'Spirited Away' question

Steve Palmer

Completely Average High School Student
#1
In the train sequence in Spirited Away, we never get to see the conductor's face.
Is there a reason for this that anybody here knows?
I keep noticing the fact every time I watch the film, and wondering what it means...
 

Neil.T

Mad Scientist
#2
So... I just took a quick look at that scene. There are actually two cuts that do show his "face", but it's as blank and shadowy as those of the passengers. I can't imagine it has any particular significance, other than to perhaps emphasise his and the passengers' lack of communication? (Kind of how it apparently is on Japanese public transport in real life anyway, I understand.) It's been years since I last watched the full film, though, so I may be missing some subtleties.
 

ayase

State Alchemist
#3
I'm fairly certain it is, at least in part, a reference/homage to the Conductor from Galaxy Express 999, who has a very similar appearance and whose face is also never seen. GE999 was in turn inspired by the early 20th Century Japanese novel Night on the Galactic Railroad, which was also turned into an animated film and features not dissimilar scenes of spirits/souls travelling on and departing a train.

It's open to interpretation of course, but I feel like this scene is Miyazaki's own take on using a train journey, in a similar vein to these earlier works, as somewhat of a metaphor for the journey of life (and and Galactic Railroad's case, death).
 
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ayase

State Alchemist
#5
There's a silent conductor featured in Giovanni's Island as well, actually. 🤔
That film very directly references Kenji Miyazawa's story.
I still haven't seen Giovanni's Island. I'd like to, but I was a bit miffed I missed out on a cheap deal for AL's CE and just never got round to picking it up. I did read Night on the Galactic Railroad, they brought out a nice app for iPad that included the story along with art and animated content, but I no longer have an iPad and can't remember the conductor from the story - I know in the animated film he's not silent or faceless. It does seem to be a story that's really left its mark on the Japanese collective consciousness.
 

Joe

Straw Hat Pirate
#6
Aria the Natural had an entire episode that was just an homage to Night on the Galactic Railroad/Galaxy Express 999.

Even had President Aria cosplaying as a certain blonde...

 

Neil.T

Mad Scientist
#7
I still haven't seen Giovanni's Island. I'd like to, but I was a bit miffed I missed out on a cheap deal for AL's CE and just never got round to picking it up.
I absolutely promise you that Giovanni's Island is well worth your time, ayase. I saw it at Glasgow Film Theatre as part of Scotland Loves Anime in 2014, and I thought the applause from the audience during the end credits was never going to stop. Of all the films I've seen at that festival, it's Giovanni's Island that's received the most rapturous response.

I would be surprised if you wouldn't enjoy it: there's interesting historical background to digest, and the characters have genuine depth. The screenplay was actually originally written for a live-action production, and that really comes through; it's a lot less "anime" in tone.

The background art is by an Argentinian called Santiago Montiel and is something that really lingers in the memory.
 

Adam-M

Vampire Ninja
#8
to perhaps emphasise his and the passengers' lack of communication? (Kind of how it apparently is on Japanese public transport in real life anyway, I understand.)
I really didn't notice anything like that when I was there, in fact you didn't even get conductors once you were on the train. I seem to remember though that the station and other aspects like that were throwbacks to Miyazaki's experiences so maybe its a more rural thing from times gone by? The train was really close to the more rural/local ones out near Gifu.

Interestingly though, I was told yesterday that Spirited Away is getting a showing in town next week so I might have to treat my niece and her mate to a night at the pictures and a quick Katsu Curry on the way :)
 

Neil.T

Mad Scientist
#9
I really didn't notice anything like that when I was there, in fact you didn't even get conductors once you were on the train.
Ah, sorry, dude. I should've phrased my post a bit better; I meant that the lack of communication onboard public transport is apparently how it is in Japan. I wondered whether Miyazaki might have been toying with how it must seem like an eerily silent environment to a child.

Is that even true anyway, that nobody talks while on trains in Japan? Is every carriage like the "quiet coach" here? 😅


And that cinema outing sounds really nice, by the way. 🙂
 

Adam-M

Vampire Ninja
#10
should've phrased my post a bit better; I meant that the lack of communication onboard public transport is apparently how it is in Japan.
I tend take things far too literally than I should mate :)
Is that even true anyway, that nobody talks while on trains in Japan? Is every carriage like the "quiet coach" here? 😅
It's all part of the Japanese sense of etiquette and manners. Its true that people will try not to bother others and will be very grateful if they move or something. Most people were just playing on their phones or a Switch or whatever though so it wasn't too far different in that respect. On the other hand, the staff are very polite as opposed to the conductor over here last week who kindly informed me that he hoped I'd choke to death on that particular day. Japanese staff seem a lot happier for some reason :confused:
 

Adam-M

Vampire Ninja
#12
Yeah, but he said he wasn't stupid you see and clearly he was wrong so I pointed it out to him :(
I was very careful all day chewing my food properly so as not to choke just to spite the ba***rd :)
 

ayase

State Alchemist
#13
I really didn't notice anything like that when I was there, in fact you didn't even get conductors once you were on the train. I seem to remember though that the station and other aspects like that were throwbacks to Miyazaki's experiences so maybe its a more rural thing from times gone by? The train was really close to the more rural/local ones out near Gifu.
This intrigued me, so I found out the train is based on a Meitetsu Series 3400, a train introduced in 1937 (which did indeed run in and around Nagoya) and which, amazingly, was still in service when Spirited Away was released in 2001. Rather poignantly for that scene, the last ones appear to have been withdrawn the very next year and it doesn't look like any survived.

Also thanks, Google Translate. Helpful.
 
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