Spirited Away

Chihiro/Sen

Chihiro is a typical ten-year-old girl, spoiled and overprotected. When we first meet her she is angry because her parents are moving the family to a new town and she doesn’t want to go. Her parents want her to think of the move as an adventure, but she stubbornly refuses. Beneath Chihiro’s childish behavior, however, is a well of maturity and wisdom that Chihiro isn’t yet aware of. One sign of this maturity is that she instinctively values and follows rules that she knows are important, even when authority figures tell her to break them. For example, when Chihiro’s father decides to explore the abandoned theme park, Chihiro’s instincts tell her it’s not a good idea. Once inside the park, her parents gorge themselves on the food they find, and she refrains from eating anything. Chihiro’s wise respect for rules will prove important in the spirit world.

When Yubaba changes Chihiro’s name to Sen, Chihiro seems to lose her true identity. Chihiro desperately holds on to her former self because if she forgets who she used to be, she’ll be trapped in the spirit world forever. She believes that resisting her new identity as Sen is necessary to survive. Yet Chihiro’s time spent as Sen is when her true self develops. Chihiro has always been instinctively kind and respectful, but as Sen, she relies on these qualities. She doesn’t allow scary circumstances to dim her optimism and trust. Chihiro’s kindness toward others isn’t just a façade to help her escape, and she forms true friendships with several of the bathhouse inhabitants. She helps Haku, Boh, and several needy spirits, even though doing so means she may get stuck in the spirit world. Chihiro leaves the spirit world a more self-sufficient and self-reflective young girl. She realizes that the problems of moving to a new school are nothing compared to the real challenges of growing up.