Spirited Away is easily one of the top five Studio Ghibli films. It's a fantastic coming-of-age blend of fantasy and adventure, with just enough peril to make it on the edgier side for kids and tweens without sliding it into more scary Princess Mononoke territory. The Japanese animated film, which was inspired by writer and director Hayao Miyazaki's friend's 10-year-old daughters, has one of the most intriguing characters in the Miyazaki universe: the spirit No-Face.
When Chihiro Ogino first sees No-Face in Spirited Away, he is a transparent spirit whom no one else seems to notice. Once she is dubbed Sen and made a bathhouse worker by the witch Yubaba, she invites No-Face in and he transforms from a quiet, seemingly shy character to a glutinous beast. There's much more to this monster than meets the eye, though, and some fans may have missed the most interesting facts about the "monster."
10 HE LEAVES FOOTPRINTS
If viewers look closely they'll notice that No-Face leaves footprints when he walks. This begs the question of whether or not the spirit wishes to be seen in the first place, and why he might be able to leave tangible evidence of his own existence when he's also so see-through that other spirits don't even notice his presence.
Given that the entire film is a blending of Chihiro's human world and the magic of the spirit world, it's interesting that there are footprints at all. Perhaps they exist to prove that No-Face was not a figment of Chihiros imagination.
9 HIS NAME IS KAONASHI
For those who don't speak Japanese, No-Face is likely only known as "No-Face," but in Japanese, the spirit's name is actually Kaonashi. The word simply means, "Faceless." Kaonashi aptly describes the creature since he not only wears a mask for a face, thereby having no face of his own, but he also sort of absorbs the faces of those around him, developing new attitudes and opinions based on those he encounters as well as eats.
No-Face isn't just faceless, but nearly body-less, too. His long, black body is tube-like and almost appears hollow, as it it, too, could be filled with the ides and opinions of others.
8 HE WAS INSPIRED BY BABETTE'S FEAST
When asked about the gluttony demonstrated by No-Face in Spirited Away, the writer said that he'd been inspired by Babette's Feast. "It is a very beautiful favorite movie. Even in that movie, the characters eat a lot," Miyazaki said.
No-Face isn't alone in his greed, either. Several characters have trouble controlling their appetites. Chihiro's parents are transformed into pigs out of their own greed after they are unable to stop consuming spirit food in a restaurant, and Yubaba's baby Bō is also greedy. His own aunt, Yubaba's sister Zeniba, calls him "a bit of a porker" when she meets him.
7 HIS MASK HIDES A BIGGER MOUTH
No-Face's mask is a beautiful piece of Japense art that features pretty grey and violet colors. His mask also features a small mouth that changes with his emotions. The mask mouth doesn't belong to the monster, though. Instead, it hides a much more dangerous set of chompers that come in handy when the spirit decides to gobble up workers at Yubaba's bathhouse!
Thankfully, the spirit's teeth, which seem to be made up of only molars, don't do any catastrophic grinding, leaving our cast of swallowed characters not only whole but also able to escape once he's regurgitated each of them.
6 HE EATS OTHERS, GAINS THEIR PERSONALITY TRAITS
Those who watch No-Face carefully may notice that he quickly takes on the physical characteristics of those he swallows, even developing frog-like legs that he moves on. He also exhibits the personalities of his "prey," first developing his gluttonous attitude after swallowing Aogaeru, the blue kimono-wearing frog. Once he's swallowed Aogaeru, he can also talk, and speaks in the frog's voice.
It's clear that No-Face is a very lonely spirit and wants to connect with others, and by eating and acting like a bathhouse employee he believes that he'll be able to gain some attention, particularly from Sen.
5 HE'S NOT AS GREEDY AS HE SEEMS
While No-Face is scarfing down everything edible in sight and requesting to eat everything in everyone's favorite Studio Ghibli bathhouse, paying with dirt transformed into gold, he seems like a real greedy jerk. The truth, however, is that he's an adaptable spirit who learns and changes based on those around him. Naive to the ways of the bathhouse, he first displays a kind heart when Sen allows him entrance into the establishment, helping her receive bath tokens when the foreman refuses to give her any.
As No-Face explores the bathhouse and learns the ways of the rest of the staff and guests, however, he develops a hunger for materialistic things, and the more people he swallows the more he seems to take on more human-like characteristics. Once Sen "cures" him with the magic emetic dumpling, her gift from the River Spirit, he becomes a friendly spirit again.
4 HE HAS NO ACTUAL FORM
In an interview, Miyazaki reminded us that Japanese spirits do not have a form, so each spirit, including No-Face, is really just a representation of that god or spirit in a more solid form. "Japanese gods have no actual form: They are in the rocks, in pillars, or in the trees. But they need a form to go to the bath house," he revealed.
This makes a lot of sense in terms of not only the Shinto kami, which are not separate from nature but within it, but also in what works for a children's movie. Miyazaki wanted Spirited Away to be a movie tweens could love so it needed some really compelling characters.
3 HE IS A NOPPERA-BO
In the stories of Japanese yōkai, or legends, there is a creature known as the faceless ghost, or Noppera-bō. They usually appear in a human-like form and while they pose no real danger to humans, they do enjoy scaring them. They lull their victims into a false sense of security by posting as a person they know, then scare them by making their face disappear, replaced by blank skin.
RELATED: 10 Best Miyazaki Films Of All Time
Of course No-Face is a bit different than a typical Noppera-bō, since he seeks human approval from Chihiro rather than her fear. It's another example of Miyazaki translating an urban legend in an animated feature that's child-friendly yet still disturbing.
2 HE'S THE SUBJECT OF MANY FAN THEORIES
Fans love to speculate about their favorite characters and their backstories, and No-Face is no different. Some fans postulate that No-Face is another human who is trapped in the Spirit World. Perhaps he wasn't so plucky when Yubaba took his name and was never able to win his freedom. His transparency, along with the see-through nature of Chihiro when she first enters the Spirit World and the transparency of the passengers on the train, is a piece of evidence people use to support the theory.
Several theories, such as N0-Face representing the horrors of child slavery in Japan, have not been denied by Miyazaki, and he has even made statements that sound as if he did intend for the film to stand as an allegory for something darker.
1 BOB BERGEN VOICED HIM
No-Face isn't exactly known for his speaking voice, but he does make noises and have lines as other characters. In the English version of Spirited Away, Bob Bergen is the voice of the spirit. Bergen is best known for his Looney Tunes voices, where he makes characters like Tweety Bird, Porky Pig, Marvin the Martian and Speedy Gonzalez come alive, but he's also voiced characters in Fraggle Rock, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Robot Chicken, among other animated features.
In the Japanese version of the film, known as Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away, Japanese actor Akio Nakamura is the voice of No-Face.