Spirited Away has cemented itself in the anime world, being one of the most successful and loved Studio Ghibli films. Fans are still discussing about it, particularly the wonderful characters in it. Particularly, the main protagonist Chihiro is the subject of various questions and interpretations – and her relationship with Haku. Is she romantically in love with him?
We’ll be enlisting the references in the film that seemed to pinpoint an answer, because it seemed like there is an unmistakable connection between Chihiro and Haku.
Haku Helped Chihiro All Throughout
When Chihiro first met Haku in the bathhouse, Haku immediately told her to leave. He knew that Chihiro should not have been in the Spirit World. From the get-go, he already cared about her safety. He also intended to buy her time while she makes her escape.
He found her awhile later cowering in the corner. He helped her regain strength, and prevented her in becoming wholly translucent. He was also the one who instructed Chihiro on what she needs to do, in order to survive in the Spirit World and rescue her parents. Chihiro became Sen when she got employed in the bathhouse.
Haku reminded Sen of her real name, Chihiro, when she was starting to forget her true identity. He was there when she needed to cry and let all her feelings out. He even gave her something to eat to regain her energy. He told her to remember her true goal: to rescue her parents and return to the human world. He was the one who showed kindness to her in her predicament.
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Chihiro/Sen Helped Him Back
At the same time, Sen also helped him back. When Haku as a dragon was attacked by Zeniba’s paper birds, bleeding profusely, Sen did not hesitate to aid him. She was very worried about his state, and snuck around Yubaba’s office just to follow him – therefore risking even her employment.
She immediately rushed to Haku in Yubaba’s office. She kept him close even when Zeniba appeared in a hologram claiming that he had stolen her golden seal. Zeniba also warned Sen that the golden seal carried a deadly curse, which Haku deserved for being a thief. This did not ruin Sen’s willingness to help him. She still decided to trust him.
When they fell into the boiler room, Sen took care of Haku. She made him eat the green orb given to her by the then-stinky river spirit to make him feel better. This green orb could possibly help Sen’s parents return to their true forms, but she sacrificed the half of it for Haku.
The green orb made Haku vomit Zeniba’s golden seal, and the black slug constituting the curse. Sen simply squashed the curse in her foot, which even shocked her.
She also made it her goal to return the golden seal to Zeniba and apologize on Haku’s behalf. When Lin questioned Sen’s actions, Kamaji answered that it is just love.
True Love Can Only Break the Curse
When Sen reached Zeniba’s hut, she explained that she squashed the black slug in the golden seal. Zeniba audibly laughed at this, finding humor that Sen just easily broke Haku’s curse. It turns out that the black slug curse is what Yubaba placed inside Haku so she could control him. Zeniba then said that only true love can break the curse.
This, alongside Kamaji’s observation, is the confirmation that Sen feels love towards Haku. It was not explicitly stated if it is romantic or platonic in nature.
When Haku reunited with Sen in Zeniba’s hut, Sen rushed towards him and cradled his face affectionately. It is such a heartwarming scene, and made you realize how much they care for one another.
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Haku and Chihiro/Sen’s Connection
When Haku was escorting Chihiro/Sen back to Yubaba’s bathhouse in his dragon form, Sen remembered something in her past. When she was young, she lost her shoe in a river. In an attempt to retrieve it, she accidentally fell into the river. But the river spirit saved her from drowning – in which this river spirit is actually Haku. Haku is actually the Kohaku River spirit, which led to him remembering who he really is. This mirrored how Haku helped Sen remember her true name and identity: Chihiro.
Haku was overjoyed to know his real name, and showed his tearful gratitude to Chihiro. This interaction solidified how much their love for one another is strong and wholesome. They went to great lengths helping each other, which started when Chihiro was a young girl.
They met again as fate had decided. This time, Chihiro was able to help Haku as well.
Haku Was The One Who Made Sure Chihiro Returns
When Haku recovered, he confronted Yubaba to let Chihiro go with her parents. He made a deal with Yubaba that he will retrieve her child, Boh, in exchange for Chihiro’s return to the human world. As such, Chihiro was given the chance to determine her parents in pig form in order to be free.
Haku escorted Chihiro to the exit to return back to the human world. Their parting is bittersweet, as Chihiro is hesitating, because she does not want it to be the last time she’ll ever see Haku. Most of all, she did not want to forget him.
But Haku assured her they will see each other again so earnestly, that even the audience may think that it is truly possible. This seemed to be open for interpretation, whether Haku is referring to Chihiro’s eventual passing or if Haku will visit the human world.
Chihiro is indeed in love with Haku, in which honestly can be interpreted in many ways. It can be romantic, but at the same time it can also be platonic. It can even be both combined. Rather, Chihiro’s love to Haku cannot simply be defined or boxed in a romantic or platonic label. Her love for him is deep, and goes beyond being simply romantic or platonic.
It is a love that is unconditional and strong. A love that is giving and nurturing. They are meant to be each other’s companion in their challenges in the Spirit World. It is important to note that they each did something for one another, which indicates on what a healthy relationship should be. It is a two-way street, and it was never meant to be a one-sided effort.
It is a love that you can rely on, that inspires you to be better in your life. A love in its purest form… and this is what Chihiro and Haku felt for one another.
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