It’s hard to believe that 13 years have passed since Hayao Miyazaki’s classic Spirited Away, otherwise known as Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, first came onto the world scene. The film holds a special place in my heart for being the first, and to this day favorite, Studio Ghibli film that I ever saw.
So imagine my delight when all these years later, a Japanese web user uploaded an excerpt from an interview with Miyazaki in which he sheds further light on one of the final scenes in the movie–the one in which Sen/Chihiro is given one chance to pick out her transformed parents from among a group of pigs to break the curse on them once and for all. Exactly how does she know that none of the pigs are her parents?
I remember watching the above-mentioned scene with bated breath, wondering if Chihiro would be able to correctly identify her parents and leave the spirit realm for good. As you know if you’ve seen the film, Chihiro immediately sees through Yubaba’s trap and realizes that her parents are not among the group of pigs lined up to meet her. Everyone rejoices that she and her parents are now free to go back to their own world, and the family continues on to their new home. But if you’re like me, some viewers may have been left with a nagging feeling: Just how the Haku was Chihiro able to give that correct answer??
Let’s let Spirited Away Director Hayao Miyazaki take it away from here:
[The segment marked in red]
“This is about when Spirited Away was released. I’ve never explained why Chihiro knows that her parents are not among the group of pigs towards the end of the film. Those people who are constantly seeking explanations often say that it’s illogical. However, I don’t think those kinds of things are important. After all the things she’s experienced up to that point, Chihiro simply knows that her parents aren’t there. You ask why she knows, but knowing is human life. That’s all it is. If you can point out that something is lacking here or there, then the audience should fill in the gaps for themselves. I don’t want to waste time thinking about those kinds of things.”
While this may not be the concrete answer that some readers were hoping for, this certainly seems like a typical Miyazaki response, as other Japanese net users were quick to point out. It seems like Chihiro’s choice really did just come down to intuition, which is, as Miyazaki would like to remind us, a distinctly human sensation. Perhaps her heightened instinct is also why she tried to stop her parents from entering the tunnel in the first place at the start of the film. But it’s a good thing they did because, well, we wouldn’t have one of the greatest masterpieces of contemporary animation if they hadn’t now, would we?