Many fans of Spirited Away wonder, does Chihiro remember the spirit world? Spirited Away is one of the most successful anime movies in the early 2000s. This is why until now, it is still greatly praised and discussed in a variety of online platforms. Interpretations of various scenes like the train scene and No-Face changing his personalities are still being analyzed upon.
As such, there are still questions that the audience wanted to know. Particularly, they were curious to know if Chihiro remembered her journey in the Spirit World after returning to the human world. After all, forgetfulness was often present in the film. This applies to Haku forgetting his real identity. Chihiro almost forgetting her real name; and Chihiro’s parents forgetting what happened. Chihiro also forgot about her first encounter with Haku when she was a child.
It was also mentioned that Chihiro will forget the Spirit World once she returned to the human world. However, the last scene of Chihiro staring at the entrance of the Spirit World after leaving can raise some eyebrows. Did she remember the Spirit World? If not, then is her journey of growth all for nothing?
Although everything in Spirited Away can be interpreted freely by the audience, there may be an answer to whether or not Chihiro remembers the Spirit World.
Humans Forgetting Spirit Encounters
There seemed to be a consistent pattern in the film where a human tends to forget what happened with their Spirit World encounters. This applied to Chihiro and her parents. Chihiro first encountered Haku, formerly a river spirit, when she fell and lost her shoe in the river. However, she did not remember this encounter until some time later in the film. She also expressed frustration of not remembering who Haku was when Zeniba asked her.
Chihiro’s parents also forgot that they ate the spirits’ food. They forgot their transformation and time as pigs. At the end of the film, they were actually wondering where Chihiro had gone off to. They never intended to go further in the Spirit World, which contrasted their initial goal at the start.
The forgetfulness humans will have with the Spirit World seemed to indicate that humans and spirits are not supposed to co-exist in the same reality. Spirits have their own world, while humans have their own too.
Humans Unwelcome in the Spirit World
This was made evident when Chihiro was negatively received in the bathhouse. This is why Haku wanted her to hold her breath while entering the bathhouse so as to not give away she’s a human.
Chihiro also experienced some sort of discrimination. She and her spirit companion, Lin, was assigned to a mountain of tasks: including the stinky river spirit. It was with her hard work and determination of cleaning the stinky river spirit that she was finally respected.
Moreover, after discovering her parents got turned into pigs, Chihiro was becoming translucent. It was as if she was becoming a spirit herself. If Haku had not came to her rescue, then it was most likely she would stay in the Spirit World permanently. The Spirit World does not cater to humans even in the slightest bit. This was also made apparent with Yubaba emphasizing that Chihiro’s parents stole food from the spirits.
Humans staying for too long in the Spirit World does not bode well. When Chihiro signed the contract to work in the bathhouse, Yubaba renamed her as ‘Sen’. As the days go by, Sen is starting to forget her real name and identity. This is similar to how she was becoming translucent at first. Staying too long in the Spirit World will not guarantee her return to the human world.
So, Chihiro Forgets But Remembers Growth
Considering the aforementioned factors, it is safe to assume that Chihiro forgot exactly what had transpired. But it is important to take note of her lines in the film’s ending when her father asked her if she’s scared of a new school and home. Chihiro confidently replied that she can handle it.
Despite not remembering the Spirit World in details, she did internalize all of the lessons she has learnt. The growth she underwent during her journey not all for naught. Otherwise, she never would have replied to her father that she can handle change. She probably would have whined like a spoiled brat and be pessimistic about it instead.
It can be interpreted that her pause as the end while looking at the Spirit World’s entrance is that she is remembering something vaguely. But there is one thing she is sure of: she was not the same girl as she was before entering the Spirit World. She knew she had changed. It can also be assumed that the love she gave and received in the Spirit World remained in her heart. This can be the symbol of Zeniba’s hair-tie shining in her hair. It was as if telling the audience that the Spirit World was not a dream.
Take note too that while Chihiro did forget her first encounter with Haku, she eventually remembered it. Chihiro’s memories of the Spirit World may have just receded in the back of her mind, similar to how dreams were. She will eventually remember it if she wanted to, which is what happened with Haku.
It is because of her love for Haku that she was able to remember his true identity. This love can help Chihiro remember her memories of the Spirit World as the time comes. She will remember the spirits who helped her: Haku, Lin, Zeniba, and Kamaji. At the same time, she will remember the spirits she had gained an understanding of: Boh, Yubaba, and No-Face. After all, this journey has changed Chihiro from a self-centered girl to a responsible young woman. It was an experience that will remain for a lifetime.