Call Me Chihiro (2023): Movie Ending Explained: Rikiya Imaizumi’s warm hug of a film isn’t often incandescent with watercolor landscapes of the tranquil seaside town. But when Chihiro dropped the “gifts” off at what I can only assume was her mother’s grave, and the sweet breeze swayed over her with notes of reassurance before resting on the tranquil greens and blues behind her, all I could think was the transcendental manga that could’ve been created out of this. Of course, that is because my hardheaded stubbornness is exceedingly zealous about knowing as little as possible before watching a film so as to decidedly keep my experience untainted by expectations or biases.
It was only when the credits rolled up, and I heavy-heartedly turned to find all that I could of Call Me Chihiro’s making, that I got to know that it was, in fact, adapted from a manga series, Chihiro san. The nectar of Netflix’s achingly sweet human drama is worth the stings of coming back to a life without Chihiro. Imaizumi’s film speckles the desolate blackhole of loneliness with fireflies of hope and lanterns of kindred spirits reaching out with arms wide open. The heaven on earth that it paints is only heaven because it isn’t bereaved of pain. All the wounded wanderers Chihiro takes under her wings are only made to feel the warmth of love when they have accepted loneliness as an inescapable state of being.
Call Me Chihiro (2023): Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis
Chihiro’s reaction upon seeing Madame, the fluffy feline that traipses around Noko Noko bento shop, is all of us. What poses an ocean-wide divergence between the sunny 29-year-old girl and us is everything else that she cozily chooses to be. Chihiro has turned her back on her life as a sex worker. Whether she looks back, if she does look back, that is, with contempt or with glad gratitude, is not for us to know. Chihiro remains a mirage, almost. A phantom beam of light taking orders and handing out the happy boxes of food to the bento shop’s regulars.
The notion of the fluttery Chihiro surfaces only as we see her sharing a meal with a homeless man and scrubbing him down with loving hands. Yet, Chihiro is the lingering feeling of a retreating dream as we hopelessly transcend to a lucid state. She is a dream with a warm afterglow that Okaji wishes to wrap herself in as she secretly clicks her pictures.
The world passed her by when she needed to be saved. So now Chihiro saves the bits and pieces of herself that she finds in the lost wanderers who happen to cross her path. Chihiro has an eye for the broken. When a chance meeting at the park with little Makoto makes her arm bleed with the stab of a compass, Chihiro isn’t furious at the little boy. Instead, she feeds Makoto and is apologetic to her raging single mother, who doesn’t take kindly to a stranger taking care of her son when she breaks her back to provide for him.
Chihiro soothes her agonized stalker with the comfort of her loving company. Okaji now has a place to run to every time the asphyxiating dinner table in her home stifles her appetite. It makes you wonder how the reclusive world failed to dim Chihiro’s light. Conventional senses of love and having a soft, steady cloud to lean back on aren’t the comforts that Chihiro’s life granted her. What saved her were passing instances of metamorphic kindness that seem minuscule on the surface, and that too, from people who stood to gain nothing from helping her.
Little Chiriho had her hand held by a woman whose smile hugged her sighing heart and whose name she later went by in her professional and social life. Her ex-boss saw an ordinary girl with tattered shoes that didn’t fit. How good she would be at her job didn’t matter nearly as much to the strange man who saw a girl who needed to be saved. She is a girl saved by strangers in a crowd full of people who, as pondered by one of her clients, are aliens from faraway planets dressed as people.
In her mellow search for people from her planet, Chihiro holds on to her boss, Bito’s wife, Tae. Tae has been hospital-bound ever since her vision began to elude her. It’s her place that Chihiro has filled in the bento shop. The sweet girl that Tae knows as Aya spends hours sitting by the ailing woman, talking about all the gains and losses life has been peppered with. Leaving a puzzled staff and a husband behind on her release day, Tae evades the bars of life and goes on a rainy beach drive with Chihiro. It was a rainy night like the one they’re cherishing now when Chihiro first came to find a bento shop open and spoke to Tae, who kept her shop open for people who share her love for rain.
Chihiro’s warm sensibilities flow on to touch Makoto, the little boy who watches a tv program and adheres to what he sees by giving her mother a bouquet of flowers on her birthday. A person who has been embraced by people who didn’t have to show her any kindness whatsoever, what Chihiro has learned is that there’s hardly anything more important in life than having someone by your side.
She draws up a quest for Okaji only to lead the lonely girl to Betchin–two kids that Chihiro thought would be great friends and make each other’s thorny paths softer to walk on. She has been more than a silent spectator in the hopeful romance brewing between her ex-boss and her friend Basil. Like a wish-fulfilling fairy who seems transcendental and desperately possible at the same time, Chihiro turns all that she touches into the glimmering gold hue of hope.
Call Me Chihiro (2023): Ending Explained
Why Did Chihiro Leave Everyone Behind?
Chihiro wasn’t a concoction of all things happy and bright, even if she did float around, sweetening everyone’s life with a smile. Even someone like Chihiro isn’t safe from an unforeseeable onset of a depressive episode loitering around in the dark alley of the mind where the demons reside. And yet, when the calling comes to join her flock and assure them of her well-being, Chihiro does so with regard to her mental state, which needs as much safe handling as anyone else’s. She could never bring herself to tears when her mother passed.
Knowing the unfaltering significance of closure, Chihiro visits her mother’s grave to leave behind the gifts of acorns–perhaps only to thank her mother for giving her life, for that is all that she ever did give Chihiro. Chihiro realizes her work here is done as she looks around at the blithe, summery faces of the people she loves under the watchful warmth of the twinkly fairy lights wrapping up the feast. The ache you feel when the orbiting perspective stops at her empty chair is the same chasm that Tae feels.
She sees a great deal without her eyes. She is perhaps the only one who wants to be able to look beneath Chihiro’s glittery screen and see the lonely girl burying her face in her lap. If there’s anything lonely people dread the most, it is connecting with people to the extent where detachment would rip apart their hearts. Chihiro’s unconventional ideals for a love that doesn’t wish to own the lover’s heart also sings of the same fear that she may be running from.
If you make yourself believe that you don’t want it, you can deny the throbbing void that longs for it. Or maybe it’s just the cynic in me. After all, what’s reflected in our lingering contemplations of a person away from our grasp is a lot of who we are and what haunts us. Maybe all Chihiro wanted was a new start, in a new place, with new lives to save. But even that wishful conjecture comes from a place where I would rather not think of Chihiro as a person on the run from her own feelings, not that it would make me think of her with any less love. Learning the ropes to her breezy new life tending to cattle in the vast boondocks where her new home is, Chihiro is now a first-time farmhand who used to work at a bento place.