Anime producer and author Toshio Okada shared his theory regarding the real relationship between protagonists Haku and Chihiro in the classic 2001 Japanese animated fantasy film “Spirited Away.”
Okada, a co-founder and former president of the production company Gainax, believes Haku to be Chihiro’s older brother who died while saving her from drowning in the Kohaku river.
The author and lecturer provided arguments that shocked and convinced many viewers, according to SoraNews24. In one part of the film, 10-year-old Chihiro recalls a childhood memory wherein she falls into a river as she attempts to retrieve her shoe. The film’s visuals show an arm with a white sleeve plunging into the water during the memory.
According to Okada’s theory, the hand was Haku’s as he tried to reach in to save her. However, Haku fell in the river and drowned, sacrificing his life to save her. Haku then became the guardian spirit of the river known as “Nigihayami Kohakunushi,” which translates to “God of the Swift Amber River.”
There are other instances in the film to support his theory such as Haku knowing Chihiro’s name without her telling him. He mentioned that he has known her since they were little. The memory of Chihiro falling into the river is also based on her mother’s story, leaving fans to believe that her mother left out details regarding her brother’s death. According to SoraNews24, Chihiro also said that “the river she fell in is all built over and ‘flows underground’, which can be read as a metaphor for her brother — the river — being buried underground.”
The movie’s theme song “Ano Hi no Kawa” translates to “The River That Day.” While the song does not have lyrics in the film, director Hayao Miyazaki reportedly gave the film’s composer, Joe Hisaishi, lyrics as a guide to create the melody. The lyrics appear to depict Chihiro’s near-death experience in the river, notably with the two lines that read, “Me, who is living because of someone / Someone who was living for me.” These lines can be interpreted as Chihiro being alive because of her brother’s sacrifice after saving her.
The 1985 animated film “Night on the Galactic Railroad” was such a huge inspiration for Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” that he also included a “magical train ride” scene similar to Gisaburō Sugii’s film.
“One of those images is a house that’s seen from the train,” wrote Oona McGee for SoraNews24. “This solitary house looks remarkably similar in mood and composition to the house seen from the train in ‘Night on the Galactic Railroad.’ This building is significant because that’s where the passengers on the galactic railroad see someone who looks just like one of the main characters but none of them can quite remember who he is.”
“This loss of memory is because the train is on a journey to the afterlife, where the lines between this life and the next are blurred, and that’s similar to what’s going on in ‘Spirited Away,’” she added.