By Paul Chang
Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away (2001) tells the story of a ten-year old girl, Chihiro, and her trials through the world of spirits. Chihiro first appears to be a normal, if a bit sullen and introspective, child. However, she encounters a series of shocks: her parents are turned into pigs; she cannot leave because the river has flooded; she starts turning into a spirit herself before Haku helps her, and so forth. Despite these unexpected changes, Chihiro handles the challenges with aplomb. She persists and earns a job from Yubaaba, the bathhouse witch, then earns the respect and trust of many bathhouse guests by cleaning the river spirit and by taming the No-Face spirit. Chihiro thus grows through her triumphs and setbacks and emerges with a mature, intelligent demeanor when she finally leaves the mystical land with her (human) parents.