Review and Synopsis by Anime Girl
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi or Spirited Away Review
Chihiro Ogino is in the process of moving with her family to a new town, a move she isn’t too thrilled with it. In general, she has a whiney, abrasive personality. Her father, who is partial to taking shortcuts, attempts a quicker way to their new house. However, they quickly become lost. They pass a series of small spirit houses along the dirt road they’ve turned down before flying through a tunnel of trees and bushes.
There is a statue at the end of the nature tunnel and the entrance into an abandoned building. It immediately gives Chihiro the creeps, but she follows her parents through the tunnel. They find an abandoned village filled with different vendor stalls. While they walk through the abandoned village, Chihiro is whining the whole time and urging her parents that they need to leave.
Her mother and father smell something and follow their noses to a stall that’s filled with food. They call out so they can eat but get no response. They decide that they’ll just pay later, and they start to gorge themselves on the food.
Chihiro begins to wander around. She follows the stone pathway to a bridge where a beautiful, elaborate bathhouse awaits on the other side. A boy is standing on the bridge. He tells her that she needs to leave before sunset.
Chihiro turns and runs back to her parents, spirits slowly coming out of the shadows cast by the setting sun. It’s too late for her parents, however. They have been turned into pigs for being greedy. She runs, trying to get back to the abandoned building before sunset. But she’s too late and finds that a river, nearly the size of an ocean now, is blocking her way.
Haku, the boy, standing on the bridge that tried to warn her, finds her near the water’s edge, crying and scared. He tells her how to get into the bathhouse and to seek out the boiler-man, Kamaji. She makes her way there and proves herself by hauling heavy coal into the fire.
Lin, a bathhouse worker, comes to bring Kamaji his dinner. Kamaji takes the opportunity to offer a cover story for the girl and tells Lin to take Chihiro to Yubaba, the witch who oversees the bathhouse. At first, Yubaba tries to scare Chihiro away, seeing her as the whiny child she is.
However, Chihiro insists, and we start to see a shift in her personality, starting with her hauling the coal into the fire and now standing up for herself into a witch that seems to be hinting that it was her magic that turned her parents into pigs. Eventually, Yubaba concedes and agrees to give her a job. But in exchange, she must give Yubaba her name, and she must now go by Sen.
She tells Haku to take Sen to her new duties. Along the way, Haku warns her not to forget her name, or she will be unable to leave the spirit world when the time comes.
Kamaji and Lin seem to be Sen’s only ally as she begins her new job in the bathhouse. It’s clear she’s never worked a day in her life, but she persists. During her time cleaning the floor, she notices a spirit, called No-Face, standing outside in the rain, staring at her. Sen had seen him prior when she was crossing the bridge to make it into the bathhouse initially. She lets him in, thinking he may be a customer.
She is then summoned to clean a massive tub with Lin, one that is in a horrible state and is very disgusting. Their coworkers laugh at them when they are assigned it. After they’ve cleaned it, they’re told they will get their first customer. This customer is a stink spirit. Upon entering the bathhouse, all of the staff is freaking out yet trying to remain calm because he is a rather potent stick spirit.
Chihiro/Sen is able to help him, and in exchange, the stink spirit gives Sen a magic emetic dumpling. Once he leaves, everyone retires after a long day of work.
Meanwhile, No-Face finds one of the workers near the bath stalls. He entices him closer, using fake gold that’s made to match the gold that the stink spirit had left behind. When he’s close enough, he grabs him and swallows him whole.
The following day, he’s being escorted around the bathhouse, demanding food and tipping generously. When he comes across Sen, he tries to get her to take the gold, which she refuses to do. Sen rejects No-Face’s offer and leaves, much to his dismay. He swallows two other employees after she has left.
Sen sees paper Shikigami attacking a Japanese dragon she knows to be Haku. She follows them through the bathhouse, noticing the blood that Haku is dripping as she goes. She finds them in Yubaba’s penthouse, a shikigami stowing away on her back as she goes. In the penthouse, the shikigami that’s been hiding on Sen transforms into Zeniba, Yubaba’s identical twin sister. She turns Yubaba’s son into a mouse and turns Yubaba’s harpy into a tiny bird.
She turns to Sen and explains that Haku stole her magic gold seal and warns that he now has a deadly curse on him. In a last-ditch effort, Haku’s destroys the shikigami with his tail, casting Zeniba from the room. They fall through a hole in the floor and land in the boiler room. Sen quickly feeds Haku part of the magic dumpling. He vomits up the golden seal. A black slug emerges from it, and Sen quickly stomps on it with her foot.
Sen moves to leave to return the seal to Zeniba and to apologize on behalf of Haku. On her way out, she confronts No-Face. He is now bigger than ever. She gives him the other half of the dumpling and begins to chase Sen from the bathhouse. He is throwing up everything and everyone he has consumed along the way.
Outside, No-Face seems to have lost the delusional rampage he had inside the bathhouse and follows Sen to a railroad station where he, Sen, Boh (Yubaba’s son), and the harpy board and take a train to Swamp Bottom where Zeniba lives.
In the bathhouse, enraged at how Sen allowed No-Face to enter into the bathhouse, Yubaba wants her parents slaughtered and fried up as bacon. Haku informs her that Boh and her harpy are both with Sen with Zeniba. He convinces her to let him retrieve them in exchange for the release of Sen and her parents.
Back at Zeniba’s, the group is engaged in sweet, small tasks that aren’t seen in the bathhouse. Zeniba tells Sen that it was her love for Haku that broke his curse. The black sug that squashed was a spell that Yababa had put on Haku to control him. A gust of wind alerts the group to a newcomer, and Sen races outside.
Haku is waiting outside in his dragon form. No-Face decides to stay with Zeniba while the rest catch a ride on Haku back to the bathhouse. On their way there, Sen begins to have flashbacks of her youth. She remembers falling in a river, the Kohaku River. She was safely washed to shore. She tells Haku that she believes that he is the Kohaku River, assuming that he had forgotten his original name and couldn’t leave the spirit world in the same way that Yubaba was trying to do to Sen. She guesses correctly, and it breaks Haku’s spell.
When they arrive back at the bathhouse, Yubaba has everybody outside, including a random selection of pigs. She forces Sen to pick out which ones are her parents, which she can correctly do. Sen is now able to leave with her parents.
Haku takes Sen to the river that was once filled, but it’s now dry. He tells her to go through the tunnel that they originally came from and that her parents will be waiting on the other side. Chihiro reunites with them, who don’t remember anything about their time at the bathhouse. Their car is covered in dust, but they clean it out and leave for their new home. Chihiro is now excited and unafraid.
Sen or Chihiro Ogino
Chihiro Ogino or Sen has one of the most elaborate and all-encompassing transformations that I’ve ever seen a character undergo. In the beginning, it’s relatively easy to dislike the little girl because she is whiny, annoying, and seems to be fearful of everything around her. This quickly begins to change; however, once she no longer has her parents and Chihiro must now fend for herself.
We first see her backbone when she is introduced to Kamaji. She carries heavy coal to the fire. Again, we see a more formidable side of Sen when she asks Yubaba for a job and is threatened in an attempt to get her to stop. However, her time in the bathhouse isn’t just a negative one. When she visits Zeniba, we see a more compassionate and quiet, almost reflective side to Chihiro, that I doubt was there at the start of her journey. Throughout her journey through this spirit world, we see Chihiro become less selfish and more sure of herself through her actions and willingness to help others.
Lin’s character is a personal favorite of mine. While some female characters are around to give the main female protagonist a lot of grief, Lin went out of her way to be a friend to Chihiro when she didn’t have anyone else. She repeatedly showed her warmth even though she has a very sarcastic personality. She even seems to have a sweet relationship with Kamaji based on their interactions, but she is quick to turn on her other coworkers.
When No-Face leaves the bathhouse to follow Chihiro to the station, she threatens to hurt him if he did anything to Chihiro. All heroes need a friend like Lin who can look out for them in their time of need.