Witchy Women: Yubaba

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Spirited Away (2001) is one of my favorite films from one of my favorite artists. Hiyao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli beautifully animated the story of a young girl, Chihiro, who finds herself in a world inhabited by spirits and then must find her way out. Yubaba is a witch who runs a bathhouse in the spirit world, and she can be frightening and overbearing.

Yubaba is much larger than most of the other residents of the spirit world, and she has a particularly large head and face. She wears her hair in a large grey bun, and she has a large crooked nose and a mole between her eyebrows. She seems to be very old, and she always wears a large pair of gold earrings. She has a twin sister, Zeniba, who wears an identical pair of earrings. She also has a son, Boh, an infant grown overlarge–quite literally–from his mother’s spoiling.

When Chihiro comes to the spirit world, she meets Yubaba’s apprentice Haku, who advises her to go to the bathhouse and get a job so that she can stay in the spirit world. To work in the bathhouse, Chihiro must first see Yubaba, who at first refuses to give her a job. Eventually, Yubaba has her “sign” a binding contract by stealing her name. Chihiro becomes Sen and must work in the bathhouse always–unless she can recall her whole name.

Yubaba also has other powers that she demonstrates throughout the film. She can turn into a bird by wrapping herself in a cloak, and he can also spit fire. In her office, Witchywhich is lavishly furnished and decorated (a stark contrast to the traditional minimalism in other parts of the bath-house), she keeps The Kashira–a trio of heads that move about by bouncing around.

Eventually, Yubaba is convinced to let Chihiro go in exchange for information about and the safe return of Boh, who had traveled with Haku and Chihiro to see her sister Zeniba and been transformed into a mouse. Boh seems to have bonded with Chihiro as well, and he threatens a tantrum when his mother suggests she might cause Chihiro harm. Ultimately, she must let Chihiro leave with her parents, who’d been enchanted, and she must let Haku go, because he has remembered his true name. It is quite likely that operations at the bathhouse resumed their normal pace afterward.

*This post is a part of the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
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6 Comments

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  1. Love this movie. Both Yubaba and Chiro are are great characters. Hiyao Miyazaki is often hailed as a master and this movie is one of the reasons why. I am also a huge fan of Kiki’s Delivery Service too.

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