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Headscratchers / Spirited Away

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  • How was Yubaba able to have a giant baby like Boh?
    • This troper always got the impression that Boh isn't actually a baby, he's just been treated like one his whole life and so, because this is a magic place, he keeps looking like one.
      • Is it ever specifically stated that Boh is Yubaba's baby through blood? Perhaps she adopted him.
    • Her coddling him kept him from maturing, but it didn't keep him from growing. He's shaped like a baby because he is treated like one, and he's as big as he is because of his age.
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    • Remember that Yubaba isn't human, and neither is Boh. It's possible that this is just how their non-human biology works. When she gave birth to Boh he was a normal-sized infant, and then he grew into a giant infant, and that's just how the aging process normally works for their species. Eventually he'll morph from "giant infant" to "giant adult".
    • I was under the impression that the baby was not Yubaba's biological son and was more like a magical creation of hers.
    • Yubaba is a giant counterpart to Miniature Senior Citizens.
  • This troper has always wondered—when Chihiro and her family arrive at the "restaurants", what are those pinkish-orange, pouchy-looking things Chihiro's dad piles onto his plate and basically eats whole? They look like they have some kind of red stuff inside, as well.
    • Tightly woven ramen or yakisoba?
    • It's clearly anpan, a bun filled with red bean jelly.
      • No, that's what Chihiro ate after the Stink Spirit left. I've heard secondhand that Studio Ghibli said that it was haggis, but I can't find the source. Theories range from steamed pork dumplings to boiled eggplants.
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    • They're called Nikuman. They are a common snack food found in combini here in Japan...
    • Because of tweets by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, it likely is the stomach of a coelacanth, a kind of endangered fish.
  • What was the point of not having Chihiro remember her journey through the spirit world? Yeah, it's a forbidden place for humans, but still: The moral of the story is about facing your fears and becoming more mature. If that's the case, then, wouldn't Chihiro's experience have been rather pointless if she didn't remember it once she came back? How would that have still made her change into a different person?
    • I don't recall it being said that she would forget everything? Though it's been a while since I saw the movie, but I'm sure only her parents were shown to have their memories wiped, while all Haku told Chihiro when she left was that "no matter what, don't look back." In the English dub, the parents at the end tell Chihiro she shouldn't be afraid of starting at a new school in a new place, to which Chihiro replies "I think I'll be okay." implying her being aware how capable she is in difference to her attitude at the beginning of the movie, which wouldn't make sense if she'd forgotten everything.
      • Well, according to Miyazaki himself, Chihiro did not recall her experience after leaving the spirit world at the end — but added that it doesn't mean completely forgetting it, and how there's a likely chance she'll eventually remember what happened.
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    • Even if Chihiro doesn't consciously remember what happened, the emotional growth still happened. She's stronger now, because of her experience.
      • This. Look closely after she exits the tunnel and you'll see her hair band sparkle in the light for a moment. She recieved that hair band in the spirit world, which (a) may jog her memories later on, and (b) it's symbolic of how her emotional growth remains even if her memories have disappeared.
    • This probably coincides with Zeniba's line: "Once you do something, you never forget. Even if you can't remember."
  • Okay, this has bothered me since I saw this film as a eight year old in 2002. Were Chihiro and Haku *in* love, or did they just love each other? It works either way, but I'm just curious what other people think.
    • They deeply cared about eachother, but they weren't in "love" love. They never explicitly stated anything more that the fact that they were good friends.
    • Call him a spirit guide, spirit protector, "imaginary" friend, or maybe a Big Brother Mentor that sort of thing. The "love" between them isn't love in a romantic sense, but there is a strong emotional attachment, like how an older brother would feel for his sister.
    • I saw it as a kind of spiritual and/or Puppy Love thing. I think the implication is that if or when they meet again as adults, they'll be each other's true love. Though not entirely sure how it'll work when Haku's not actually a human...
  • Did Haku lose his dragon form at the end, or did he consciously turn into a human so that he could talk to Chihiro?
    • The second thing, he couldn't talk to her in his dragon form.
    • Perhaps it was the shock of remembering his true name that caused him to transform so quickly.
  • It's set that the bath house workers don't lose their memories on the spot when Yubaba takes their names away and slowly makes them her slaves by making them forget who they are. That being sad, why hasn't anyone tried to prevent it and written down their old names while they still remember it? Wouldn't you think it suspicious that the oldest servants remember nothing of their lives before the bath house, not even their birth names?
    • Haku tells Chihiro to hide her card and other things if I remember correctly, so it's probably forbidden. And as we know, Yubaba can be rather spiteful when her rules get broken.
    • Also, you might as well start questioning how you can "take" someone's name, and how that would cause amnesia. A Wizard Did It, nothing to see here, move along...
    • Actually, the name-loss amnesia is an effect of the overall spell, not just the visible part. By taking away their names, Yubaba forced them to say, "Hello, I am —-" whatever their name was, but she also took their identities as well, and their identities were literally every other detail of who they are. All stripped away.
    • It's not actually clear if the name thing applies to all the workers, or if it's just something Yubaba does to workers whom she wants to keep on a tight leash. Maybe Haku is a special case because she knows how powerful he can be, and Chihiro is special because she's human. Nobody besides them mentions losing their memories or having their name changed.
  • What exactly is Lin? We know she's not human, judging by her initial prejudice towards Chihiro.
    • She's a weasel. Or a weasel spirit.
  • Are all the lady bathhouse workers weasels? Are all the men frogs? Or are they all different kinds of animal spirits?
    • An overwhelming amount of the males seems to be frogs or toads, but clearly not all of them - Kamaji, for instance, is pretty obviously a spider. Not sure about the women since their animal characteristics are not obvious.
    • They're slug spirits.
  • Is there any particular reason why Chihiro was able to know none of the pigs present were her parents? This is never explicited, and it bugs me a bit. Is it because she has visited them enough times to remember some minor details about their pig forms? Is it just some kind of mystical connection between parents and kids? Or perhaps Chihiro by now is Genre Savvy enough to understand that the test would be impossible if it weren't for some sort of third option? Or all of those possibilities, or none of them?
    • I was always under the impression it was a mystical parent-child connection deal, though it could be that she just remembered details about their pig forms. It doesn't seem like Chihiro was quite Genre Savvy enough to know the test would be impossible because she does take a moment to look at the pigs in an attempt to find the right ones.
    • You know how "a mother always knows"? I guess sometimes it can work in reverse.
      • Supporting this idea, Chihiro is surprised Yubaba is unable to recognize Boh in rodent form, indicating Chihiro could recognize her parents in pig form.
    • Remember what Zeniba said? "Once you've met someone, you never really forget them." And how can you forget your own parents?
    • I have watched the movie more times than I can count, and I think I finally figured this one out. When Chihiro's parents transform into pigs, they still have some of their human hair on their heads, even when fully transformed. Later when Haku takes Chihiro to go see her parents in the pig pen, the top of their heads are obscured from the audience's view, but Chihiro certainly gets a good look and probably saw they still had their hair on their heads. Later when Yubaba administers the final test, Chihiro can clearly see that all the pigs presented had no hair so none of them could be her parents.
    • Haku did tell her earlier that she would need to remember what her parents' pig forms looked like in order to bring them back to human form. Presumably she would have kept track of something about their appearances to distinguish them from the others.
    • Yubaba is a known trickster who evidently doesn't want Chihiro to win, and the best way to be sure she doesn't find her parents between the pigs presented is if her parents are between them.
      • Also, her parents weren't part of the spirit world from the beginning, so they weren't going to be at the end.
  • So why did No-Face suddenly get hair? The other aspects of his transformation make sense: he could talk and got frog-like limbs because he ate a frog spirit and gets bigger as he eats more (especially two other bathhouse workers), but why the hair? And this happens before he eats the other two workers, who did have hair unlike the hairless frog from before.
    • How do mutations work? Maybe it's a reference to him being innocent beforehand and the hair grows as he's corrupted by the greed in the bathhouse? After he's cured, he's back to being innocent and so stays with Zeniba so he can be raised without the negative influences in the bathhouse.
  • Haku says that he and Chihiro will meet again someday. Does that mean that they will actually, physically meet? Or will it just be some spirit-y thing where she sees him as a river or something? Does Chihiro grow up, get married, barely think of him again? :( Has Miyazaki said anything about it?
    • He implies that he can't leave the spirit world, so unless Chihiro goes back one day then no they won't be able to physically meet. But maybe they'll be able to be together in spirit. If he has no river to be the spirit of, maybe he'll find another one and he and Chihiro will meet that way.
    • We need a sequel! But in the meantime, we can speculate. Chihiro might go through the tunnel again. (It's near her house, after all.) She might go there by accident, or because of some lingering traces of memory, or because Haku has some way of signalling her. (Remember that near the tunnel there's a collection of shrines where some spirits are said to live. Maybe Haku can get one of them to deliver a message to Chihiro.) It's also possible that the real-world Kohaku River will get rerouted at some point, or the neighborhood currently blocking it will be torn down and the whole area will become a nature preserve, or whatever, in which case Chihiro and Haku could meet up in the real world. (Though whether Haku can actually speak in that form is another question.)
    • Chihiro will meet Haku again when she dies and takes the train through the spirit realm.
  • It's kind of unclear over what timeline the movie takes place. How long is Chihiro in the Spirit world? A few days? Weeks? Months? It seemed like more than just a few days to me.
    • Word of God is that it's three nights. The first night is when Chihiro signs her name away. The second is when No-Face arrives and then the third is when she gets to Zeniba's place. She goes home on the next morning. So she spends a long weekend in the spirit world.
    • But when Chihiro and her parents return to their car the path and entrance are overgrown (even new trees are visible), there's leaves and dust on the car, and the plaster on the entrance to the park and the stone statue's face are worn away. This suggests the Spirit world runs on Year Outside, Hour Inside. The overgrowth maybe could have taken months but the weathering suggests years have passed. This bothers me we didn't get a clear answer on how much time actually passed in the material world.
      • I had the impression that the plants just grew super-fast because some magic leaked out from the tunnel, so it only looks like they've been gone for months. (And I guess that explains the weathering too, because Magic.) Otherwise, Fridge Logic suggests that Chihiro and her parents will show up at their house only to discover that months have gone by and they've all been reported missing, and everyone will wonder where they were all this time and the only thing they'd remember is that they walked through this one tunnel and the whole thing would be really weird and Chihiro would be singled out at school as that one weird girl who mysteriously disappeared. It doesn't exactly ruin the ending, but it kinda throws it off. My headcannon is that the spirit world actually runs on Year Inside, Hour Outside, so they emerge from the tunnel only a few minutes after they entered it, and all the overgrowth is just a localized side-effect of some latent magic.
    • Simply going by how she makes emotional connections and how people/spirits react to her and the way she gets homesick, she is longer there than just 2-3 days. Such a short time is not enough to be treated as and act like, she is. And adding in the car I would go for two to three months.
    • The movie shows clearly three days passing, and a if months went by the car probably won't work once her and her parents reach it as gasoline gets spoiled and the car itself probably would damage after months in the open especially with one of the windows open. EDIT. Besides, if months went by a missing person report for the Oginos would've been filed, the police would check the area eventually finding the abandoned car and would've take the car away to Forensics.
    • I personally think it's only three days (at most) outside.(A car left in wood with all the window rolled down , could be some kind of dusty after 48-72 hour , if the weather and season is right.) And the entrance , statue(also the surrounding area.) are in fact already the way it looks like at the end , at least for a long time. The clean , well maintained look is just a illusion created by the magic ,to draw people in to the spirit world.....than became either Yubaba's slave worker or....well , food source of the place.
  • How are Yubaba's criticisms of Chihiro a case of Jerkass Has a Point? Sure, she complains quite a bit, but considering that her parents got turned into pigs for eating spirit food, and that she has to sell herself into slavery in order to avoid a Fate Worse than Death (which risks a completely different Fate Worse than Death) her reactions are entirely reasonable.
    • Values Dissonance is in place here. Yubaba was mocking her bratty childish nature and the fact that her parents effectively committed theft (Chihiro's father intended to pay for the food, but still simply grabbed food while the staff was absent.
  • Why are the inhabitants of the world called Gods when they are clearly Fairies?
    • In Shinto the Japanese term for God (Kami) is quite ambiguous and may refer to many kinds of spirits that would be more similar to the Western fairy, it's an animistic religion.
  • The circumstances that lead to Chihiro dropping her shoe into Kohaku River are never really explained. Then again, in the Japanese version, it is somewhat justified because Chihiro is telling Haku from what her mother told her.
    • Honestly, this is explained by her being a kid. She would have been single-digits in age and definitely wouldn't have clear memories of things, whether her mom told her or not. "We visited the Kohaku River, and I fell in and lost my shoe," could well be ALL she remembers.

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