By Elaina binti Sabirin
As a kid who grew up watching Studio Ghibli movies, my imagination and expectation towards life was very mystic and magical.
When I think back on it now, instead of learning about morals or taking lessons from the story, all I remember is the aesthetically pleasing scenes and magical creatures. The weird looking monsters like Yubaba used to freak me out, yet all the innocent-romance between the characters still flutters my heart till these days.
When COVID-19 pandemic hit us, we were told to stay at home safe and sound; I spent most of my time rewatching my childhood movies with my roommates. My personal all-time favourite would be ‘Spirited Away’ (千と千尋の神隠し, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, literally translated as “Sen and Chihiro’s Spiriting Away”). It is one of the world’s most popular animated fantasy films released by Studio Ghibli in 2001, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. According to IMBD, the film amounted to more than $274 million worldwide.
“Spirited Away” is timeless masterpiece of Hayao Miyazaki with the quality of modern fairy tale. It resides on a young girl name named Chihiro and her parents who are moving to a new neighbourhood. The family then got lost on their way and stumbled upon a seemingly abandoned town. She wanders around the town and meets the mysterious Haku who later explains that the abandoned town is a gate to the world of spirits and God. She is forced to work there as a bathhouse worker in order to evade and save her parents.
I believe that Studio Ghibli movies have this enchanting way of reaching the heart be it kids or adults. They give you those unmistakably ache of innocent memories when you were a kid. They also taught me lots of valuable life lessons.
- Never run from your fears
There are times when we are clouded by fears that hold us from moving forward. The fear – What if I fail? Or what if people reject me?
Chihiro stumbled into the world of spirit while looking for her parents. Filled with scary and weird looking spirits makes her undoubtedly frightened but she learnt that fright would never help her saved her parents from transforming into a greedy beast. She suspends her vanity of fear and overcome her deepest fear, negative emotions were freed resulting in adopting a real perspective of the world which in turn helped her to take on real struggles of life.
It is fine to have the feelings, fear, towards certain things like fear of God. However, never let our thoughts and feelings slaved by fears. If we are just reacting to fear, we can’t come close to our fullest potential.
- Greed turns human into a monster
Near the beginning of the movie, Chihiro’s parents greedily feast on a buffet of scrumptious meals without permission from the shop that later turned them into pigs as a consequent. Another consequence can be seen when Gaonashi or known as ‘no-face’ offers gold to the bathhouse workers and they, in turn help feeding it but subsequently got eaten by Gaonashi itself.
Islam warned us on the consequences of greed, as it will cause our downfall. As narrated by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW):
“Beware of greed, for it was only greed that destroyed those before you. It commanded them to be miserly and they did so. It commanded them sever their family ties and they did so. It commanded them to behave wickedly and they did so.” (Sunan Abu Dawud)
From this hadith it is undeniable that greed is very detrimental for faith and life. It causes us to not be generous for what we have been blessed with and even triggers our ties with the people we are close with. This should really help us reflect on how greed could make us become too attached to worldly and material life. Therefore, we should try to avoid greediness and practise generosity.
- Self-care is Important
Sometimes loneliness may eat us from the inside just like how Gaonashi gulped up the bathhouse workers. The film gives viewers a depiction of how loneliness affects people inside and out by introducing the character. Essentially, the presence of Gaonashi in the film sends us a message that self-care is vital in life. Gaonashi may be viewed as a vicious creature that is harmful to its surroundings, yet it is just a miserable creature that needs a little support.
As Muslims, we ultimately have our bodies right and it is amanah to be healthy. Islam recommends us to take our time routinely to prioritise our well-being for us to be able to do anything in our best state. For instance, spending time by ourselves and feeding our depression with healthy habits, such as spending times on hobbies and with friends. Self-care allows our body physically and mentally to refuel. In addition, making time to spend for meditation and quality times can also bring us closer to the Almighty.
Once again, I realise that the valuable lessons that Miyazaki tries to convey in this film have reached me and that these little things are worth living for.***