Gone with the Food

Miyazaki Hayao’s animated film Spirited Away introduces a whole new realm of adventure and way of life. Food is not only a prop within the movie but has a very important role; almost like food is its own character. Miyazaki uses the food as a tool to bring out peoples true colors. Like in Alice in wonderland, food has many different effects. Depending on what Alice would eat she would grow, shrink, or even stretch! In Spirited Away, food is also plays a big role in transforming people. Through the food, characters through out the film transform into their true selves.

In the very beginning of the film the audience is introduced to Chihiro, a cute little girl, and her parents on a road trip moving from one town to the next. When a random, deserted town in the forest interrupts their road trip, the family begins to explore what they think appears to be a vacant amusement park. Chihiro knows there is something wrong about this situation and looks to her parents for protection. However, her parents are very selfish and do not seem to be concerned with Chihiro’s needs. While they continue to explore the parents soon pick up on a smell and scavenge for the source of the food.  As soon as the family finds the food they become even more selfish and ill mannered. They act as if they are pigs and inevitably magically get turned into the selfish creatures they truly are.

Food serves a much different purpose for Chihiro than her selfish parents. The most important thing to Chihiro is to survive the realm of the gods and escape back into the human world. Chihiro eats food in order to ensure her survival. Haku, Chihiro’s caretaker, offers her a berry in order for her not to disappear forever and continue her journey trying to escape. Another instance when she eats is when Haku again offers her rice buns as fuel to keep her going. Not only is food used in a social setting we are reminded that food is a necessity and we cannot function with out it. In this case the food turns Chihiro into a stronger version of herself.

Another aspect food brings out of characters working in the bathhouse is there need to hoard anything they can find. Yubaba, boss of the bathhouse, signs her employees’ lives away. Because everything is taken away from them the workers are greedy to have anything they can get their hands on. An example of this is Chihiro’s and Lin’s encounter with the frog. While sneaking around Chihiro and Lin are almost caught by one of the frogmen. By diverting him away Lin bribes him with the finest chocolate lizard to go away. As soon as he sees the treat the frogman transforms from being intimidating to the desperate creature he truly is. Begging and pleading for the treat you can see the desperateness food brings out of the worker.

Food can bring out the best and the worst out of people. It can be used as encouragement to keep going strong like Chihiro, as gluttony like her parents, and a sign of neediness like the frog employee. What would the food in Spirited Away bring out in you?


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