One of the most memorable scenes within “Spirited Away” sees Chihiro and company forced to deal with a massive, slimy visitor known as the Stink Spirit. After pulling a bicycle from its core, they learn that it is actually a River God that had been so harmed by pollution that it lost its form. In a, writer and director Hayao Miyazaki says that the scene was inspired by a real-life experience. “I cleaned a river once,” the “My Neighbor Totoro” director says. “And there really was a bicycle, it was stuck in there. Ten of us wrapped the rope around the bars and slowly pulled it out. We really cleaned up the river and the fish are back, and that’s why I added that scene.” As many of Miyazaki’s films dive into the topic of environmentalism, it only feels natural that such a moment in his life would make for a fitting scene in one of his works.
However, the River Spirit is not the only fantastical creation that comments on Miyazaki’s mindset. According toone of the film’s most iconic characters, No-Face, represents Miyazaki’s own desperate urge to break into the hearts of others, despite not knowing how to do so. Judging by the iconic status of “Spirited Away” over 20 years later, it’s safe to say that the director might have found the way.