Twelve Moments in Anime No. 4: Spirited Away

Sorry, no Miyazaki in this post — just a dumb Tokyo Magnitude pun!

I’m an agnostic (a pussy atheist, if you will). I do not go to church or follow any religion, nor do I really believe in anything related to that (or supernatural stuff like psychic powers and whatnot). But for whatever reason, I’ve always been fascinated by stories that tap into the spiritual world like Tokyo Magnitude does beginning with the eighth episode.

I don’t really want to get into the debate about whether the Yuuki whom Mirai sees is a spirit or a figment of her imagination brought on by trauma, nor do I really care to discuss whether the question of Yuuki’s death drags on way too long. At the core of it, I just like the way the series transitions from a relatively realistic series about the aftermath of a deadly earthquake to a more emotional, spiritual examination of how people move forward after experiencing such devastation.

My memorable moment from Tokyo Magnitude is a literal transition — Mirai wakes up after the ordeal involving Yuuki’s trip to the hospital and walks around outside trying to find the little guy. She passes through a short tunnel connecting one section of the area to another. It’s a foggy day and the colors and everything are subtly muted just a bit. Then Mirai comes out on the other side, with the sounds of children playing growing ever louder in the background, and while the fog is still there, a bit of light hits her eyes as she emerges from the tunnel to see Yuuki among a group of boys playing soccer.

This is memorable to me because it is the moment I realized — after the fog and confusion of Mirai’s troubled dream — “Holy shit, Yuuki is really dead, isn’t he?” Mirai comes out to find Yuuki in the best possible spot for him: Playing around and connecting with other kids his age, just having a bit of fun, forgetting the troubles brought by the quake. It’s as if his spirit has already started to move on a bit, although Mirai cannot see this yet, and — if you buy into the “Yuuki is a spirit” argument — perhaps Yuuki himself also sees that Mirai still needs him for just a bit longer, which may be why he goes so long without dropping the bomb.

I can’t pretend that this part of the story is perfect; however, I do believe it is genuinely affecting and moving in many ways. It will certainly stick with me for a long time to come.


2 Responses to “Twelve Moments in Anime No. 4: Spirited Away”

  1. I’m one of those who thinks that Yuuki is Mirai’s imagination but I had no problem enjoying this show. The trasition scene, too me, is more puzzling than memorable. The truth is hard to accept, I suppose.

  2. This is good stuff. I appreciated it on several levels:

    1. The actual content, wherein the death in the family becomes the bigger ‘shake’ in the narrative than the earthquake itself. It also confirmed the show’s focus on the individual and relationships as opposed to disaster spectacle.

    2. The gamesmanship — I was totally played. I loved it.

    3. The meta: i.e. the shitstorm among viewers who suddenly hated it, or saw an opportunity in the controversy to ‘distinguish’ themselves from the ‘herd’ of viewers who have run out of excuses to hate Mirai.

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