The Wonderful Lessons Found in "Spirited Away"

The movie "Spirited Away" took home the Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear prize in 2002 and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. Today we'll take a look at the valuable lessons this movie teaches.
The Wonderful Lessons Found in "Spirited Away"
Azucena Fernández

Written and verified by the teacher Azucena Fernández.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Spirited Away is a movie that never goes out of style. To date, it continues to attract the attention of children and adults alike because of all it has to offer. In fact, it’s considered one of the best films of the century. Today we’ll take a look at why this movie deserves to be seen over and over again.

In 2001 Studio Ghibli first released the animated film that tells the story of a 10 year-old girl. Chihiro finds herself trapped in a magical world where she must work in a bathhouse for gods in order to survive. Through her adventures in this enormous bathhouse, we learn about Japanese tradition and spirituality.

There we find Kamis, spiritual beings belonging to the religion of Shinto. For westerners, these are deities, and in Japan, they’re linked to elements of nature. We also discover yokai, creatures that are a mix of demons and spirits of nature.

Spirited Away is the maximum expression, in Miyazaki’s career, of the explosion of Japanese culture, the value of roots, respect for tradition and, at the same time, it’s a modern and respectful vision from the 21st century.”
–García Villar–

Chihiro manages to solve a problem created by her parents, who don’t respect Japanese traditions or a minimal proper education. She’s a normal girl and able to do all that is asked of her. She’s always thinking of others and about what’s right.

The lessons that Spirited Away teaches us

Working with others brings better results than working against them

During her journey in the bathhouse, Chihiro has to ask the wizard Yubaba – who directs the baths – for work. She knows it will be a difficult task and decides to be friendly and go along with whatever Yubaba asks.

In this way, she manages to carry out the work she needs to do in order to survive in this magical world and one day return to her own world.

When she asks for work, even though Yubaba is quite abrupt with her, she speaks to the wizard kindly. She calls her “grandma” and even asks her for help in removing the curse from her friend Kohaku.

Everyone has a good side; you just have to look for it

This truth is clear in characters such as No Face, or Kaonashi, who is a black shadow with a white face, whom Chihiro’s not afraid of.

Absolutely everyone believes that No Face is bad, but Chihiro makes a great effort to find his good side. In doing so, she’s able to discover what’s going on with No Face, and for No Face to be his true self.

“Chihiro believes in the goodness of others. With this belief that we all possess goodness she also manages to overcome Yubaba.”

Chihiro’s journey teaches us that greed turns you into a monster

This is what happens with Chihiro’s parents. They eat too much of a food that doesn’t even belong to them, and they end up turning into pigs.

They believe they’ll be happy thanks to the food. However, the truth is that their greed only gets them into trouble. This is where Chihiro’s adventure begins.

Ecology, nature and their importance in Spirited Away

The importance of nature is another strong theme in the movie Spirited Away. In the film, there is an awful smelling god in the baths who causes a great disturbance because of how horrible and stinky it is.

With patience, Chihiro dedicates her time to washing the spirit, who turns out to be a god from a polluted river. It has a bicycle stuck inside it, which was making the grime greater and greater. When Chihiro cleans it, the god appears as it truly is.

The bicycle that the smelly spirit has stuck in it also has great meaning. It’s there because someone threw it into the river. The movie reminds us of the importance of not trashing our environment

If we throw things into the water – like the bike – we not only contaminate the water, but we also damage its spirit.

Once the river is clean, Chihiro becomes very happy. What’s more, when the god of the river comes out of the house clean, all of the workers dance and celebrate joyfully.The movie’s writer and director, Hayao Miyazaki, teaches us something very valuable. He teaches us that treating a river well won’t make us rich, but it will make us happy.

The society of consumerism turns us into slaves

In the animated film, everyone who manages to get a job with Yubaba loses their name and forgets their previous life. In a way, they end up becoming slaves because they can’t remember who they really are.

Yubaba steals their names so that they become slaves. In the case of Kohana, for example, she makes him forget his name, promising a treasure that she’ll never give him.

In conclusion, Spirited Away is and will be one of the greatest movies of the 21st century. When children discover it, they love it and are prone to spending hours talking about what they’ve seen and asking questions.

It’s important to take advantage of this gem and share its valuable lessons with your little ones.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ayechu Orta, X., & Marco Simón, F. (2020). Sobre la naturaleza del sintoísmo.
  • Dozo, L. (2020). El uso de la fantasía en las películas de Hayao Miyazaki como práctica de resistencia a la posmodernidad: caso “El viaje de Chihiro” (Bachelor’s thesis, Facultad de Ciencia Política y Relaciones Internacionales).
  • González Portero, J. (2019). El viaje de Chihiro y el viaje del héroe/La tesis de Campbell aplicada al héroe japonés contemporáneo.
  • Gusdorf, G. (2001) Mitos y referencias culturales en el film El viaje de Chihiro, de Hayao Miyazaki. Autora: Lic. en Artes Camila Sabeckis.
  • Rodríguez Fernández, Iván (2016): “El anime como valor cultural”, en Anjhara Gómez Aragón (ed.): Japón y Occidente. El patrimonio cultural como punto de encuentro. Sevilla, Aconcagua Libros, pp.183-192.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.