friendship is. Rin and Kamazi’s grandfather softened and became more kind-hearted. And Yubaba herself turned out to be far from being as evil as they thought about her.

Perhaps these metamorphoses are also a consequence of Chihiro’s growing up – she also looked at them with different eyes.

In the cartoon “Spirited Away” there is still a lot of meaning, which not everyone can see. Perhaps you should watch or re-watch it yourself? Many viewers have stated that re-viewing the picture allows you to open it from a completely different side. Try it!

Meaning of anime

The cartoon “Spirited Away” was originally called “Sen and the mysterious disappearance of Chihiro”. According to Miyazaki, he wanted to create a picture for ten-year-old girls who could find a character in it that they would like the most.

And there are several such heroes in Spirited Away. Firstly, this, of course, is Chihiro, who goes from a capricious and rather spoiled child to an adult, experienced person. Secondly, this is Haku – a true friend who helps the main character gain freedom. Thirdly, this is the mysterious Faceless, capable of terrifying and touching at the same time.

Chihiro’s story is the story of a child who takes important steps towards adulthood. The essence of the cartoon “Spirited Away” is the need to do important things and build character … But this is only the top layer. Miyazaki does not make simple films. “Spirited Away” is a picture not only for children, but also for (and, perhaps, primarily) for adults.

This feature-length anime raises a number of topical issues, skillfully woven into the overall plot: in particular, environmental pollution, overprotection and separation from traditions.

The cartoon echoes another Miyazaki anime – Howl’s Moving Castle.

There is another idea here, which has a deeper subtext, and stretches like a thin thread through the overall story. We are talking about the image of a typical personality of the XXI century.

The image of the baths

The baths where most of the action of the anime “Spirited Away” takes place is a bathing place in Japan, deeply connected with the history of this country. However, the traditional baths, which vividly reflect Japanese culture in general, are run by the witch Yubaba, who symbolizes foreign (particularly European), capitalist influence on the country.

Yubaba maintains the baths on the basis of constant funding from god clients who come to her from all over the world. The meaning of this can be understood if we recall history. Post-war Japan experienced a surge of industrialization and fully merged into the capitalist world. Now it is a highly developed country, perfectly functioning in a globalized world. However, under the influence of a foreign culture, she gradually forgets her own …

Yubaba is the dark side of capitalism. All its activities are based on the principle of absorption, greed and corporate cruelty. Under the influence of the witch, all employees of the bathhouse turn into greedy creatures. It seems interesting that they all look alike – like faceless workers in huge corporations. However, Yubaba and baths are only the environment in which the Personality enters.


The real face of the 21st century is not Chihiro, but he is. This is the portrait of modern man. The meaning of this can be understood if we turn again to history.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Personality was considered a powerful force, suppressed by society. However, with the beginning of the industrial revolutions and with the start of the process of globalization, the face of the Individual gradually changed. In the modern world, where there are almost no borders between countries and it has become possible to freely receive almost any information, a person has become more lonely than ever.

With the development of large corporations, the importance of the individual as such began to decrease greatly. Many feel spiritual emptiness – of course, they did not fail to take advantage of this …

The point is that a philosophy of consumption has been imposed on modern man for many years. At the same time, the desire for self-realization is replaced by the desire to acquire all kinds of benefits. The Age of Personality has been replaced by the Age of the Consumer.

Faceless is an incredibly lonely person, desperately looking for his place in life. Initially, he is drawn to Chihiro, who treats him with great sympathy. But soon he falls under the bad influence of the characters who inhabit the baths. Seeing how the local workers valued gold, he tried to buy their favor. Many modern people do exactly the same – they fill the spiritual emptiness by absorbing everything material, and replace friendship and love with trade and market relations.

The Faceless Man’s greed for food symbolizes the uncontrolled and thoughtless consumption of all kinds of goods and services. But this is not what a person really needs … The constant absorption of food and other creatures by the Faceless leads to the fact that he becomes monstrous. But at the same time, his main desire is still Chihiro – a girl who treated him like a human being.

An interesting mise en scene in which Chihiro gives Faceless a bitter pie. In the analysis of the anime “Spirited Away”, viewers note that catharsis is happening to him (translated from ancient Greek – exaltation, purification and healing. This is empathy with the highest harmony in tragedy, which has educational value). In modern psychology, catharsis is understood as the release of psychic energy, as a result of which anxiety goes away, and a person begins to understand himself better.

For the Faceless, spiritual cleansing is connected with physical cleansing. He literally gets rid of the impurities and the harmful influence of a corrupt society. As a result, his story ends well, and he finds himself in an environment free from negative influences. Under the supervision of Sister Yubaba, this spirit must find its true self – and its place in this world.

So what is the anime about?

The key to Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is this: a person can find peace of mind only where he is free from the constant influence of the absorption philosophy.

It does not matter whether it will be a physical body or a spiritual state: the main thing to remember is that in our vast world a person still remains a Personality – a full-fledged and unique one. To continue to be such, you just need to stop feeding the consumer in yourself.

Spirited Away Revealed: The Real Mythology & Folklore Explained!

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