Spirited away is a story about a 10-year-old girl, Chihiro. She arrived in a “supernatural world” by chance. In the “supernatural world”, she became brave and responsible after working in Yubaba’s bathhouse. At first, she was afraid of everything surrounding her and only received help from others. But as time passed, she learnt how to take responsibility at work and bravely saved Haku’s life with her own power. Food also helps to depict the changes of Chihiro’s characteristics.
Caption: Any human in the supernatural world will disappear unless they eat the local food there. Here Chihiro is becoming transparent because she did not have any food in that world. At this time, Haku comes and asks Chihiro to have something like a red meat ball from the supernatural world. Chihiro is afraid of this “intruder” and she is reluctant to eat the food from someone unknown.
Argument: When Chihiro feels afraid, she just runs away and imagines everything happens in a dream. She can only receive help at this point and does not have any courage to face the future.
Analysis: At this moment, Chihiro acts just like a 10-year-old kid. Escaping and crying is the way she deals with problem. She does not want to try anything in this new world even when Haku tries to help her and gives her the red ball. The red ball shows that Chihiro is powerless in this new world. She knows nothing about this world and without other people’s help she cannot even manage to live.
Caption: Chihiro now learns her situation and knows the only way to survive in this world is to work for Yubaba. But since she does not know how to save her parents and leave this place, she feels depressed. Just after Chihiro got a job from Yubaba, Haku takes Chihiro to see her parents, gives her clothes back and tells Chihiro her real name. Chihiro is depressed so Haku brings her some Onigiri to cheer her up.
Argument: Right now is the turning point for Chihiro. She is no longer the one who always cries. This time, she tries hard to stop her eyes from watering. This is a sign that she makes up her mind to take the responsibility of herself and her family. She is growing up.
Analysis: Haku is the first person that helped Chihiro. As for Chihiro, he is knowledgeable, powerful and respectful. By giving the Onigiri, Haku is giving hope, expectation to Chihiro. He lets Chihiro begin to believe that she can bring her parents back and go back home together. Chihiro receives the Onigiri, eating and tearing. Though she is moved and begins to sob, she still wants to become brave and tries to stop tearing. This is the first time she decides to do something instead of just escaping. This is also the time that she begins to believe in herself. Before this time, she has no ability but to receive help. But since then, she works hard at the bathhouse and deals problems with braveness and wisdom. Onigiri is just the marker of the change.
Caption: The green medical ball is Chihiro’s reward at work. Huku helped Yubaba to steal a seal from Yubaba’s twin sister and got injured. Chihiro intends to use this medical ball to save Huku’s life. However, Haku is so painful that he has already passed out. Chihiro does not give up; instead she cuts the ball in half and forces Haku to eat a half.
Argument: Chihiro decides to save Haku’s life without hesitation. Before deciding what to do, Chihiro asks Kamiji about Haku’s state. She is no longer the little girl that is always standing behind someone else. When she faces problems, she learns about the situation first and then deals with them. She is an independent and mature 10-year-old child now.
Analysis: Chihiro got the medical ball from the River God for her diligence. This medical ball is the power that Chihiro gathers through hard work. She has the power to protect herself and also help other people. Children are not the symbol for coward or dependency. Chihiro shows audiences a brave, independent and determined “child”.
The red meat ball, the Onigiri, and the medical ball show the change of Chihiro’s role in the relationship of helping and being helped. She grows up from a powerless and timid girl to a responsible and independent Chihiro. “Food is the witness”.