Letter From Studio Ghibli Explains the Mysteries of Spirited Away

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No matter how many times you re-watch Spirited Away (2001), some aspects of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated classic will always remain a mystery. Twitter user @0910noncha wasn’t content with accepting this as part of the film’s fantastical charm. So the Spirited Away fan wrote to animation house Studio Ghibli with some questions, and received a detailed letter back addressing each one, Rocket News 24 reports.

Three big questions were posed in the initial letter: Why did Chihiro’s parents turn into pigs? What was the food they ate that made it happen? And how was Chihiro able to pass her final test?

A Studio Ghibli employee wrote back saying that the transformation of Chihiro’s parents was meant to symbolize greed. Miyazaki reportedly cited the greed he witnessed during Japan’s recession in the 1980s as his inspiration for the metaphor. As the letter details, when someone becomes a pig in the film, he or she eventually develops the “body and soul of a pig” instead of turning back into a human. The respondent explained that this applies to greed in the real world as well as in the fantasy realm.

One of the movie’s greatest mysteries comes at the end, when Chihiro guesses correctly that none of the pigs she’s presented with are her parents. According to the letter, she was able to do so using “special abilities” obtained in the spirit world:

“Chihiro, as a 10-year-old girl, could understand the difference because she had overcome difficulties and had managed to acquire the ‘energy to live’ – which is something everyone can do naturally.”

The writer explains that Chihiro’s journey to harness this so-called “energy to live” by confronting her fears makes up the core of the film.

The remaining question about what food turned Chihiro’s parents into pigs still remains a bit of a mystery. The employee writes: “It’s not actually made clear what the food is—it’s just ‘very delicious,’” then goes on to hint that the feast was possibly laid out on purpose as a trick to lure humans who had lost their way.

While some filmmakers are hesitant to explain their work after it has been released, Miyazaki and the rest of Studio Ghibli have been especially generous to fans. Earlier this year, the director confirmed a long-held fan theory about his 1997 film, Princess Mononoke. Hopefully these tidbits will be enough to sustain fans on the off-chance that Miyazaki ever retires for good.

[h/t Rocket News 24]

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