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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogA Quick Guide to the Lovely Spirited Away Characters

A Quick Guide to the Lovely Spirited Away Characters

By Linh
May 14, 2022

Whether you are an anime lover or not, you must have heard about Spirited Away – an icon of Studio Ghibli – at least once! Even now, it remains to be an immortal monument in the Japanese film industry both in art and content by the famous director Hayao Miyazaki. One of the factors contributing to its success are the Spirited Away characters, who are both original and interesting.

Whether you need a quick refresher or just want to know all you can about these characters, we have you covered. Let’s introduce the main players of the story for our two-part series on the Spirited Away characters and their link to Japanese Mythology.

Sure, Spirited Away is one of the most popular of all of the Ghibli movies, but if you somehow haven’t seen it, beware of spoilers here.

Ogino Chihiro or Sen

Chihiro, one of the main Spirited Away characters, stands and smiles in front of a background with soot sprites holding green stars and the movie's title in the back.
Chihiro may have a kind of plain design, but it helps her to stand out in a world of interesting spirits. Image via Shutterstock

Chihiro is just a normal young girl in her design and personality. She’s a shy and passive 10-year-old girl who is afraid of almost everything and unable to confront danger or express her opinion.

One day, while moving, she gets lost, and Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs after eating the food in a spiritual land. So, she has to work at a public bath managed by the witch Yubaba to find out how to save her parents and return to the human world. 

Chihiro’s name was changed to “Sen”, meaning “a thousand”, by Yubaba with the purpose of making her forget her real name. Fun fact, many girls in Japan named Chihiro often have the nickname ‘Sen’ because it’s the first kanji (Chinese characters) in their name.

At first, she is hated by everyone at the public bath for being a human. However, thanks to her enthusiasm and kindness, Chihiro becomes good friends with people in this land of spirits, like bathhouse worker Rin and boiler man Mr. Kamajii, while also managing to pass many of Yubaba’s difficult challenges to torture her. 

Want to learn more about bathhouses without having to deal with spirits? Check out NoMakeNoLife’s blog all about Japanese bath culture.

Thanks to Haku – a young wizard who helps her in this spirit world – Chihiro remembers her real name when she finds her friends’ farewell cards in the pockets of her clothes. In the end, she is able to save her parents and goes back to the human world with them.

Her amazing story and relatable personality made her one of the most popular Spirited Away characters and Studio Ghibli characters.

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Haku 

Haku is the wizard who works for Yubaba and has the guise of a white dragon. He is a brave and mature young man with a beautiful face. He is often shunned by the bathhouse staff because everyone thinks he is just one of Yubaba’s henchmen. 

To fool Yubaba, Haku tends to act indifferent to Chihiro in front of everyone, but is actually always kind and gentle to Chihiro. Haku actually has known Chihiro since she was young, saving her life when she fell into the Kohaku River – where he was once the river spirit. 

After that incident, the Kohaku river is unfortunately filled up to build houses, leaving him with no place to live, so he wanders to the spirit land, seeking to learn magic from Yubaba. However, he ended up becoming a worker following every command of Yubaba.

At the end of the movie, Chihiro helps Haku remember his real name as well, and Yubaba’s curse on him is released. When Chihiro says goodbye to him to return to the human world, Haku promises they will meet again someday.

Figures of Haku and Chihiro, the two main Spirited Away characters, on a rock in with plants and leaves behind them.
Haku also has a dragon form that is quite beautiful and may come from a scarier Japanese myth. Image via Shutterstock

Yubaba

Yubaba is a greedy and evil witch who is the ruler of the spirit land and the owner of a public bathhouse where spirits come to replenish themselves daily.

Yubaba rules the place by taking away a person’s real name, making them unable to remember their own name and obey all her commands. 

At first, she didn’t want Chihiro to work, but her immovable rule is to “give the job to anyone who asks for it.” Yubaba then removes Chihiro’s real name and renames her as “Sen”, her new name in the spirit world. 

Although she is considered a villain, it’s still hard to hate Yubaba, because after all, she also has human feelings as a mother who loves her son Boh. This is what makes her one of the most interesting Spirited Away characters.

No Face

No Face is a strange ghost without a face living in the spirit land. He wears an iconic mask and has the ability to become invisible. His iconic look has made him stand out as one of the most recognizable Spirited Away characters and a popular cosplay option. 

He used to live on human greed, using fake gold and silver to bribe the bathhouse staff to make them serve him food. When No Face ate all the food, he turned to eating some staff and made a fuss. 

This lonely spirit likes Chihiro because she’s the first one to be nice to him. The only thing that inspires  No Face is a pure, unspoiled soul, like Chihiro. After eating a piece of Chihiro’s magic food given by Haku, he vomited everything he ate, including the three bathhouse staff he swallowed.

Chihiro lured the faceless character to chase him to the sea, far from the bathhouse, where he returned to his real personality: slow, gentle and nice. Eventually, No Face becomes a maid for Yubaba’s twin sister Zeniba.

A section of the Ginzan Onsen, an onsen in Yamagata that looks like one in Spirited Away where many of the Spirited Away characters worked, with two people holding an umbrella in the snow on a bridge facing towards the exterior of the onsen.
The bathhouse where much of the movie takes place may be fictional, but many people say that the Ginzan Onsen (hot spring) looks just like the movie’s bathhouse. Image via Shutterstock

Other characters

Rin is a young woman who works in the bathhouse. Although she first appears to be tough and rude, she loves Chihiro and sees Chihiro as her own sister. She is also very protective of Chihiro during her stay.

Kamaji is a six-handed old man who cooks herbs in the bathroom. Looking scary as he is, he is actually really nice, kind, and helpful to Chihiro. He even gives her the train tickets he had saved for 40 years to help her go to Zeniba’s place.

Zeniba is Yubaba’s twin sister, who is a gentle, loving older woman. Unlike Yubaba, she is very kind to Chihiro and her friends.

Boh is Yubaba’s only son, who has the appearance of a giant who can’t stand up on his own. Because of Yubaba’s affection, Boh has a selfish personality, but after his journey, he changes to take care of the people around him and stand on his own feet.

The Yu bird has the shape of a crow but the head of Yubaba. It’s actually Yubaba’s spy in the spirit land. 

Have you watched Spirited Away? Share your favorite characters with us in the comments below!

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