Spirited away: respect for intangibles

When analyzing main themes of Hayao Miyazaki’s works, it is always important to consider Japanese traditional virtue, like as Juzo Itami, who is a director of Tampopo. The virtue includes many elements: respecting intangible stuff as a divine revelation, humbleness, nature as incarnation of gods and so on. However, the virtue has been getting ignored or lost recently, as time goes by. Instead, Japanese have gotten to believe only in money, goods, something tangible. Adults in this movie, Chihiro’s parents and Yubaba, represent this movement, while children, Chihiro, Haku, are not completely influenced by that. This contrast is emphasized over and over in many scenes. Through whole movie, actually whole his works, Miyazaki tries to convey importance to remember Japanese traditional but lost virtue. Being conscious about this contrast leads to understand why Chihiro’s parents were transformed to pigs by Yubaba.
It is obvious that Chihiro’s parents are representatives of present Japanese who embrace a value on money, since they are rich and arrogant. They have an imported foreign car, which has a handle on left side – normal car made in Japan has it on right side – and large accessories.

imported car – symbol of richness


Besides, they are confident they can pay for the foods even though they do not know how much they are. Because they only think money is important, they do not care if the food in front of them can be eaten, as far as they compensate it with money. On the other hand, Chihiro, who is not completely affected by their value, is worried store staffs are going to be mad. That is, she cares other’s feelings not money, while her parents care money not feelings. Parents’ thoughts are dominant today, because it is supported by economics, accountings or even sometimes laws. However, they should have not eaten actually because the foods are devoted to gods, so they cannot compensate with money. As a result, Yubaba transformed them into pigs.


transformed into pigs


Here, Miyazaki criticizes mammonists that people who forgot to respect gods are no longer human but pigs. Yubaba did not transform Chihiro, because she was afraid that someone would get mad. Her thought is connected to feelings of awe to gods. It is impossible to understand other’s feelings completely, because they are invisible. Other’s thoughts are invisible and gods’ are even more difficult to see. Therefore, to guess and be humble to them are necessary to communicate. It is also true of in facing with gods. This way of communication had been common once in Japan, but not now. Japanese people now tend to think only with visible or tangible stuff, such as money, numbers, logic. With that kind of thought, the parents’ action may be reasonable, or justifiable, but Miyazaki does not approve it. Not only materialism or mammonism but also spiritualism or some religion should people have to analyze his works.




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