Spirited Away [rewatch]
It’s a piercing testament to Miyazaki’s genius here that, for all the earned sentimentalism that flows throughout this, the film ends with Chihiro’s perspective of the tunnel receding into the distance. No view of her newfound friends, or her potential life partner, or even the mysterious gods is possible in the ultimate dichotomy between these worlds. As much as she was able to bring a great vitality to the bath house, there are forces greater than magic or love ruling over these realms, and so she must return to the living, and the sensations of the other side must remain a memory, just like the river that saved and nurtured her so long ago. It’s too far in both time and space, and that’s the way it must be.
The interlude with the foxes, already comfortably assimilated into modern Japanese society, helps clarify and differentiate the plight and journey of the raccoons. It’s said early in the film that their nature doesn’t allow them to have the same focus as the foxes, too prone to sloth to be as convincingly for as long. While that may be true, that’s also exactly what allows them to produce such grand and beautiful feats: their community, their ability to feed off of each other’s energy to bolster each other. In their final decision to join Tokyo, it is still with that same compassion, a splitting up to keep as many alive as possible, an invisible community of bodies built up with each celebration, each humorous yet poignant transformation.