Studio Ghibli gives fans a fascinating insight into the mysterious anime character.

Who is No Face? It’s a question that’s puzzled fans of Ghibli’s Spirited Away since the movie debuted in 2001. The motives behind this mysterious character are hard to pin down, as it switches from being a silent entity to a greedy giant, before becoming a needy companion towards the end of the film.

However, the character’s creator, Studio Ghibli director and co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, has finally given us some much-needed insight into who No Face really is, and it hits a lot closer to home than you might think.

The revelation was shared by Kinyo Roadshow (“Friday Roadshow”), the prime Friday night movie slot on Nippon TV, the Japanese station that acquired the anime studio in October last year. The first Kinyo Roadshow movie for 2024, broadcast on 5 January, was Spirited Away, and it became a TV event, with the station live-tweeting behind-the-scenes information throughout the movie. While this has become something of a ritual for Kinyo Roadshow, there was one tweet that stood out for fans, as it contained vital information about No Face that many had never heard before.

The tweet reads:

“Who exactly is No Face? Director Hayao Miyazaki says, ‘There are many people like No Face in our midst…it’s the type of person who wants to latch on to others but doesn’t have a sense of themselves. They are everywhere.’ No Face exists without a sense of self and changes depending on the things and people it encounters.” 

This background to the character helps to explain its appearance in the movie — the shadowy figure lacks substance to such an extent that its body is transparent. 

Before its rampage in the bathhouse, No Face can be seen seeking the approval of others, showering them with gold to earn their affections. However, once these affections swell to god-like adoration, No Face becomes drunk on power and continues to feed its ego by devouring everything everyone gives it, and then, even the characters themselves.

These actions are all hallmarks of someone with a low sense of self who changes their behaviour in order to be liked by others. This insecurity leads No Face to shake and retreat when Chihiro refuses the gold it offers, but then it becomes so attached to her that it wants to follow her everywhere, mimicking her own personality and adopting it as his own.

▼ No Face will even wade through water…

▼ …and ride a train to be with her.

However, there is hope for No Face, because sometimes people with insecurities just need the right type of supportive and accepting environment to grow and flourish.

▼ In the end, No Face makes the decision to stay with the kindly Zeniba in her quiet rural cottage.

This insight into No Face’s motivations gives us a greater understanding of the character, and fans online were excited to learn all about it straight from Miyazaki himself, leaving comments like:

“Whoa, this is deep!”
“I can relate to this.”
“I also treat people generously and give them things. Maybe I’m just an idiot who’s constantly fishing for compliments.”
“So that’s why No Face speaks like the frog after it eats it — it absorbs the character of the person it eats as it has no character of its own.
“I know people like this, who only use fixed phrases all the time.”
“This makes sense — No Face can only communicate by borrowing other people’s words, voices and quotes instead of using its own.”

Who knew a simple tweet could be so thought provoking? It certainly does make us see the character in a new light, and gives us food for thought for our own lives and those around us.

As Miyazaki says, No Face is everywhere, and if we search hard enough, we might find the character within us as well, proving that Spirited Away really is a tale with many layers that we can all learn from.

Source: Twitter/@kinro_ntv via Otakomu
Featured image: Studio Ghibli
Insert images: Studio Ghibli (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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