2. Chihiro Passes Her Final Test
Yubaba agrees to release Chihiro from her contract if she passes one final test: figure out which pigs are her parents.
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, for Chihiro to put her new skills to use. Everything she has learned on her journey has led to this moment. But it isn’t what she has learned that helps her in the end. No, Chihiro realizes that Yubaba is trying to trick her, that actually none of these pigs are her parents, because of her intuition. She trusts her gut. She just knows.
Hayao Miyazaki said that Spirited Away is, “…not a story in which the characters grow up, but a story in which they draw on something already inside of them.” This moment exemplifies that. Chihiro was always smart, compassionate, and resilient. She just needed to believe in herself.
1. Chihiro Remembers Haku’s Real Name
“I knew you were good!”
When Chihiro first meets Haku, she asks him how he knew her name. “I’ve known you since you were very small,” he says, simply. This exchange pays off toward the end of the film, just before Chihiro is faced with her final test.
After visiting Yubaba’s much nicer and less-evil sister, Zeniba, Chihiro is riding Haku in his dragon form back to the bathhouse. She suddenly remembers something from a long time ago. She tells Haku that when she was little, she dropped her shoe into the river and fell in trying to get it back, but the water carried her to shore. She tells him his real name is The Kohaku River.
In a stunning animation sequence, Haku transforms from a dragon back into his human form. The score soars. In remembering his real name, that he was once the spirit of the Kohaku River, Chihiro frees Haku from his contract with Yubaba. It’s a full-circle moment, signifying the power of love and redemption. Just as Haku remembers Chihiro’s name, which allows her to hold onto who she is, Chihiro returns the favor, giving Haku the freedom to finally find his way home.
It’s easy to become something you don’t recognize. Easy for the world to turn you into a different version of yourself. A worse version. A monster. We can travel so far from who we really are. But this moment tells us that we are not the sum of our bad parts. Sometimes, all we need is a helping hand, a little compassion, and a friend to show us the way home.
Recommended for you: 10 Best Studio Ghibli Films
Written by Margaret Roarty
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