(Original work: Spirited Away)
“Memories are never forgotten, they are just difficult to recall” – I have heard of this somewhere before. After I came out from the mysteriously abandoned amusement park with my mum and dad when I was 10 years old, sometimes, there were times when I shed tears because of a strange feeling that I couldn’t understand at all. I also had a busy time adjusting to my new house and making new friends. Time flew so fast, and tomorrow is my first day at university.
‘Oh my, but why do tears flow more than usual? I need to calm down and get ready for bed.’
I untied my purple hairband which was tightly tying my hair as a ponytail to sleep, still with tears in my eyes.
‘When did I buy this purple hairband? Phew… I don’t care. Let’s sleep, and I should sleep for the first day of uni.’
“Chihiro! It’s time to get up, you sleepyhead.”
“Uhmm.. what time is it, mum?”
“It’s already half-past seven! You said the first class starts at nine, right honey? And I prepared delicious curry for you. You’d feel better when you go to class after breakfast.”
“Okay mum.. Thank you. Where is dad?”
“He already went out to work. He also wanted to say good luck with your university life.”
“Aww… I feel so blessed.”
Mum’s curry was so delicious as always. I brushed my teeth, tied my hair with the purple hairband, and texted my best friend, Yumi. She got accepted to the same university as I did.
“Yum yum! let’s take the train together.”
“Sure. Just open the door and come out! I’m already in front of your house.”
“What? Seriously? Hang on, I’m coming.”
“Mum, I’m going out!”
“Take care, honey!”
“Yumi!!! Sorry for being late.”
“It’s alright, Chihiro. I just can’t wait to go on a date with so many handsome guys in uni, you know?”
Ugh… Yumi always talks about guys.
“Did they tell you that they want to go on a date with you, already?”
“Chihiro! Why are you so negative? Come on, I will introduce one to you later!”
“Never mind~ I will focus on my grade and future career.”
After constant chattering, we finally arrived at the first lecture room and took seats.
Suddenly, I felt as if I was overwhelmed by something.
“Chihiro, look at the guy seating in front of us. He is my type.” Yumi murmured.
I tried to reply to her “So what?” as usual, but at that time, I just couldn’t.
That strange atmosphere from the guy, made me shed tears again.
“Chihiro…? Are you crying?”
“I don’t know why. What a strange feeling. I gotta go.”
“Wait, Chihiro!”. Yumi tried to grasp me.
“Wait.”. That voice grasped me. It was the guy’s voice. The guy turned around and looked at me.
“What… is this situation? Did you guys know each other?” said confused Yumi.
“We have met before, right?” said the guy.
“My name is Haku. Could you remember?”. Again, it was the guy’s tender voice which sounded very familiar to me although I cannot remember this guy.
“I’m here to keep the promise I made at the time that we’d see each other again someday.”
“Ha…ku… Kohaku river..?”. Suddenly, I remembered the whole thing. The way he saved me from drowning, the way I saved him at the bathhouse, the way he helped me to get back to my real mum, dad, and the real world that I originally belong to, Yubaba granny, Zeniba granny, Kamaji grandad, Lin, Boh, and Kaonashi – The whole thing.
Haku gently smiled. “I knew you’d remember me.”. The whole lecture room shook, Haku turned into a dragon, held me tightly, and quickly passed through the open window. I could see Yumi who must be getting frantic through the outside window.
“Are you worried about your best friend?” said Haku.
“Ha… hahaha…. You can’t say that again because I will hit you if you do that.”
“Wow Chihiro, you’ve grown up to be a strong girl, even stronger than 9 years before! Okay, I just want to say that your best friend and everyone who saw you and I will forget the unrealistic situation. I learned how to make them forget from Yubaba.”
“Haku.” I stopped his words.
“I missed you a lot, but I didn’t expect to meet you like this.”
“Oh, it was the surprise event. I constantly tried to become human in your world to meet you properly, but I failed. This was the first time I’ve succeeded it, and yeah, I pretended as if I’m a university student. And you know what? Everything has changed in a good way in my world since you got back to the real world. I can’t wait to show you those changes you’ve made.”
“Hmmm.. I see. But the way you chose to meet me again is indeed rude! And how did you know my university, the fact that I will be in that lecture room, as well as I will sit on that seat behind you?”
“I am so sorry if you feel like that. And I knew everything because I’m your guardian who will protect you forever since you helped me to find my identity as the spirit of the Kohaku river. The guardian knows everything.”
“Ugh, doesn’t make sense.”
“But it’s true. Your purple hairband, it’s connecting you with me.”
“Oh…” “Yeah, the purple hairband that Zeniba granny gave me… I did not recognize it for a long time. Somehow, I could not resist using this hairband whenever I tie up my hair in my world.”
“Yes. It was Zeniba’s magical power to connect me and you.”
“Now, we arrive”.
Haku put me down to the ground near the bathhouse where I used to stay.
Suddenly, Haku smiled strangely at me and disappeared to the sky.
“Haku? What is this…?”
“Surprise!!!! We missed you, Chihiro!!!!” The sudden voices! These people, I remember all of them.
“Ah…ah…I can speak by myself, Chihiro. Ah…ah…I learned it from Zeniba.” It was, Kaonashi!
“Oh my god! Kaonashi, good on you! Oh my gosh, thank you, everyone. I missed you, too.”
“We are no longer greedy. We learned how to take care of each other because of you, Chihiro. Thank you, my dear.” Said Yubaba.
“It was my pleasure, granny.”
“You see, Chihiro?” said Haku, who suddenly appeared again.
“Yes. I can see. I feel happy that I am loved by all these people and you, Haku. But I think it’s time to go back to my world”
“True. You can visit here again anytime you want from now on.”
Then I came back to the lecture room with Haku. To Yumi, who said that she was worried about me because I suddenly disappeared with Haku, I told her that Haku was my ex-boyfriend and he and I decided to get back together. Yumi understood me. And this is the story about when Haku first came to my world to meet me again. I’m now recalling it and enjoying hot spring baths with Haku in his world since the winter break has started. No one else could be happier than me right now.
My fanfiction was written based on Spirited Away, directed by Miyazaki (2001). According to Vogler (2007), there are seven-character archetypes. The first one is the ‘hero’. Since Chihiro in this story easily overwhelmed by unexplained sadness and stimulates audiences’ sympathy, she is the heroine of this story. However, Haku is also could be considered as a hero because he overcame the obstacles which prevented him to meet Chihiro again. The second is the ‘mentor’ which is referred as Zeniba in this story. At the beginning of the story, I mentioned Zeniba’s quote in the original film, which implied that Chihiro’s unknown sadness will be cured by remembering the reminiscences with Haku and other friends. The threshold guardian is Haku as the dragon. He could not approach to Chihiro, because he is the spirit of the Kohaku River, and it is depicted as the dragon. The character of a herald in this story is ‘Yumi’ who helped Chihiro to face Haku. If Yumi was not interested in guys at all, Yumi and Chihiro could have just studied hard at the university and Chihiro would never know what the root of unprovoked grief was. The shapeshifter is of course Haku. He was pretending as if he was the ordinary guy in the university, but he was the guardian and lover of Chihiro. There is no ‘Shadow’ in this story. However, Chihiro’s unknown sadness often bothers her and this was an invisible villain. The trickster could be Chihiro’s purple hairband since it always has been considered as the real-world accessory, but it was under the spell which showed Chihiro’s life and feeling to Haku.
The narrative structures could be divided into three basic parts: ‘Set up’, ‘Development’, and ‘Denouement’ (Vogler, 2007). Both Vogler’s (2007) mythic structures and Gomez’s (2017) collective journey structures are emphasising those three structures as well as that the hero’s journey has started from the ordinary world. Chihiro’s life was ordinary for a while before she met Haku again at the university. While Vogler (2007) argues that the special events which occurred to the protagonist should be traumatic, Gomez (2017) argues that just the protagonist’s realisation of something that bothers him or her is fine. Besides, in my story, Chihiro just realised her unknown feeling. Chihiro tried to remember how she met Haku because she felt the same way of sadness as she often did and has heard of mentor’s (Zeniba) voice that she should remember it to find out the basic root of her sadness and get over it. There was no death or rebirth since it would not be right for someone to die in the mood of this story. Since Chihiro already went through the conflict with Yubaba and other monsters in the original work, Haku helped Chihiro to get away from her sadness that occurred by missing her childhood memory in a bathhouse by showing her that she has done a great job to his world. A new, better world arise because of Chihiro and this phenomenon is the part of Gomez’s (2017) collective journey structures. Moreover, Gomez (2017) argues that an endless universe could help writers to build a structure of the story. By implying readers that Chihiro started to date with Haku, and by showing the fact that she could freely move back and forth from her world (ordinary world) and Haku’s world, the readers could acknowledge that the two worlds are endlessly connected.
Gomez, J. (2017, December 14). The hero’s journey is no longer serving us [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBBm0we4sAU&list=LL7iRRnJ6uCdXi5MnORJYobA&index=7&t=0s
Miyazaki, H. (Director). (2001). Spirited Away [Motion picture]. Japan: Studio Ghibli.
Vogler, C. (2007). The writer’s journey: Mythic structure for writers (3rd ed.). CA: Michael Wiese Productions.