Spirited Away

Movie: Directed by Hiyao Miyazaki

Inciting Event: After ten-year-old Chihiro’s parents take a detour from the new house they’re moving into, in order to explore an abandoned theme park, they inadvertently eat “spirit food” and turn into pigs. Chihiro discovers them at twilight, and as the darkness falls, the spirits begin to arrive in the park’s magical realm. She is helped by a boy called Haku, who tells her she must get a job at Yubaba’s bathhouse if she is to stay and rescue her parents.

Here (as in many portal fantasies), the exit from the Normal World occurs at the Inciting Event instead of the First Plot Point. However, the character still enters the adventure world of the main conflict at the First Plot Point.

First Plot Point: Chihiro manages to find her way to the witch Yubaba to get a job. She witnesses the bizarre clients of the bathhouse, sees Yubaba’s giant baby, and confronts Yubaba, the main antagonist—who is holding her parents captive as pigs.

First Pinch Point: After a lengthy scene with Yubaba, Chihiro agrees to give Yubaba her name (essentially selling her soul). She signs a contract and agrees to be known as Sen. Haku shows her where her parents are being kept and warns her not to forget her real name.

Midpoint: When a supposed stink spirit arrives at the bathhouse and no one else wants to serve him, Chihiro helps heal him by pulling out all the trash he’s ingested. He turns out to be a water spirit who gives Chihiro powerful medicine. This is the moment when Chihiro comes into her own. No longer just a clumsy, scared little girl, she proves she can hold her own amongst all the workers and guests at the bathhouse.

Second Pinch Point: Haku returns—in dragon form—from a mission for Yubaba. He is grievously wounded. Chihiro tries to get to him. Meanwhile, the No-Face monster she inadvertently allowed into the bathhouse is growing bigger by luring people in with gold and eating them. She confronts Yubaba’s twin sister, Zeniba, who says she wounded Haku after he stole her golden seal.

Third Plot Point: Chihiro finds Haku in the boiler room, only to discover he is dying. She heals him with part of the water spirit’s medicine, then resolves to return the seal to Zeniba to get her to forgive Haku and leave him alone.

Climax: After feeding No Face the rest of the medicine and forcing him to disgorge all the people he ate, she takes him to help her confront Zeniba. She returns the seal and apologizes on Haku’s account, only to discover that Zeniba is a kind old woman. Haku comes to get Chihiro and she remembers his name—and that he is a river spirit—freeing him from Yubaba’s control.

Climactic Moment: Chihiro wins Yubaba’s bet that she won’t recognize her parents as pigs—freeing everyone.

Resolution: Chihiro and her unwitting parents return the human world—but Chihiro has been changed forever, no longer fearing something as mundane as moving to a new town.

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