Spirited Away (purpose)
The Purpose of the Film, by Hayao Miyazaki
This film is an adventure story, although the characters neither swing weapons around, nor use supernatural powers in battle. It is an adventure story, but its theme is not a confrontation between good and evil. It will be a story of a girl who was thrown into a world where both good and evil exist. She gets trained, learns about friendship and devotion, and survives by using her wisdom. She finds her way out, dodges, and comes back to her old daily life for the time being. However, it is not because evil was destroyed -- just as the world does not disappear, (evil does not disappear). It is because she gained the power to live. Today, the world has become ambigous; but even though it is ambiguous, the world is encroaching and trying to consume (everything). It is the main theme of this film to describe such a world clearly in the form of a fantasy.
Being enclosed, protected, and kept away (from dangers), children cannot help but enlarge their fragile egos in their daily lives where they feel their lives as something dim. Chihiro's skinny limbs and sullen face, which indicate she would not be amused so easily, are a symbol of that. Still, when reality becomes clear and she finds herself in a crisis, her adaptability and endurance will well up within her. She would find an existence in which she can bravely decide and act within herself.
Certainly, many people might simply panic and sink down to the ground. But such people would vanish or quickly be eaten in the situation Chihiro faced. Chihiro is a heroine, because of her power not to let herself be eaten up. She is a heroine, (but) not because she is beautiful or because she has a matchless heart. This is the merit of this film, and this is why it is a film for 10 year old girls.
A word has power. In the world into which Chihiro has wandered, to say a word out of one's mouth has a grave importance. At Yuya, which is ruled by Yu-baaba, if Chihiro says one word like "No" or "I wanna go home," the witch would quickly throw Chihiro out. She would have no choice but to keep aimlessly wandering until she vanishes, or is changed into a chicken to keep laying eggs until she is eaten. In turn, if Chihiro says "I will work here," even the witch cannot ignore her. Today, words are considered very lightly, as something like bubbles. It is just a reflection of reality being empty. It is still true that a word has power. It's just that the world is filled with empty and powerless words.
The act of depriving (a person) of one's name is not just changing how one (person) calls the other. It is a way to rule the other (person) completely. Sen becomes horrified when she realizes that she is losing the memory of her name, Chihiro. And every time she visits her parents at the pigsty, she becomes (more) accustomed to her parents as pigs. In the world of Yu-baaba, you should always live in the danger of being eaten up.
In this difficult world, Chihiro becomes lively. The sullen, listless character would have a surprisingly attractive expression in the end of the film. The essence of the world has not changed a bit. This film will persuade one of the fact that a word is one's will, oneself, and one's power.
It is also the reason why we make a fantasy that takes place in Japan. Even though it is a fairytale, I do not want make it a Western one in which we can find many ways out. This film will probably be looked at as one of those run-of-the-mill other-world stories. But I'd like you to consider is as a direct descendant of "Suzume no Oyado (Sparrows' House)" and "Nezumi no Goten (The Palace of Mice)" in the Japanese folktales. Although they did not use such a phrase as "parallel world," our ancestors have blundered at Sparrows' House or enjoyed a party at The Palace of Mice.
The reason why I made the world of Yu-baaba pseudo-Western is because it is a world filled with Japanese traditional designs, as well as to make it ambiguous whether it is a dream or reality. We just don't know how rich and unique our folk world - from stories, folklore, events, designs, gods to magic - is. Certainly, Kachikachi Yama and Momotaro have lost their power of persuasion. But it is poor imagination to put all the traditional things into a snug folk-like world. Children are losing their roots, being surrounded by high technology and cheap industrial goods. We have to tell them how rich a tradition we have.
By combining traditional designs with a modern story, and putting them in as pieces of colorful mosaic, (I think) the world in the film will have a fresh persuasion. At the same time, (we must) recognize again that we are inhabitants of this island country.
In an era of no borders, people who do not have a place to stand will be treated unseriously. A place is the past and history. A person with no history, a people who have forgotten their past, will vanish like snow, or be turned into chickens to keep laying eggs until they are eaten.
I would like to make it a film in which 10 year old girls can find their true wishes.