Miyazaki Hayao’s Spirited Away is a moving anime of the maturation of a young girl, Chihiro, as she explores the spirit world. The film has a number of motifs that run through the film. The connection between greed and food are themes that are seen throughout, particularly centering around Chihiro. Throughout the film, Chihiro is portrayed as being a strong source of moral conscience, whether she is discouraging her parents to eat the food in the beginning of the film, or saving the day from the No Face, the spirit that sparked greed in the other spirits. It is through these events, which test her moral fortitude, that we are able to witness the growth of Chihiro.
The theme of greed is particularly noticeable in one of the opening scenes in which Chihiro and her family stumble upon an abandoned restaurant that is abundant with delicious foods. Chihiro’s parents choose to go ahead and eat the food, despite Chihiro’s pleas to wait for someone to come and serve them. Ultimately, their mannerisms become exaggerated as they furiously consume the food on their plates, almost as if they were possessed. Their greed only seems to grow with every bite. Instead of expressing worry for eating the available food, the father simply says “Don’t worry, I have cash and credit cards.” In the end, the father and mother meet an unhappy result, as they are turned into pigs.
In the context of the film, this is an important scene because it sets the table for the rest of the film; however, at the same time, this scene is the climax of Miyazaki Hayao’s commentary of the pitfalls of the modern day man. Whether it was the actions of the father as he recklessly drove up the side of the mountain, his lack of respect for the existing shrines, or his overall cockiness in the opening scenes, Miyazaki uses the father, along with other subtle details to indicate the negative aspects of human society.
Greed is seen in another scene, where the spirit, No Face, enters the bathhouse and creates mass hysteria. He sparks greed in the minds of many of the spirits working there, particularly the frog. Like with her parents, Chihiro is left to “fight” against greed, refusing to accept any of the gold that No Face offers to her. She is the only person (or spirit) who is able to resist the temptation. Meanwhile, the spirits who try the hardest to get No Face’s gold are eaten by No Face himself. In the end, Chihiro’s strong will allows her to pull No Face away from the bathhouse and cure him of his own ails. Despite all of the damage that No Face had done to the bathhouse and the other spirits working there, Chihiro is still able to find the good in No Face. Her strong moral conscience sets her apart from all of the other characters in the film. The gold trinket that he stole from the witch plagues even Haku, who seems to have good intentions. As the film progresses, we see a definite change in Chihiro, as she changes from a timid girl into a confident young woman.