So, I grew up on Studio Ghibli, just like most weebs did. There is just something so comforting about their movies that other animation giants can’t emulate. It’s why they are so easily re-watchable. But upon that revisit, sometimes you realize many things you might’ve missed as a child. For example, we all know No Face as the de-facto mascot for Spirited Away. But what if I tell you they are not the nicest character around?
No Face is kind of a bad guy. Yes, even when he tries helping Chihiro out, there’s something oddly creepy about his actions. I know how wild this sounds, considering how beloved No Face is in the Studio Ghibli community, but I recently just rewatched Spirited Away and listened. I’m not saying he’s the definitive villain of the movie. But he’s certainly not the ‘comfort character’ I remember.
Studio Ghibli is an aesthetic now, conjuring up images of cozy fires, hearty food, and joy, even in the mundane. So, to find out that some of the characters don’t invoke the same vibe, well. But there is a conscious discussion to be had here about how we misremember things from our childhood because of nostalgia or rose-tinted glasses. However, I just want to talk about how No Face acts like every ‘nice guy’ ever and it’s so, so bizarre.
I know what you’re thinking. Am I going to sit here and defame what is one of Studio Ghibli’s main faces? Yes, I will. So, join me for yet another segment of Character Analysis – where we take your favorite characters across the Animesphere and break them down for our amusement. Today, it’s No Face having ‘no face’ after being a creep!
No Face: A Blob Shaped Like A Nice Guy™
No Face has no boundaries. This isn’t the take I thought I’d have following an Oscar-winning animated movie from 2004, but it’s the one I stand by.
So, the thing with No face is that he isn’t a very compelling character. All he does is wander around the bathhouse aimlessly until he stumbles upon Chihiro’s urgency. Unlike him, Chihiro has a purpose. And so, he stalks her. That’s it; that’s his character arc.
Okay, no, he does more than that. When he realizes helping Chihiro gave him a sense of purpose, he dials it up to uncomfortable means. After seeing how producing gold out of thin air gives him value and attention, he overindulges. No Face becomes the most looked after guest at the bathhouse, and that’s his downfall.
No Face confuses capital for genuine affection by the workers, and yet, all he wants is Chihiro’s attention. He tries to use those same material goods as an incentive for an emptiness inside of him that is as immaterial as it gets. So, when that doesn’t work, he forgoes all boundaries and tries to force Chihiro into interacting with him.
The way No Face acts is like an incel, who thinks misplaced kindness means he’s owed attention. He realizes this after staying with Granny and finding meaning in his life outside of Sen.
Chihiro And No Face: Confusing Casual Kindness For Genuine Interest?
And herein lies the punch line! Chihiro doesn’t care about No Face at all.
When he helps her out with the bath tokens, she politely regards him with a bow and moves on. When he tries forcing more bath tokens on her, she tells him she doesn’t need them and returns to help her parents. And when he starts calling for her madly in a stupor of gluttony, she rejects his advances yet again and goes to help her actual friend, Haku.
Throughout the movie, she barely regards him as anything. By the end of the movie, when she’s leaving him behind with Granny, she doesn’t even say goodbye to him. Because why would she when he has done nothing but inconveniences her?
Ergo, No Face is no more than a creep that idolizes Chihiro as an object, rather than a person. They have no friends; she barely says three sentences to him, and there is something so morbidly funny in him not receiving even the tiniest regard from her by the end.
I get this is a hot take, but I urge you to rewatch Spirited Away again and tell me I’m wrong. I’ll be waiting.