Chihiro is all grown up in special one-off ad that aired during Ghibli TV broadcast in Japan.

January 5 was a big day for Studio Ghibli fans. Not only was it the 83rd birthday of co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki, it was the first Kinyo Roadshow (Friday Roadshow) of the year, and the movie to be broadcast in this prime-time TV slot was Spirited Away.

Like many Kinyo Roadshow Ghibli specials, this turned out to be a major TV event, with the station tweeting out tidbits of behind-the-scenes information about the movie throughout the broadcast, creating a sense of community amongst viewers. One thing fans didn’t expect, though, was a commercial that appeared partway through the film, which starred none other than Spirited Away characters Yubaba and Chihiro.

To be exact, it was voice actors Mari Natsuki and Rumi Hiiragi who could be heard in the ad, reprising their roles as Yubaba and Chihiro respectively, 22 years after the film debuted in 2001. The two were lending their voices to Subaru, with Chihiro explaining the car’s special “Eyesight” feature to Yubaba.

▼ Take a look at the commercial below!

The conversation between Chihiro and Yubaba went as follows:

Chihiro: “Phew — I was able to get here without bumping into anything”
Yubaba: “Whoa, so you made it this far unscathed? Did somebody lend you a hand?”
Chihiro: “No, no-one.”
Yubaba: “What’s the point of hiding something like that? Be honest!”
Chihiro: “Ah, it’s Eyesight!”
Yubaba: “What do you mean — what’s up with these three eyes?”
Chihiro: “Don’t you know what they are?”
Yubaba: “Why would I know what they are?”
Chihiro: “This is ‘Eyesight’.”
Yubaba: “Huh, so it’s called ‘Eyesight’. How come it’s there?”
Chihiro: “Because these three cameras give you a wide field of vision.” [Eyesight activates with a beep]
Yubaba: “Aaaaaagh!”
Chihiro: “In dangerous situations Eyesight helps to avoid collisions. The rear-end collision rate of Eyesight-equipped cars has fallen this much.” [Graph appears on screen showing the new version of Eyesight is even more effective than previous versions]
Yubaba: “So Eyesight protects lives…”
Chihiro: “Eyesight is installed in a variety of Subaru vehicles.”
Yubaba: “So if there’s more Eyesight, there’ll be a society with less accidents.”
Chihiro: “And it looks like one person will receive one of these Eyesight-equipped cars as a present.”
Yubaba: “That’s thoughtful. Don’t hesitate to take them up on it.”
Chihiro: “Search for Eyesight and apply!”

While viewers might’ve paid little attention to an ad like this in any other situation, the distinctive voices of these characters, which flowed seamlessly from the broadcast into the commercial, grabbed everyone’s attention. Fans were so excited by the surprise ad that “Chihiro’s voice” began trending on Twitter as soon as it appeared, with people leaving comments like:

“This made me so happy!”
“Thank you, Subaru!”
“Rumi Hiiragi sounds all grown-up now!”
“It’s a conversation between Chihiro as an adult and Yubaba!”
“It’s like Chihiro grew up and became a Subaru staff member!!”
“Natsuki still does Yubaba the same but Hiiragi’s Chihiro sounds so different!”

It’s true that Hiiragi sounds a lot more mature now as a 36-year-old compared to when she originally voiced Chihiro at the age of 14. And the extra years do add a special something to the exchange between characters, allowing us to believe that after all these years, Yubaba and Chihiro really do stay in touch.

As the commercial was a special collaboration between Subaru and Kinyo Roadshow, it was a one-off that only aired once on television. Here’s hoping there’ll be more surprise appearances from Ghibli characters in future commercials during the Kinyo Roadshow timeslot!

Sources: Twitter/@SUBARU_CORP, YouTube/SUBARU On-Tube
Featured image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Studio Ghibli

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