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Studio Ghibli’s Letter to a Fan Explains the Pig Transformation in Spirited Away

Something I always loved about Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away is that it doesn’t feel the need to explain every aspect of the fantastical spirit world. We don’t need to know how a one-way train goes across the water or all the formal rules of the bathhouse magic. We just need to know that they work and see how they dictate the actions of the characters. That being said, I still love analyzing and reading fan-theories about things the movie leaves ambiguous or open-ended.

In a really wholesome interaction between fan and creator, Twitter user @0910nocha sent Studio Ghibli some questions, asking why Chihiro’s parents turned into pigs in the first act of Spirited Away. They received a detailed reply, which Rocket News 24 translated. How sweet is that? The letter they posted says that the transformation was reflective of how people turned into pigs during Japan’s bubble economy of the 1980s (which was followed by a 1991 crash) and once someone becomes a pig they gradually begin to have the “body and soul of a pig” which “doesn’t just apply to the fantasy world.”

This wouldn’t be the first time that a Ghibli movie has been invested in the Japanese financial crisis. If you watched Only Yesterdayyou might catch some of the themes about conformist attitudes and Japanese agriculture that resonated with Japanese audiences so much that it became the highest grossing domestic movie of 1991.

The letter also explains how Chihiro recognized that none of the pigs at the end were her parents, beating Yubaba’s test. Miyazaki has previously spoken about this moment, stating “You ask why she knows, but knowing is human life. That’s all it is.” The response was similarly refuted the idea the Chihiro has gained some kind of new power or ability:

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.

That “energy to live,” the writer says, is the center of the story. I never gave that much thought to why the parents turned into pigs, but I’m thinking about re-watching Spirited Away to see if this letter sheds any new lights on how I watch those moments. East Village Cinema’s Ghibli Summer Festival‘s schedule lines up just right, so if you’re in NYC come cry to Joe Hisaishi’s “One Summer Day” with me?

What do you think about the letter, does it change the way you watch Spirited Away?

(via Daily Dot)

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