Often hailed as one of the greatest animated films of all time, Spirited Away captured the hearts of a multitude of fans from across the globe with its beautiful story, unforgettable music and unique characters. As great as Spirited Away is, the first installment needs a sequel.
Spirited Away undoubtedly checks almost every box — but that doesn’t mean it’s without flaws, however minuscule they may be. There are some movies that make viewers fall in love with the amazingly written characters and there are those that pull them into a world of vibrance and beauty. In astounding fashion, Spirited Away is able to do both of those things very well — and at the same time, do one of them very poorly.
The bathhouse scenes are so visually pleasing, along with the grotesque pig transformation Chihiro’s parents undergo whilst eating the appetizing festival feast. This is a film that has some astonishing settings, but it really doesn’t explore the world of the spirits in a concrete fashion.
One important example of this is seen early on in the movie, when the spirits are seen exiting the ferry and preparing to cross over the red bridge, known as Keiun-Bashi. It’s almost as if the spirits are on a sort of vacation or something, seemingly enjoying a very festive party on the ferry. It brings up the question as to where these spirits are traveling from and for what reason they’re celebrating. It showcases a mystifying culture of sorts that at least exists within that one particular group of spirits.
Even the train scene where Chihiro crosses a vast and endless sea that stretches onto what seems like infinity leaves the door open for even more exploration of the wondrous Spirit Realm. It questions what is beyond that sea and if there other places in the spirit world like the continents of the real world. There’s a chance to see if spirit cultures differ. It would be interesting to see the lives of spirits up close and personal, not through the eyes of Chihiro. There needs to be a plot that explores these different settings from the perspective of the spirits that inhabit such an unimaginably gorgeous world.
Showing more feral animal spirits is also a good idea. There could also be more focus on the spirits that are more like Haku — there’s another river spirit in Spirited Away — or a sequel could focus on spirits of the forests or even a spirit of the underworld. The spirits are all so different, with some resembling humans and others that appear wholly new. Some even have the ability to evolve and transform based on what they consume, like the innocent and child-like No-Face. There could be other spirits just like him that have consumed a multitude of other spirits and other things — but instead, they could have chosen to remain as hulking beasts instead of reverting to their normal selves.
Of all the bizarre and fun things that Spirited Away exposed audiences to, the film also has a very strong hidden message about how dangerous humans are to nature. Chihiro explains to Haku when his memories return that the Kohaku River in the human world is filled in and replaced with apartment buildings. That’s the reason why Haku is in the world of the spirits without any memories. This reveals that it’s possible for spirits to pass on to the next life due to the negligence of humans.
There are things out of the spirit’s control that could result in their demise. When the other river spirit in the movie visits the bathhouse, he is a hulking heap of trash, sludge and other human pollution. It isn’t until Chihiro helps him release all of the human waste that’s been dumped into him during his time in the real world that he’s finally able to return to his normal self. It’s obvious humans are a danger to the spirits and can ultimately affect their health and appearance in both the real world and the afterlife, with often devastating consequences. The barrier between the two worlds in Spirited Away is so fragile that not only humans — but human objects as well — are all capable of passing through.
Spirited Away was a marvelous movie that will always be considered as one of the greatest animated films of all time, but there are parts of its universe that could still be explored. There’s still a lot of life and story left in what is arguably Studio Ghibli’s greatest success.
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Spirited Away is one of the best animated films of all time, but there are still parts of the film that could be explored in a potential sequel.