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Anime / Spirited Away

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Somewhere a voice calls in the depths of my heart,
"Keep dreaming your dreams, don't ever let them part..."
"Once you've met someone, you never really forget them; it just takes a while for your memories to return."

Originally, Princess Mononoke was meant to be Hayao Miyazaki's swan song, but much to the delight of the anime world, he returned with a film that managed to top Princess Mononoke's staggering box-office numbers. This film, Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting-Away), is a symbolic and folkloric adventure film about a girl who enters the world of spirits. Comparable to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, she has to navigate a place that adheres only to its own odd rules if she wishes to leave safely.

Chihiro Ogino (Rumi Hiiragi), a sullen young girl unwillingly moving to a new town, is stranded in the spirit world after her parents (Takeshi Naito and Yasuko Sawaguchi) stop by what appears to be an abandoned town and eat food that turns them into pigs. At first, her only aid is Haku (Miyu Irino), a mysterious boy who finds her shelter and a job in a bathhouse that caters to these spirits. Eventually, Chihiro makes more friends as she searches for a way to make her parents human again and escape the spirit world before she forgets her real identity. And that's all just within the first 30(ish)-minutes of the movie—and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the odd denizens of the spirit world, ranging from the villainous bathhouse managing witch Yubaba (Mari Natsuki) to arachnid worker Kamajii (Bunta Sugawara) to the enigmatic, near-voiceless spirit No-Face (Akio Nakamura).

The film also stars Tsunehiko Kamijo as Chichiyaku and Takehiko Ono as the Aniyaku.

Spirited Away was released in its home country on July 20, 2001, and an English dub conducted by Disney came to the United States on September 20, 2002.

The film was an immediate hit in both Japan and America, and was the highest-grossing Japanese film of all time for almost two decades, grossing a total of 31.68 billion yen ($304.2 million), until it was topped by Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train in 2020. It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, making it the first traditionally animated film, anime film, and non-English-language animated film to do so. This victory was especially noteworthy as the Oscars tend to favor CGI and/or American productions. It would hold the record of being the only anime film to win the Oscar in that category until Miyazaki won again for 2023’s The Boy and the Heron.

In 2019, Spirited Away was granted a re-release in Chinese theaters, and managed to outgross the opening box office of the then-newly-released Toy Story 4, even with it being an 18-year-old film at the time.

A 2022 Screen-to-Stage Adaptation premiered in Tokyo, under the direction of English stage director John Caird. It is notably the third Ghibli film to receive a stage adaptation, following Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. It was released theatrically in North America on April 23-27 by GKIDS (the current North American distributor of Studio Ghibli's library).

Not to be confused with the Australian TV show Spirited, the 1974 film Swept Away, that film's 2002 remake/Madonna vehicle, the 2012 fanfic, or the DreamWorks film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.

This film provides examples of:

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    Tropes A-K 
  • Adults Are Useless: Chihiro's parents see nothing peculiar about a beautiful spread of fresh food in a completely empty city on the other side of an abandoned tunnel. Despite their daughter's protests, they decide to dig in while Chihiro wanders around by herself. Unfortunately for them, the food is intended for gods and spirits, and it turns them into pigs.
  • Afterlife Express: The train that Chihiro takes, in order to reach Zeniba's residence, is meant for the dead who are moving onto the next life; every other passenger besides Chihiro and her companions is a phantom.
  • Always Identical Twins: Yubaba is eventually revealed to have a twin sister named Zeniba—while they look exactly alike, they are the closest things that the movie has to a Big Bad and a Big Good, respectively.
  • Ambiguously Human: Some of the spirit world's denizens, such as Lin and Haku, look nigh indistinguishable from normal humans. However, even the more humanoid looking spirits have traits and attributes (subtle or otherwise) that make it clear that they're something else entirely.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • All the bathhouse workers are animal spirits. The frog spirits are particularly common, and easy to identify by their upturned lips and wide, wide-set eyes. The yuna, (literally: hot water women) are the spirits of slugs and snakes, hence their longer faces.
    • Lin is a fox spirit who has a knack for nabbing food and avoiding getting in trouble.
    • Yubaba can turn into a giant corvid, a family of birds that has a reputation for being cunning, ominous omens of death and destruction. As corvids can prey on the dead, Yubaba takes advantage of people in the spirit world by stealing their names and enslaving them to her for as long as they are unable to remember their full names.
    • The six-armed Kamaji, with his fuzzy mustache and black sunglasses, is reminiscent of a spider, taking inspiration from the tsuchigumo, a spider-like Yōkai.
  • The Assimilator: After No-Face eats Aogaeru, a frog bathhouse worker, he is able to speak using the worker's voice and even gains a pair of frog legs. He later loses these attributes after the river kami's medicine causes him to barf the frog back up.
  • Author Appeal:
    • A determined heroine, a flood, young love, flying sequences, precipitous heights, gorging on food, and pigs.
    • Miyazaki also loves his environmental messages, and this film has two big but subtle examples. The first is when Chihiro cleanses the river kami after their river was heavily polluted and filled with garbage, and the second is when Chihirio remembers Haku's full name, which reminds them both that he is the spirit of the Kohaku River, which was built over years ago.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Itsumo Nando Demo" (Always With Me) by Youmi Kimura, which was originally written for Rin the Chimney Sweeper, before that project fell through. Miyazaki supposedly listened to the song constantly while working on Spirited Away.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: It's incredibly subtle and thus easy to miss in the Japanese dub (and outright unintentionally undercut in the English dub) but Chihiro seems to be gifted with incredible insight:
    • While both her parents find nothing too strange about the abandoned town the family stumbles across, Chihiro never drops her rightful apprehension.
    • Even though she never directly sees him transform she correctly guesses that the dragon being attacked by paper people is Haku.
    • After Boh has been turned into a mouse she seems genuinely surprised that Yubaba doesn't recognize him.
    • Flying with Haku, she recognizes the sensation and it triggers a memory of falling into a river when she was much younger, which in turn triggers the memory of his full name.
    • And finally, when she's confronted with Yubaba's final test, she's able to recognize that none of the pigs in the pen she's presented with are her parents.
  • Bad Black Barf: No-Face starts coughing up and drooling black barf (among other things) after Chihiro gives him half the river kami's medicine.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The deserted town that Chihiro and her family encounter after coming out the other side of the tunnel is initially given a not insignificant amount of focus. (Mrs. Ogino makes a point of explaining that it was probably made before the Japanese recession, which would make it quite old.) However, once the plot really kicks off, it's the bathhouse that Chihiro stumbles upon serves as the sole focal point for most of the film.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me:
    • Word of God confirms that this is the reason No-Face, after she lets him into the bathhouse, follows Chihiro around and keeps trying to offer her things—such as the bath tokens and gold—when he meets up with her again later.
    • It's also implied that this is why Kamaji is willing to help Chihiro out so much—she saves a Soot Spirit that is crushed under the weight of his coal and finishes the job for him, proving that she is both kindhearted and willing to do the work she's called upon to do.
    • Likewise, Chihiro does all she can to serve the stink spirit: she uses the tokens that No-Face procures for her, spots the thorn in his side, and then shouts for everyone to help, leading a Chain of People to pull it out with a rope. This cleanses the spirit of a veritable mountain of junk, revealing him to be a formerly polluted river kami. In return, the kami acknowledges her with a "Well done," and rewards her with a medicinal cake that becomes absolutely instrumental later.
  • Belly Mouth: No-Face is revealed to have one when he swallows a bathhouse worker whole.
  • Big Eater:
    • Both of Chihiro's parents, (her dad in particular) develop ravenous appetites when they discover the food laid out on the other side of the tunnel.
    • In the guise of Boh, the three heads wolf down copious chocolates.
    • No-Face devours a ludicrous amount of food at the bathhouse and swallows several people whole. When Chihiro finally confronts him, it's in a room filled to the brim with mountains of food.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Lin becomes quite protective of Chihiro over the course of the film.
    Lin: Don't worry... stay right where you are, I'm coming to get you! You're gonna be fine, I won't let [the stink spirit] hurt you.
    Lin: No-Face! If you put even one scratch on that girl, you're in big trouble!
  • Bird Run: Haku can move so fast that he hovers inches above the ground as he does so.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Chihiro restores her parents to human form and the three of them return to the human world, but it's implied that she loses all her memories of being spirited away.
    • The English dub hints that Chihiro does keep her memories (or at least the confidence that she gains) from her ordeal; when her father remarks that starting a new life in a new home and going to a new school can be scary, Chihiro replies, "I think I can handle it."
    • In either case, it's implied that Chihiro won't be able to go back to see Haku or any of the other friends she made during her trials before her own life comes to an end.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Haku, due to the curse placed on Zeniba's seal, which he's swallowed; Kamaji observes he is bleeding from the inside.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: A given, considering the setting of the story. Chihiro's parents are turned into pigs for the crime of eating food intended for the gods, and Yubaba nearly slaughters them for bacon when Chihiro's final confrontation with No-Face leaves the bathhouse in catastrophic disarray.
  • Blush Sticker: Chihiro sports these throughout the film.
  • Body Wipe: Near the beginning with Chihiro's dad, when he finds the restaurant that's the source of the delicious smell.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends with Chihiro clutching her mother's arm as they follow her father through the tunnel. Her mother even chides Chihiro both times to not hold on so tight—that she'll make her trip.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Chihiro is a normal, everyday human girl, and Haku is a person of the spirit world who turns out to be a river spirit.
  • Butt-Monkey: The little green frog man, Aogaeru. He is magicked by Haku, he faints when the stink spirit gets too close, and then he is eaten by No-Face.
  • Cain and Abel: Yubaba plays the Cain to her twin sister's Abel. Somewhat downplayed in that, while Yubaba commands Haku to steal a gold seal with Zeniba's name on it in order to gain power over her, she doesn't appear to explicitly want to hurt her sister. Likewise, while she is the wronged party, Zeniba doesn't let her sister or Haku get away with such a theft unchallenged or without retribution.
  • Captain Obvious: Chihiro says a few obvious things in the Japanese version. The English dub adds several more examples, albeit some for the sake of clarity for a non-Japanese audience. For example, a non-Japanese audience wouldn't necessarily recognize a bathhouse by its appearance, or be able to read the sign above its entrance identifying it as such.
  • Cathartic Crying: When Haku reunites Chihiro with her parents after their transformation, reminds her of her real name and offers her something to eat away from the bathhouse, she eats and bawls her heart out, finally getting to decompress after her trauma. Notably, she is in a much healthier mental and emotional place afterwards.
  • Central Theme:
    • The changes that come with growing up. Chihiro's introduction sees her moving away from her old friends and into a new house in a new city, a dilemma that's dwarfed by everything that she experiences in the spirit world.
    • The importance of names and identity. Chihiro's name is turned to Sen when she requests a job from Yubaba, and Haku lost his name prior to the events of the film. Neither can leave Yubaba's service without recovering said names, i.e. their true lives and identities.
    • Altogether, the major theme of the film seems to be holding onto who you are as a person, even as you grow up and mature.
  • Character Development: Chihiro inspires this in near everyone she interacts with. Kamaji is initially brusque with her, but becomes much warmer when she proves herself to him. Lin first sees her as a burden at best, but eventually winds up very protective of her. Chihiro leaves No-Face in a better place than she found him, and inspires Boh to become more independent, which plants the seeds for his and Yubaba's relationship to improve. In hindsight, she even seems to have this effect on Haku. When she asks Lin about him, she describes him as cold and untrustworthy; one can infer that he was like that, but seeing Chihiro again inspires him to be more open.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The medicine from the water kami helps cure Haku's injuries and frees No-Face from the bathhouse's influence by expelling from him all the food (and people) he's eaten.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Chihiro's farewell card helps her remember her full name after Yubaba alters it.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: No-Face's first appearance is as seemingly just another "face" in a crowd of equally strange spirits. Once Chihiro lets him into the bathhouse, he becomes much more relevant.
  • Come with Me If You Want to Live: When Haku finds Chihiro again after sunset, he keeps her from disappearing and leads her to the bathhouse, where she can procure a job and avoid her parents' unfortunate fate.
  • Comforting Comforter: Kamaji does this when Chihiro falls asleep in the boiler room. Guess he's not such a bad guy after all.
  • Comfort Food: Onigiri is Japanese soul food; Chihiro has some and takes a moment to cry the night after her incredibly hectic and hazardous introduction to the spirit realm.
  • Coming of Age Story: Chihiro's experiences in the spirit world build her confidence and let her best qualities rise to the surface in service of her saving her parents and making it back home.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Chihiro tells an unconscious Haku that she is leaving to return the golden seal to Zeniba and that he has to get better. Later when he wakes up, he reveals to Kamaji that he heard Chihiro's voice and followed it until he woke up.
  • Cool Big Sis: Lin, despite her initially cold reception of Chihiro, develops into this as she warms up to the girl.
  • Counterfeit Cash: Once he's inside, No-Face uses illusory gold to pay for services in the bathhouse, having witnessed the workers desperately scrambling over the river kami's gold. After Chihiro successfully manages to get No-Face out of the bathhouse, all of the gold No-Face gave out crumbles to dirt.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The bathhouse and spirit world overflow with every imaginable cultural and aesthetic detail, from the feudal ages to mid-twentieth century Japan. (With the purposeful exception of Samurai or soldiers.)
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Chihiro repeatedly trips, stumbles, and crashes into things at first, but she gets better over time. She all but flies down the wooden staircase to the boiler room at the beginning of the film, but she later manages to run across a pipe to safety before it detaches from the building almost under her feet.
  • Cute Monster Girl:
    • Despite being a fox spirit, Lin looks indistinguishable from a human; some fans have theorized she may have once, indeed, been human and been in the same situation as Chihiro.
    • Haku is a male example: he presents as a young boy about Chihiro's age. In his true form, he's a dragon.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A few spirits are helpful to Chihiro initially—most notably Haku, Lin and Kamaji—but many others warm up to her and start to like her over the course of the film.
    • No-Face is initially somewhat spooky, and temporarily develops into a rather terrifying Humanoid Abomination, but in the end, all he needed was a healthy, loving environment.
  • Dark World: After dark, the abandoned city becomes a hub for spirits and gods.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of Lin's lines are sarcastic or snide. Especially the ones directed at Kamaji or, initially, Chihiro.
  • Digital Destruction: The first DVD release of Spirited Away in Japan had a red tint added to it.
  • Directionless Driver: Chihiro's father loses his way, which is what brings the family to the hidden, derelict town in the first place.
  • Disneyfication: The film seems to take some cues from a rather grisly Japanese fairy tale "Shita-kiri Suzume" but employs a much Lighter and Softer presentation and resolution.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Chihiro's parents eat food that's left out in the open in unattended booths (that look just like food service stalls) and are fully willing to pay for it when the owner returns. So naturally they deserve to be turned into pigs. The folk who occupy the town certainly seem to believe so at least. If the food wasn't a deliberate trap in the first place.
  • The Dissenter Is Always Right: Chihiro and her parents come across an abandoned town. In that town, there's a spread of freshly made food that smells so delicious that her parents start digging in. Chihiro protests that they shouldn't because they might get in trouble, but they don't pay her any mind and continue eating. This winds up turning them into pigs because the food wasn't meant for humans.
  • Distressed Dude: Haku is heavily injured from Zeniba's spell, and needs both the medicine from the river kami and Chihiro's care to save him.
  • Don't Look Back: Chihiro is instructed not to look back when she leaves the spirit world. She nearly turns to look back when she's almost out, but in the end she resists the temptation.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: The long, dark tunnel Chihiro's family traverses in order to reach the empty city and eventually return home.
  • Dragon Rider: Chihiro briefly gets to take a ride on the dragon Haku.
  • Dub Species Change: The English translation of the artbook for the movie refers to Lin as a weasel spirit, when she's a fox spirit in the Japanese version.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Chihiro, a ten year old girl, has to overcome various dangerous and deadly trials and tribulations in order to stay alive, save her loved ones, and make it home safe. Seeing her parents transformed and no longer able to help her, working in the bathhouse, cleansing a river kami, dealing with No-Face, freeing Haku and rescuing her parents...The English dub even ends with her reassuring her father that she thinks she can handle her new school.
  • Eaten Alive: No-Face swallows three of the bathhouse's employees once he succumbs to its influence. Fortunately, the medicine Chihiro gives him makes him cough them up, none the worse for wear. (Along with everything else he's eaten.)
  • Eccentric Mentor: Yubaba's twin sister Zeniba is a friendly witch who offers some sage advice to Chihiro during her stay.
  • Emotion Eater: Word of God has stated that this is the reason that No-Face goes on a rampage: he feeds on the emotions of those around him. In the case of the bathhouse, Greed. Good thing it isn't permanent.
  • End of an Age: There's a subtle theme of cultural traditions eroding: Chihiro doesn't recognize roadside shrines or understand the traditional etiquette, and the formerly two-way Afterlife Express now only goes in one direction. The image album has the workers lament that fewer and fewer gods show up every year, as they're slowly dying out because "-there are no gods in electric things".
  • Enigmatic Minion: Haku is bound to Yubaba's service, but helps Chihiro whenever no one else is around to see.
  • Establishing Character Moment: After Haku gives Chihiro the berry to stop her from disappearing, to show that it worked, he holds up his hand for her to touch. It's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but the tender expression on his face makes Haku's true nature clear as day.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Yubaba genuinely loves and cares for her infant son. She spoils him rotten and absolutely loses it when she discovers that he's missing.
  • Everybody Has Standards: Yubaba spitefully claims she's going to punish Chihiro for the state she left the bathhouse in—even though it was due in large part to her putting herself in danger to lure No-Face away—by having her piggish parents slaughtered and made for bacon. Her employees, upon hearing this, appear distraught and rather disturbed at the idea. Thankfully for Chihiro, Haku has a bargaining chip.
  • "Everybody Helps Out" Denouement: Although they are initially content to sit back and watch her suffer, the bathhouse workers all band together under Yubaba's direction to help Chihiro with the stink spirit. Kamaji gives her the train ticket she needs to undo a curse. And later, a group of characters who were all originally hostile to Chihiro work together to make her a protective charm.
  • Evil Twin: Played with in the case of Yubaba and Zeniba. Zeniba claims that the two of them are opposites in every way. Zeniba does lay a curse on the seal Haku steals and threatens Chihiro in order to keep her quiet, but she is ultimately a kind old woman, especially compared to her much more abrasive and greedy twin.
  • Expressive Hair: Chihiro's hair tends to spike up whenever something startles her, or just freaks her out in general.
  • Expressive Mask: No-Face's mask to some extent; it almost seems to smile or frown from time to time. The artists noted that they wish they'd been able to rely on lighting a little more to set his mood instead.
  • Expy:
    • Yubaba shares more than few similarities with the Duchess from "Alice in Wonderland". Both are older women who have grotesquely gigantic heads, both are dismissive and bad tempered, both care immensely (and unhealthily) for a huge, spoiled baby who is actually happier to be transformed into a simpler creature, and both turn people into pigs. When first encountered, the Duchess makes a terrible impression; the second time, she is almost uncomfortably friendly with Alice. Yubaba and Zeniba may not be the same person, but they are identical twins, and Chihiro does meet the more vicious of the sisters first.
  • Facial Façade: Implied with No-Face, who has what appears to be a white mask for a face.
  • The Fair Folk: The whole film (and the abandoned town) is built around a traditional Fairy Tale portrayal of Youkai.
  • Feudal Japan: The time period of the human world appears to be set in modern day, but the spirit world has this aesthetic to it; from the clothing of its people to the architecture of the buildings.
  • Filling the Silence: Quite a bit in the English dub; background chatter was added to otherwise quiet scenes and a few ad-libbed lines were thrown in.
  • Fine, You Can Just Wait Here Alone: Chihiro originally refuses to accompany her parents into the empty town, but follows when they go on ahead anyway.
  • Fish out of Water: Humans like Chihiro are detested in the spirit world, partly because they smell funny to its native residents.
  • Flight of Romance: In the climax between Haku and Chihiro. Although it temporarily turns into a Free-Fall Romance before turning back into a Flight of Romance again once Haku recovers.
  • Food Chains: Chihiro's parents wind up making a big mistake by eating food that isn't for them. Chihiro, contrarywise, must eat a morsel of the spirit world's food in order to avoid fading away completely.
  • Food Porn: Typical for films directed by Miyazaki; this one begins with a suspiciously delicious looking banquet set up in an empty town; forget the characters, it makes the audience's mouths water.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The cleansed river kami curls through the air in sinuous, fluid motions that are reminiscent of flowing water. Haku's dragon form emulates this style of movement; in the climax he is revealed to be a river spirit as well.
      • When the stink spirit first appears, Yubaba finds its behavior familiar and suspects there is more too it than its appearance would suggest. She's proven correct when its Muck Monster body is revealed to be an outer-shell for a dragon-like river kami. This makes sense in hindsight, as she'd encountered a very similar spirit at least once before: Haku.
    • Chihiro's father can be heard snorting as he eats in the English dub, which works to subtlety foreshadow his and Chihiro's mother's fate.
  • Forced Transformation:
    • Chihiro's parents (and presumably other humans before them) are turned into pigs.
    • Zeniba turns Boh into a mouse and Yubaba's servant into a tiny bird. When Chihiro later asks if she can change them back, she says that the spell has worn off in the interim, and they can change back any time they want.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Haku, a river spirit, saved Chihiro when she fell into his river as a child. Chihiro remembers this as they're flying back to the bathhouse together near the end of the film, along with Haku's full, true name.
  • Frog Men: Yubaba's male workers range from somewhat froggish-looking humanoid men to complete frogs.
  • Funny Background Event: Lin is a little annoyed that Yubaba doesn't compliment her contributions to the stink spirit's restoration.
  • Geas: Yubaba swore an oath that binds her to employ anyone who asks her for a job. But that doesn't mean she has to like it. In fact, as detailed in Loophole Abuse below, she does near everything she can to try to weasel out of hiring Chihiro. However, she eventually concedes when her prospective employee refuses to back down.
  • Generic Cuteness: Chihiro was specifically designed to avoid this trope, as Hayao Miyazaki has pointed out that female characters all have to be cute to be the protagonist, but a plain or unattractive male character can still be the star.
  • Gentle Giant: The radish spirit is gigantic, but comes across as gentle and supportive, even without saying a single word.
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: No-Face, after Chihiro feeds him the river kami's medicine, throws up everything and everyone he ate. They are all none the worse for the experience.
  • Ghost Town: At first. By day, the village and the bathhouse appear to be abandoned. Then night falls.
  • Giant Flyer:
    • Haku and the purified river kami are huge, serpentine dragons that can fly through the air as easily as fish swim through water. Towards the end of the film, Haku takes this form to fly Chihiro back to the bathhouse.
    • Yubaba can drape herself in her cloak and fly like a very large bird.
    • During the cleansing of the river kami, Yubaba demonstrates an ability to float in mid-air; given her enormous head, she might qualify for this trope.
  • Giant Spider: Kamaji's eight limbs are reminiscent of a spider's, and he most likely takes inspiration from the tsuchigumo, a spider Yōkai.
  • Gluttonous Pig: Chihiro's parents turn into pigs after gorging themselves on the spirits' food.
  • Gold Fever: All of the bathhouse workers desperately try to scoop up all the gold that the river kami leaves behind, despite Yubaba's forbiddance. No-Face throws so much of it around that the workers never question the more suspicious aspects of his nature. Unfortunately, all that gold isn't going to be enough to cover the resulting damages, even before it reveals itself to be ordinary dirt.
  • Gonk:
    • Yubaba, her baby, and her sister. There are scenes with Yubaba nose-to-nose with more properly proportioned characters, and her head is taller than the other character's head and torso combined.
    • The radish spirit. He has stubby little root-fingers, a face like conjoined elephant twins, and... radish nipples.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Yubaba smokes a cigarette and exhales billowing clouds of smoke right into Chihiro's face. Her sister Zeniba is never seen smoking.
  • Gratuitous English: In the original Japanese-language dub, Kamaji wishes Chihiro "Good luck!" in English as she leaves the boiler room to seek a job from Yubaba.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: One of the main themes of this movie is the blurred line between good and evil. Even Yubaba, the closest thing the film has to a villain, can be fair, and dearly loves her son, Boh.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: After Chihiro's parents are released from their curse, they have absolutely no recollection of what happened and thus have no idea what their daughter went through in order to save them. Even if Chihiro keeps _her_ memories and is the only member of her family who knows the truth, it's safe to assume that nobody would believe her.
  • Greed: The greed and Gold Fever that the bathhouse employees exhibit inpires No-Face to conjure up gold and use it to go on a monstrous binge that includes three bathhouse workers.
  • Green Aesop:
    • This movie has some unusually subtle ones for Miyazaki: a stink spirit approaches the bathhouse, all while the bathhouse workers try to turn him away, so terrible is the fetor coming off him. The "stink spirit" is actually the kami of an incredibly polluted river. After Chihiro gives him a bath and de-pollutes him with the others workers' help, he rewards Chihiro with the medicine that later helps both Haku and No-Face.
    • The spirit of the Kohaku River (Haku) forgets his identity and is enslaved after his river is filled in by humans.
  • The Grotesque:
    • The silent spirit No-Face is shunned by everyone but Chihiro, who treats him with kindness. He later begins swallowing up spirits, which bloats him into an obese, multi-limbed creature. Only medicine from Chihiro is able to undo his corruption.
    • The radish spirit is a big, floppy, vaguely obscene-looking example of this trope — as well as The Speechless and a Gentle Giant. On the other hand, he doesn't suffer the social ostracism usually associated with The Grotesque.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Chihiro is thrown into an ordeal where she must try to survive without the help of her parents or any other trustworthy grown-ups while holding on to her true identity in the process.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: A non-lethal example; when Haku destroys Zeniba's enchanted shikigami, her projection cartoonishly splits in half before fading away.
    Zeniba: Ow, a paper cut!
  • Hands Looking Wrong: After Chihiro fails to make it back to the tunnel before night falls and the river's restored, she notices that she can see through her hands. Then the rest of her body starts to follow suit...
  • Headbutt of Love: Chihiro and Haku touch foreheads while free-falling during the climax.
  • Heroic Bystander: Believe it or not, the soot Sspirits get to be this! When Yubaba's cursed slug tries to escape, the little balls of soot team up to block their tunnels, keeping the creature from getting away before Chihiro can stomp on it.
  • High-Pressure Blood: A small amount spurts from the river kami after Chihiro pulls the last of the junk out of him.
  • Holding Hands: Chihiro and Haku do a lot of this, complete with Intertwined Fingers.
  • Humans Are Smelly: Most of the bathhouse workers remark on Chihiro's "human stink". Some go so far as to suggest it's bad for business.
  • Hypocrite: When Chihiro first goes to Yubaba to ask for a job, she initially refuses, calling her a spoiled, lazy crybaby with no manners. Shortly after this she's interrupted by her own baby, who fits her description of Chihiro perfectly. Furthermore, she criticizes her employees for being greedy and attracting the wrong types of customers, when greed is pretty much her sole defining characteristic.
  • I Gave My Word: This actually happens twice in the span of ten minutes at the climax of the story. First, Boh tries to convince Yubaba to release Chihiro and her parents without a final test, and she almost considers it; however, Chihiro insists that she be tested, saying that a deal is a deal. Second, Chihiro ends up passing the test despite the fact that Yubaba makes it extra tricky, and Yubaba keeps her end of the bargain by voiding her contract.
  • I Know Your True Name: Yubaba binds people to her by stealing important parts of their names from their memory. Unless they have a way of preserving the original name prior to the deal (the way Chihiro's was written down on her goodbye card) or some other way to remember the full name, they can never leave her service. Hence her sending Haku to steal the gold seal with her sister's name on it.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Apparently humans taste good to the spirits, though they're apparently not inclined to eat them on a whim.
  • Image Song: Yes, an image album exists, but only in Japan.
  • Indirect Kiss: Chihiro bites the medicine ball in half before feeding it to Haku. Either because she is trying to show Haku that it is safe to eat, or because she simply doesn't have the strength to break a very hard piece of medicine in half with her hands fast enough.
  • Interspecies Romance: Chihiro and Haku. She's a human girl and he's a river spirit whose true form is that of a dragon.
  • In the Name of the Moon: Haku's incantation to un-paralyze Chihiro's legs.
  • It's All About Me: After Chihiro pries a job out of Yubaba, after she's nothing but relentless and vicious in her attempts to intimidate her out of asking, Yubaba laments her promise to employ anyone who should ask for a job: it makes her have to be so nice all the time, and she really hates that.
  • I Want My Mommy!: Played for Drama. As it gets dark, the lights start coming on in the supposedly abandoned town and spirits begin to appear, Chihiro runs to find her parents so they can escape. But going back to the food stall, all she finds are two large pigs wearing their clothes. On her own in a very strange place, she's unable to process what's happened, and she starts running through the stalls, calling for her parents, becoming more and more panicked the longer she can't find them. The English dub takes it further by having her break down and scream, "MOMMY!"
  • Karmic Jackpot: For Haku and Chihiro mutually.
    • Haku tries to warn Chihiro away from the spirit world before night falls, ensures that she doesn't disappear when she doesn't get away in time, sets her up with Lin and Kamaji, rescues her clothes with her name on the card in the pocket, and generally supports her at every turn. Chihiro gives him half the medicine she earned while he's suffering under Zeniba's curse, allowing him to recover enough to follow after her. When they meet again at the climax and are flying back to the bathhouse, she remembers that they've met once before, and is able to give him back his real, full name, freeing him from Yubaba's service.
    • Meanwhile, Chihiro proves herself to Kamaji, shows kindness to No-Face, discovers what's truly ailing the stink spirit and cleanses him of it, and defends Haku when he is attacked by Zeniba's paper birds. In turn, Kamaji gives her the train ticket that let's her return Zeniba's seal and free Haku from her retribution, half of the medicine she's given helps Haku recover, her kindness to No-Face let's her get close enough to him to give him the other half of the medicine and wind down his rampage, and when Yubaba is so furious with her that she's about ready to slaughter the Oginos for bacon, Haku points out that her son is missing and bargains for Chihiro and her family's freedom.
  • Karmic Transformation: For eating the food of the spirits, Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs.
  • Kick the Dog: It's unintentional, but when Yubaba first glimpses Boh as a mouse, she fails to recognize him and only sees a rodent that she rudely dismisses. Even in mouse form, Boh is clearly hurt and angry, and he and Yubaba's servant-bird both leave with Chihiro.
  • Letterbox: Disney included widescreen picture on the 2003 VHS, even though they rarely released widescreen videotapes of their own movies.
  • Loophole Abuse: As noted above, Yubaba is magically bound to hire anyone who repeatedly asks her for a job. However, she's free to distract, insult, or even physically assault any potential employee to try to dissuade them from making their request; anyone seeking work must remain completely steadfast, bear all her abuse, and refuse to be turned away until she relents.
  • Loss of Identity: Yubaba steals parts of the names of anyone who works for her; this not only makes them forget their original name, but eventually the entirety of their previous lives. Once Chihiro is renamed to Sen, she's only in the spirit world for about a day before she forgets her real name without a reminder. Similarly, Haku has lost his name and all memories of his former life since he entered into a contract with Yubaba. All of them except, for some reason, his memory of previously meeting Chihiro.
  • Loud Gulp: When Chihiro has to pick out which of the pigs are her parents, she makes one of these to steel herself.

    Tropes M-Z 
  • MacGuffin: Averted with Zeniba's seal. It is stolen specifically because it has Zeniba's name on it, which can grant Yubaba some measure of power over her. It also curses anyone who tries to steal it, so in order to help Haku, Chihiro has to return it.
  • Magical Land: The bathhouse borders two worlds: the human world—which can be reached by going across the dry riverbed by day—and the world of the kami—which can be reached by taking a ferry across the still-flowing river by night. The latter is the Magical Land.
  • Mama Bear: Yubaba nearly assumes a One-Winged Angel form out of rage when she discovers that her son is missing.
  • Magically-Binding Contract: How Yubaba employs people for her bathhouse—she literally rips pieces of their signature from the paper.
  • The Magic Goes Away:
    • The spirit world, being mostly nature-associated, is being gradually hemmed in by redevelopment, with especially tragic consequences for river kamis and spirits. Sadly accurate to reality, in that almost all rivers in Japan that get even remotely close to a developed area are turned into concrete troughs.
    • The Afterlife Express used to go both ways; now it only goes one.
  • Meaningful Name: All over the place. Before the story even begins, the movie's original Japanese title itself highlights the two names of its heroine: Sen to Chihiro, or Sen and Chihiro.
    • The protagonist shares her name with the real little girl upon whom Miyazaki based the character.
    • Chihiro's name can be translated as "a thousand fathoms" or "ask a thousand questions". Several characters of Chihiro's name are taken by Yubaba; all that's left is the generic name Sen, which means only "a thousand." Chihiro's name has essentially been replaced with a number. Her only hope is to keep herself from forgetting her full name.
    • Haku's full name is Nigihayami Kohakunushi. The literal translation of which is: white dragon.
    • Yubaba's name means bath crone. Fitting for a witchy proprietor of a bathhouse.
    • Kamaji's name means either boiler or kettle geezer. He mans the boiler of the baths with only the help of the soot spirits, and at one point he drinks straight from the spout of his kettle.
    • Zeniba's name is a play on Yubaba's, as it can refer to both money or public baths.
    • No-Face is a featureless black spirit that literally has no face, only a mask to represent one. Coincidentally, this sounds exactly like Noh-face, which suits the mask he wears perfectly.
  • Mind Screw: Downplayed. When the film was airing on Cartoon Network, the ads hyped it up by describing its plot thusly: "Chihiro gets stuck in an alternate universe, her parents are turned into pigs, and she sells her name to a crazy witch lady. And that's just the first twenty minutes!" However, though the film is filled with aforementioned fantastical happenings and it flirts with both fairy tale and dream logic throughout, the plot is fairly straight forward for all that: after becoming stranded in an unfamiliar and dangerous world, a young girl must come up with a way to rescue her parents and find a way home.
  • Missing Child: Chihiro gets trapped in the spirit world after her parents are changed into pigs. She has no way home and initially has no one she can trust or ask for help.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Two of them.
    • Despite initial impressions, both Yubaba and Zeniba have hidden depths.
    • The character No-Face initially tries very hard to repay Chihiro's kindness and is only disruptive after spending too much time in the bathhouse. When she asks, he tells Chihiro/Sen that he is lonely, and that he doesn't have any friends or family.
  • Monster and the Maiden: A human girl named Chihiro befriends and works with Haku, a Nature Spirit who can turn into a dragon. Haku looks out for Chihiro while she works to get her parents back, and in exchange, she breaks the curses Yubaba and Zeniba placed on him.
  • Mood Whiplash: There are quite a few moments:
    • When her parents start eating the food, Chihiro takes the time to admire the beauty of the bathhouse and, noticing the train tracks, tries to see if she can spot the train. Then, in a town that's previously been established to be completely abandoned, a boy abruptly appears, has a very distraught reaction to her presence, and curtly tells her to get away before it gets dark. When Chihiro goes to find her parents, she finds they've been turned into pigs, the lanterns are lighting one by one, strange apparitions are arriving from everywhere, and the dry riverbed her family crossed is now an impassable river. The poor girl goes from exploring an abandoned city with her family to being trapped alone in a strange and dangerous magical world in the span of minutes.''
    • During the river kami scene, it goes from comical to awesome when Chihiro realizes he has what appears to be a thorn stuck in his side that needs to be removed. When it is, a torrent of garbage gushes out, revealing a wizened smiling face that gives Chihiro his thanks before rewarding her.
  • Morality Pet:
    • Yubaba's son, Boh, who seems to be the only thing she cares about more than making money. When he goes missing, she goes full Mama Bear on Haku, complete with breath of fire.
    • Chihiro herself is also this to a number of characters. She brings out the best in the sarcastic Lin, the stoic Haku, the grouchy Kamaji, and is the only one who cares for No-Face properly.
  • Muck Monster: The bathhouse is visited by a spirit that bears an incredible stench and resembles an enormous pile of sludge. It turns out that the visitor is actually the spirit of a river that has been badly polluted by garbage.
  • Muggle in Mage Custody: The ordinary girl Chihiro becomes a de facto slave to the powerful witch Yubaba, working for her in her bathhouse for spirits.
  • Multi-Armed Multitasking: Kamaji single-handedly runs the bathhouse's boiler room by using his six arms to simultaneously stoke the boiler, collect ingredients from the many drawers in the wall behind him, grind them to powder, and mix them into herbal blends to add to the bathwater. The only thing he can't do himself is feed coal into the boiler; for that, he enchants soot into little spirit-balls who toss the coal in for him.
  • My Beloved Smother: Yubaba, who keeps her baby sheltered in a room where she relentlessly indulges him.
  • Mysterious Protector: Haku for most of the film. He's the only friendly face Chihiro initially has in the spirit world and is a significant pillar of support, but he vanishes for long periods and is tight-lipped about his motivations.
  • Mythical Motifs:
    • Chihiro being told not to look back as she leaves the spirit world may be a reference to several myths, including the story of Izanami and Izanagi, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Lot and his wife...Thankfully Chihiro, unlike those others, heeds the warning.
    • Speaking of Greek mythology, Chihiro's parents turning into pigs after eating enchanted food hearkens back to The Odyssey, with Yubaba playing the part of Circe. A similar danger is posed to them, but much like Odysseus, Chihiro rescues them in the end. Furthermore, her parents' lack of awareness that they've been in the spirit world for as long as they were, thinking it was only an hour or two at most, is reminiscent of the Land of the Lotus-eaters.
    • It's most likely an incidental similarity, but Haku's story and Chihiro's bid to save him can be seen as a loose mirror to that of Tam Lin
  • Name Amnesia: Yubaba controls her workers by taking away pieces of their names. Haku warns Chihiro that if she forgets her full name like he did, she won't be able to escape and will have to serve Yubaba forever. The two wind up averting this for each other. He reminds her of her name with her goodbye card, and Chihiro reminds Haku of his full name when she remembers they've met years before.
  • Named by the Dub: Somewhat inverted twice:
  • Nature Spirit: Most of the creatures in the spirit world qualify, with two notable examples: the river kami and Haku.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: The test at the end of the movie, where Chihiro has to find her parents hidden amongst a pen full of pigs. She correctly guesses that none of them are her parents, breaking the curse.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • Chihiro's parents insist on exploring the abandoned city and indulge in the mysterious banquet they find there; this directly leads to them stranding themselves and their daughter in the spirit world.
    • Chihiro notices No-Face out in the rain and let's him into the bathhouse. He proceeds to prey on the workers' greed, swallow one of them whole, and after Chihiro rejects the pile of gold that he offers her, initiate a volatile and destructive rampage.
    • Played with and ultimately averted. This trope initially appears to be in play when Chihiro reveals Haku's true name to him while he's a dragon and she's riding on his back. The shock causes him to revert to human form, and for a moment the kids tumble through the air together. But he's still a spirit with magic no matter the form he takes, so the two of them are fine in the end.
  • Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: While it is not overtly said, the plot has hints that this is what's occurring during the film's events. Chihiro and her parents end up trapped in the spirit world when they stay in the abandoned town until after sunset, something that was commonly believed to happen to humans who stumble upon the Hyakki Yagyo. The fact that it is set in a town with food processions, in and out-going cruise ships and a fully-stocked bathhouse hints that the story is taking place in the middle of a festival.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Played With. When Haku tells Chihiro to leave before it gets dark, she goes back for her parents. When she sees that they've turned into pigs, she's unwilling to believe it. She runs through the town calling for her parents, and when she doesn't find them, tries to cross the river alone. Haku meets up with her shortly after and helps her get a job with Kamaji and Yubaba in order to save them.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The bathhouse has a steep, rickety wooden stair case along the outside of the building. It has no railing, and overlooks a deep trench. Chihiro's lucky she all but fell straight down it...into a wall.
  • No Mouth: The radish spirit has no visible mouth and doesn't appear able to talk. Not that he needs to.
  • No-Sell: Yubaba's fireball doesn't even slow down No-Face.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: It's implied that Yubaba's coddling of her son Boh is why he's literally a big baby.
  • Ocular Gushers: As is par for the course for a Miyazaki film. After Chihiro's first night in the bathhouse, as Haku's comforting her and she's coming to terms with everything that's happened, she cries explosively and at length before resolving to rescue her family and get home. She is going through a pretty traumatic experience, and at only 10 or 11 at that.
  • Odd Job Gods: There are various kinds of spirits in this world, including a radish spirit and a stench spirit. In the latter's case, this is somewhat subverted in that he isn't an actual stench spirit — he's actually a powerful river kami, whose river has become polluted. Still, the fact that he was initially mistaken for one suggests that stench spirits do exist.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Haku when he first sees Chihiro on the bridge.
    • Chihiro when she sees that her parents have been transformed into pigs.
    • Chihiro and Lin when they encounter each other for the first time, since Chihiro is a human and isn't supposed to be there.
    • Yubaba gets a good one after No-Face No Sells her fireball just before she's engulfed in a wave of his vomit.
    • Yubaba gets another one when she's told that her infant son Boh is with her sister Zeniba.
  • One-Book Author: Yūko Ogino was Yasuko Sawaguchi's only anime voice-over role, as she's primarily a film/television actress and singer.
  • One-Winged Angel: Yubaba undergoes a terrifying transformation when she's angry.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Haku is in fact a dragon and a river spirit. As a dragon styled after Eastern traditions and Japanese myth, he has a wolf's head, feelers like a koi or catfish, antlers like a deer or elk, a serpentine body, and bird-like legs.
  • Parents in Distress: Chihiro's parents are cursed at the beginning of the movie. Most of the plot revolves around her finding a way to free them, and in the process getting acquainted with the spirit world.
  • Parents Know Their Children: Inverted. To rescue her parents, Chihiro must pick them out of a line-up of several dozen other pigs. She correctly determines that none of them are her parents.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Yubaba and Zeniba. Though the two of them look exactly alike, Yubaba is a manipulative, callous overseer who lives in opulence and whose only concern (besides her son) is making as much money as possible. Zeniba, meanwhile, lives a solitary, humble life in the forest and after an initial bad impression, she is nothing but friendly and forgiving of Chihiro and all her friends.
  • The Power of Friendship: When Chihiro leaves Zeniba's house she is given a ribbon to protect her that "-was woven from threads made by your friends".
  • The Power of Love: In the English dub, Zeniba explicitly states that Haku could only have been saved from her spell by Chihiro's love for him.
  • Product Placement: Based on the frontal shot of Chihiro's father's car during the opening credits, it would be obvious that it was an Audi even if the four-rings symbol wasn't holding pride of place in the middle of the grille. Lampshaded later when Chihiro asks her father if they're lost and he replies, "Don't worry, honey; Daddy's got four-wheel drive!" Whether the car's a 100 or a 200, it's definitely the quattro version.
  • Properly Paranoid: While exploring the abandoned city, Chihiro is visibly agitated and refuses to eat the food that her parents discover; they, however, are too hungry and too sure of themselves to share in her worry. Chihiro's instincts are proven completely correct when the sun goes down, the town comes to life, and her parents fall under the effects of a terrible spell.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Yubaba is a very unpleasant old lady, but she causes Chihiro and her family strife not necessarily out of malice, but primarily out of self-interest and practicality.
  • Puppy Love: Chihiro and Haku share a young and innocent affection. Both of them rely on that bond and on each other as they suffer through their respective ordeals.
  • Real After All: Chihiro retains the hairband she got from Zeniba after exiting the spirit world.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Kamaji. Haku tells Chihiro to seek a job from him for this reason. Although Kamaji doesn't need Chihiro's help himself, he does see her pluck and spirit, so he bribes Lin into taking Chihiro to Yubaba to ask directly for a job. Later on, he helps her when she and Haku fall into the boiler room and Haku is suffering from heavy external and internal bleeding.
    • Despite being a significantly unsympathetic antagonist, Yubaba turns out to be somewhat reasonable. Even though she very obviously doesn't want to, she keeps to her word and gives Chihiro a job when she refuses to be dissuaded. Later, when she's just as visibly affected by the stink spirit's stench as the other workers are, she snaps at Chihiro to, as she's doing, keep her hands away from her nose so as not to be rude. And when Chihiro discovers that something is wrong with the guest, Yubaba orders all the bathhouse employees to help Chihiro pull out the "thorn" that she finds, resulting in the spirit's cleansing, and his rewarding the bathhouse with piles of gold. Upon this success, Yubaba is honest and effusive in her praise, hugging Chihiro, gushing about how much money she made and telling her other employees that they could learn a thing or two from her. At the end, she agrees with Haku to give Chihiro one last test to earn her and her parents' freedom back, and honors her word when Chihiro passes it with flying colors.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: The Japanese trailers and commercials for the movie use the song "The Lost Paradise" from the American soundtrack of Castle in the Sky.
  • Red Herring:
    • The bathhouse is but one landmark in the abandoned town, albeit a noticeably grand and beautiful one. The city itself is given not insignificant emphasis before the plot kicks off, but after that the parts of town beyond the bathhouse don't really factor into the plot at all.
    • The river kami that Chihiro cleans gives her an herb cake, and she has a dream about using it to change her parents back. She ends up uses half the cake to save Haku from Zeniba's curse, and the rest to save No-Face from the bad influence of the bathhouse and the people he ate.
  • Rescue Romance: Both Chihiro and Haku for each other throughout the film. Haku is Chihiro's Mysterious Protector who helps her through her ordeal and is revealed to have saved her when she fell into his river as a child. Chihiro gives him half the medicine she was planning on giving to her parents, relives him of Zeniba's curse and reminds him of his full name, freeing him from Yubaba.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Yubaba will employ anyone at her bathhouse who asks, but they must sign a contract that makes them forget their true name and binds them to her service unless they can recall it.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • The soot sprites, who also appear in My Neighbor Totoro, another Miyazaki-directed Studio Ghibli film.
    • Boh as a mouse also counts.
  • Running Gag: Chihiro is continuously getting knocked on the head.
  • Scenery Porn: This movie is chock full of it, as can be expected from anything by Miyazaki—the fantastical and finely detailed architecture of the bathhouse in particular is given the utmost attention, and it earns it.
  • Schmuck Bait: Subverted at the end. Chihiro is specifically told that when she's leaving, she should not look back. She almost does, but she has enough willpower not to.
  • Schmuck Banquet: Chihiro's parents can't help but eat the food laid out for them in the abandoned restaurant. Chihiro, however, resists it, because sensing something is wrong with the place.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!:
    • The lesson that No-Face learns from the bathhouse residents. Chihiro teaches him an opposing one when she refuses his offered gold.
    • Chihiro's parents at the buffet. Her father's blind faith in cash is what gets everyone in trouble; he assumes the price of the food is monetary.
    "Don't worry, Daddy's got credit cards and cash!"
  • Shapeshifting: Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs against their will. Haku, a dragon, can take a humanoid form, Yubaba can become a birdlike creature to get around or act as a spy and Zeniba turns Boh, her nephew, into a mouse. In the Japanese version, it's explicitly stated that every worker in the bathhouse is a transformed animal spirit.
  • Shoo the Dog: Haku attempts this with Chihiro when they first meet, telling her she shouldn't be there and to get out of the city before sundown. Despite her confusion and misgivings, Chihiro tries to follow his instructions, but she can't rescue her parents or make it out before night falls and the formerly-dry river becomes untraversable.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Though the story takes place in a fantasy world full of wonder, much of it has Chihiro trapped in her job at the bathhouse: exploited, lonely and yearning for her home and her family. However, the movie leans more towards the idealistic end of the scale near the end, wherein Chihiro has endeared herself to many of the spirits she's met, prompting them to lend her their support in her helping Haku, rescuing her parents and escaping her contract.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Aogaeru, the frog spirit; while he only has a handful of lines, it’s his greed that ultimately corrupts No-Face, which initiates a major conflict later in the film.
  • Spirit World: The world on the other side of the abandoned city is one of spirits, who bustle through the streets and patronize the bathhouse.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Though she has this in common with many of Miyazaki's other female protagonists, Chihiro is a modern version of this trope. Even after she is traumatized by her parents' tranformation, becomes trapped in the spirit world, and is forced to work as a powerful witch's virtual slave, she still rises to the occasion at every challenge and gains confidence with each successive victory.
  • Spoiled Brat: Yubaba's baby spends his days in a room full of pillows and presumably eating as much as he pleases. Upon finding Chihiro, he threatens to break her arm if she refuses to play with him. Zeniba has so little patience for his cacophonous antics that upon their encountering each other she almost immediately transforms him into a mouse.
  • Stalker without a Crush: No-Face is this for Chihiro. After she lets him in out of the rain he stays close to her side and procures for her a bath token to help her with the stink spirit. But then he offers her far more bath tokens than she could ever hope to use, and even after he becomes the center of the bathhouse's attention, it's specifically her that he offers a mountain of gold to. When she says no thank you and runs off (as she's desperately hurrying to help Haku while all of this is going on) he goes on a rampage that can't be mollified until she agrees to speak with him again.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: When Chihiro's family first enters the spirit world, they cross over a dried-up riverbed. When Haku and Chihiro meet, he stridently warns her to leave before sunset. After failing to rescue her parents, Chihiro does try, but it gets dark all too quickly, and by the time she heads back towards the tunnel it's already nightfall and the formerly dry riverbed has reverted to a river that's too deep for her to wade across.
  • Stink Snub:
    • The other bathhouse workers complain about Chihiro's human stench potentially driving away customers. Once Chihiro is employed under the name Sen, Yubaba tells her workers to stop complaining, as Sen will soon stop smelling like a human, and in the meantime, they're stuck with her anyway because Yubaba is honor-bound to give her the employment that she asked for.
    • When the stink spirit approaches the bathhouse, Yubaba defies this trope and warns every employee to not react to the stench so as to not offend the customer.
  • The Stoic: Haku, when he's in the bathhouse and presumably under Yubaba's watch. He doesn't even bat an eyelid when Yubaba breathes fire at him.
  • Take a Third Option: At the end, Chihiro is shown a dozen pigs, and has to choose which two among them are her parents in order to free them and herself. But she can't pick them out. Because, as she correctly deduces, her parents aren't in there at all.
  • Take Away Their Name: Yubaba magically enslaves her employees by stealing bits of their names, which subsequently robs from them the memory of their full name and eventually their former lives. They can only get free of her if they remember their real, full name.
    Yubaba: So, your name's Chihiro? What a pretty name! And it belongs to me now.
    • In Chihiro's case, Yubaba goes further than taking away the characters of her name, as the Meaningful Rename trope above indicates. Chihiro's new "name" isn't really a name at all - it's a number.
  • They Should Have Sent A Poet: Several times—as Chihiro takes in the sights of the bathhouse, the endless ocean, etc.—she notes aloud how amazing the view is.
  • Tightrope Walking: Chihiro has to do this on a thin metal pipe attached to the outside of the building to reach a far ladder overlooking the deep water below. She is absolutely terrified all throughout, but she pushes through anyway.
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: Chihiro wears a ponytail with sidetails.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • You can't tell in English, but Chihiro's parents really should know better than to eat in an "empty town" where the signs advertise such foods as "dog" and "eyeball". But even for someone who doesn't read or speak Japanese, it isn't hard to tell that there's something very odd about the situation.
    • Most of the bathhouse employees who cheerfully serve No-Face without even questioning where he's from, even though he just pops up in the middle of the night and mysteriously speaks with the voice of another employee. Yubaba later curses their stupidity over letting No-Face in, suggesting that they ought to have recognized the threat he potentially posed. Downplayed in that Yubaba is established to be incredibly greedy and less than generous with her employees' paychecks, hence the frog worker Aogaeru trying to pry up bits of gold from the floorboards after everyone else is asleep, which is when he becomes No-Face's first victim.
  • Trapped in Another World: Chihiro's parents eat food intended for spirits, and are turned into pigs as punishment. Chihiro must work at the bathhouse under Yubaba's rule or risk suffering the same fate, and until she finds a way to rescue them, Chihiro and her parents are stranded in the spirit world.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: There's a hilarious scene in which Lin smuggles Chihiro aboard the bathhouse's upper elevator, where she winds up stuck with an elephantine radish spirit that takes up most of it. Humans have been established as being not welcome in the bathhouse, so she's bracing for the worst while ineffectually trying to remain unnoticed. Luckily, the radish spirit is either kindly enough, mischievous enough, or apathetic enough to not call anybody's attention to her.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: When instructing Chihiro on how to get to Kamaji, Haku touches her forehead and both she and the audience see a preview of the path ahead.
  • Visual Pun:
    • No-Face could be described as having a Noh face, though only in English.
    • Yubaba's son, Boh, is roughly twice her height, yet he's still an infant both physically and mentally. In other words, he's a big baby.
  • Voice Changeling: No-Face can perfectly imitate the voices of people he's eaten. Otherwise, he's silent.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Several characters display the ability to do this, such as Yubaba, who can turn into a crow-like creature, and Haku, whose alternate form is a dragon.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: No-Face is given an emetic dumpling by Chihiro, sending him into a rampage that ends with the bathhouse covered top to bottom in vomit. Yubaba, in particular, gets the worst of it.
  • Wainscot Society: The spirit community doesn't appear to be in very regular contact with the human world — but nonetheless, Muggles can fall into it by just wandering into the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Watch Out for That Tree!: After all but flying down a staircase after a stair breaks under her foot, Chihiro runs straight into the wall at the end.
  • Wham Shot: Chihiro's parents turning away from their Schmuck Banquet to reveal that they've been turned into pigs. It's at this point that both Chihiro and the audience realize things have gone from bad to irreparably worse, and that Chihiro won't be leaving with her family anytime soon.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?:
    Lin: What's going on?
    Kamaji: Something you wouldn't recognize. It's called "love".
  • What You Are in the Dark: Averted. Towards the beginning, Chihiro and her parents find an abandoned restaurant with a delicious spread of food laid out; her parents chow down with great gusto, her mother calling for Chihiro to do so as well. But Chihiro is still weirded out by the area, and refuses to partake out of uneasiness. However, Chihiro's parents both expect there to be a vendor nearby, and are explicitly happy to pay whatever's required for the meal. As for Chihiro, she is cautious and nervous in this scene, but no more so than she is at any other point in the movie, whether alone or with people.
  • When He Smiles: Haku only smiles around Chihiro, but when he does, boy does it light up his face.
  • White Mask of Doom. No-Face is first encountered as a partial black cloak and a white mask. Later his body grows a horrible maw, which makes for a jarring contrast to the lost-child-in-pain expression on the mask.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: No-Face. Terribly lonely, he takes a liking to Chihiro when she offers him kindness and lets him into the bathhouse. Unfortunately, something about the place leads him to become an ever-growing, ever-ravenous monster that swallows up everything in sight. And the more monstrous he gets, the more obsessed with Chihiro he becomes.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: While the audience is never given the exact amount of time that the Oginos are in the spirit world, the trope is heavily implied: when they return to the living world, their car is dusty and has been overgrown with foliage. The car does start without a problem, however, so it can't have been more than a few days or weeks.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: Yubaba doesn't like humans at all, and at their first meeting she shows tremendous contempt for Chihiro. However, by the time Chihiro has proven herself several times over and insists on facing Yubaba's challenge fair and square, the old ogress seems to have devloped a grudging respect for Chihiro's courage and determination.
  • Youkai: Most of the background characters, being nature spirits of one form or another. At the very least, several important characters appear to take inspiration from various yokai.

"Now go, and don't look back."


Video Example(s):



Seeking to find a way to save her parents, Chihiro asks the witch Yubaba for a job in her bathhouse. After agreeing to give Chihiro work, Yubaba magically removes the girls' name until it's reduced to just "Sen" (1000 in Japanese).

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / MuggleInMageCustody

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