Spirited Away review – Xiaotian Chen

The story of Spirited Away is about a journey. When Chihiro seek the way out, she is also on her way of growing up.
There are many brilliant details throughout the film. Among them food plays an important role.
Food comes out in the film at three points: when Chihiro’s parents gorge themselves on the banquet, when Haku gave Chihiro a rice ball, and when No Face eats everything he can.
In this film, Chihiro represents not only a child, but also the innate qualities of mankind – kindness, naivety, honest, etc. In contrast, the bathhouse is like modern society. There are rules – explicit and implicit rules – people have to follow in the society. Chihiro need to have a job and work hard to survive in the society and earn respect. But when people get domesticated to the society, they go far away from what they were. They live to keep their way of living. They become greed of gold, the symbol that keep modern system running. They forget the true appearance of lives. That’s why Haku tells Chihiro never forget who you are. If Chihiro get used to the life in bathhouse, she can never get out of the way of living. At this point, rice ball is like a symbol of past time. As a traditional food of Japan, rice ball arouse Japaneses’ memory of their tradition and the humanity in their culture. Miyazaki hope the film can awake them from the superficial and materialized world.
Chihiro’s parents are another example of socialized man. They think they can have the food because they have credit card and cash. They are obsessed of the modern rules and forgot the innate quality – you cannot eat other’s food without permission, just like you cannot take other’s stuff even you have the money to pay. It’s about respect, and Miyazaki even enlarged it by saying it’s food for god to remind people of those faithful old days. The food here plays a great role to show the conflict.
No Face represents the wickedness of mankind. Not like stereotyped villain, he is not evil. He is a character with blood and humanity. But he is lonely and cannot fit into the society. When he got a chance to enter the bathhouse, his evil side comes out. Because he does not fit into the rule. And his ability can fulfill his desire at this place. He eats everything he can but never got enough. This tells a simple truth – human has unlimited wants, you can never fulfill it. The modern society is a just a set of rules, constraining what every one can get so people can live together peacefully. But if some one by some mean can break the rules, he will get far more than he ought by pillage from others to fulfill his want. Most evilness we regard, like Fascism, falls into this kind. In Spirited Away Miyazaki put a more reasonable figure to show this perspective. Here food is a symbol of wants. It’s the nature desire of every creature so it perfectly fits here.
Overall, we can see the several points food takes place all show Miyazaki’s thought about relationship between humanity and modern society. Food acts as a good role in these places.

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