This Spirited Away theory claiming Chihiro and Haku have a deeper connection than you think is so convincing

Photo: Spirited Away.. Image Courtesy Studio Ghibli, Fathom Events
Photo: Spirited Away.. Image Courtesy Studio Ghibli, Fathom Events /

Studio Ghibli films tend to be filled with tons of hidden messages. On the surface, one of the animation studio’s most beloved films, Spirited Away, is a story about a lonely girl’s desire to escape from the world of the unknown, but she somehow finds herself lost in an unfamiliar world. However, to some, this story is far from simple as it explores many themes, and metaphors, and, most importantly, has plenty of interesting theories.

One of the lesser-known (but on the rise) theories is that Chihiro, the protagonist of the 2001 classic, may have a deeper connection to Haku than we initially thought. Haku, initially, seemed to be her guide through the magical but mysterious society. But upon deeper inspection, Toshio Okada, the anime producer/writer that brought us Gunbuster, thinks that Haku means way more to Chihiro than just being her light in a tunnel of darkness.

Are Chihiro and Haku related in Spirited Away?

As per Sora News 24, Okada and fans are convinced that Haku is Chihiro’s deceased long-lost older brother who passed away while trying to save his younger sister from a dangerous river. The theory derived its evidence from multiple instances where the two characters can be seen having a bond that is definitely more than strangers who’ve met for the very first time. However, the theory also finds proof in Spirited Away‘s dialogue, song choice, and overall theme.

The first indication of this theory comes from the brief scene where we see Chihiro drowning. During this scene, Okada notes that the storyboard read, “A child’s hand thrusts out suddenly”, implying that a young person (or someone with a younger external appearance like Haku) dived in to save her. Seeing that the film never revisited just who it was that helped Chihiro, it can be inferred that this choice was because the person who saved her was there all along— Haku.

The second indication hails from Chihiro’s inability to recollect the time she drowned. Her only real proof of this traumatic incident is from her mother’s retelling of the situation.

“I don’t remember this but my mum told me about it,” Chihiro expressed, prompting those like Okada to believe that the mother left out some major details about the drowning incident, such as how she fell in, how she got out, and, most importantly, who it was that discovered her sinking underwater in the first place.

Lastly, the theory that Haku may be Chihiro’s older brother is backed by the name of one of Spirited Away‘s original soundtracks, “Ano Hi no Kawa”. The title translates to, “The River That Day”, leading us to believe that the river has way more importance than we may think. But, going beyond the title, the lyrics of the song are just as intriguing.

“Ano Hi no Kawa” sings:

"From a sunlit backyard, through a forgotten wooden door, along a path shaded by a hedgeThe little girl running from afar is meSopping wet and crying, we pass each otherFollowing the footprints in the sandpit, even furtherTo the river that’s buried nowWater plants between the garbage are swayingIn that small river I met youMy shoe slowly washes awayAnd disappears, wrapped up in a small whirlpoolThe dirt that conceals my heart clearsThe fog that conceals my eyes vanishesMy hands touch the airMy feet catch the earth’s reboundMe, who is living because of someoneSomeone who was living for meI went to the river that dayI went to your river"

When you imagine this song being sung from Haku’s point of view, “In that small river I met you” it’s easy to see how he cherishes the moment he saved Chihiro’s life greatly. When read from Chihiro’s point of view, “Me, who is living because someone, someone who was living for me, I went to the river that day, I went to your river”, we see hints of Chihiro vaguely remembering what transpired that day and thus, being eternally grateful for whoever it was that saved her.

But when you read this song as a conversation between both characters, everything changes. Now, it’s very apparent that these two were, in a way, born to meet each other, but not in the romantic way we may think but in the way that siblings are essentially paired together to be there for one another through it all.

Perhaps Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki will reveal the secrets we’ve been dying to know more about one day. While we wait to see whether that day will arrive, feel free to give Spirited Away another watch on HBO Max to see if you can find even more evidence to support this theory.

Next. Why Hayao Miyazaki hates Lord of the Rings and other Hollywood movies. dark