No-Face (カオナシ , Kaonashi, lit. "Faceless") is a spirit and a secondary antagonist in the Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away. He is shown to be capable of reacting to emotions and ingesting other individuals in order to gain their personality and physical traits.

Story

No-Face was first introduced standing on the bridge watching a rushing Chihiro and Haku, who were, at the time, trying to avoid any spirits from persecuting her for being a human. He subsequently disappeared and reappeared again on the bridge the morning after, watching a passing Chihiro with fascination. No-Face reappears after he is let into the Bathhouse by a considerate Chihiro, who worried that he would get wet while waiting out in the rain. He emerges again next to the Foreman, stealing a Bath Token for Chihiro. Happy that she thanked him, No-Face subsequently steals more tokens, but is ultimately rejected by Chihiro, who told him that she only needed one. Disheartened, No-Face disappears, leaving the tokens to fall to the floor.

No-Face helps Chihiro by giving her the token.

No-Face helps Chihiro by giving her the token.

While the rest of the workers celebrated after the leave of the Unnamed River Spirit, No-Face was seen sitting in a corner, watching as the workers fought and argued for leftover gold on the ground. Learning that gold was important, No-Face baited an unsuspecting Aogaeru to come closer to him when the latter was digging for gold in the middle of the night, swallowing the frog spirit and gaining his corruptive properties soon after. With the negative qualities in Aogaeru reflecting in him, No-Face demanded a luxurious bath from the workers, throwing magically-conjured gold to the workers in the process and becoming larger by ingesting large amounts of food.

No-Face grows massive due to the food the workers give him.

With his assumed large amount of wealth No-Face became a sensation with the workers who constantly begged for tips from him. After witnessing Chihiro reject his offering of gold, No-Face dropped the gold onto the ground in despair, forcing greedy workers to fight for a piece. Angered in assuming that a worker insulted him, No-Face consumes two other people, as his true nature is revealed to the horrified workers.

No-Face and Chihiro on the train.

No-Face then throws a tantrum in a guest room, demanding to see Chihiro. With his offering of gold nuggets rejected a third time, No-Face expresses sadness when Chihiro mentions that he could not give her "what she truly wants". After being fed the last of Chihiro's emetic dumpling from the unnamed river spirit, No-Face chases Chihiro through the lower levels of the bathhouse while regurgitating everything he has eaten. He returns to his timid self and follows Chihiro to a train platform where they travel to Zeniba's home at Swamp Bottom to return a stolen sigil. As Chihiro leaves, No-Face is told by Zeniba to stay with her. He is last seen with Zeniba and her Hopping Lantern bidding Chihiro farewell as she flies off on Haku's back.

Appearance

When first introduced, No-Face appeared in a semi-transparent state while shifting in and out of visibility. His organs are visible, pulsating in several states. His figure resembles that of a long, black tube. While it is unknown if No-Face has a physical body, it is shown that he can develop arms and legs with the capability of leaving footprints as he walks. An ominous, expressionless mask with grey-violet highlights is painted on his "head" of sorts, and while there is a "mouth" painted on the mask, No-Face has shown that his real, expertly-hidden mouth is larger than the one present on his mask.

Personality

No-Face is a lonely spirit who begins to follow Chihiro Ogino after having developed an interest in her sincerity. His vocabulary consisted of grunts and moans as opposed to coherent words. Not knowing much about the Bathhouse or about other spirits in general, No-Face learned by example and adapted to his surroundings.

Exposed to the corruptive thoughts and greed of the workers, he quickly grew to encompass their personalities, hoping that his endeavor to be like those around Chihiro would eventually garner her affection for him. While this ultimately brought upon the opposite effect, Chihiro was somewhat true to No-Face after she invited him and accepted help from him.

No-Face becomes obsessed with Chihiro, and wants to see her and her only. He becomes extremely volatile after being fed the River Spirit's emetic dumpling by Chihiro, and, while fleeing from the obviously now-hostile spirit, she calls out to him twice to follow her. She accepts him as a co-journeyer into the train ride on her way to Swamp Bottom after he calms down and is out of the Bathhouse. At this stage, No-Face is no longer aggressive and is quite docile, even obeying Chihiro's orders, like "sit" and "behave yourself."

As a monstrous, out-of-control being, No-Face exhibits all the negative traits of those he had swallowed (most significantly, Aogaeru), becoming a brash, arrogant, loud and selfish creature whose obsession with Chihiro proved troubling for everyone around it.

Towards the end of the film, No-Face meets with Zeniba, another witch who works alone, in contrast to Yubaba, who runs her bathhouse with a complex hierarchy. Perhaps attempting to match the rules of the new tiny society, No-Face starts spinning and knitting and appears proficient in that. Happy with his new environment, he accepts Zeniba's proposal to stay with her as an apprentice.

Abilities

Mimicry: Whenever he eats a creature, he uses its voice and abilities. For example, after eating Aogaeru, he speaks with Aogaeru's voice and he starts to jump like a frog. He also takes on Aogaeru's personality.[1] If he eats more creatures, he will speak with different voices simultaneously. Because of this ability, his gender is unclear.

Alchemy: He can transform mud and dirt into objects like gold.

Absorbing: He can eat anything, whether it's food or spirits. This may be an extension of his mimicry ability.

Behind The Scenes

No-Face's original character sketch.

No-Face is an original character created by Hayao Miyazaki that previously didn't exist in Japanese mythology.[2]

In a July 2001 press conference held upon completion of the film at Imperial Hotel, Miyazaki explained No-Face's presence, "When I'm not around, the producer's apparently been telling everyone, "No-Face is Miya-san's alter-ego." Yet even without getting intellectual about it, I think there's probably a bit of No-Face in all of us."[3]

He later elaborated, "There are No-Faces all around us. Because there's only a paper-thin difference between evil spirits and gods. And on top of that, this film is set in Aburaya, a bathhouse. So once you open the doors, all sorts of things come in." However, when asked if No-Face represented the youth today, he explained, "I didn't make this film with that in mind. No-Face is just a name and a mask, and other than that we don't really know what he's thinking or what he wants to do. We just named him No-Face because his expression never changes; that's all. But I do think there are people like him everywhere, people who want to glom on to someone but have no sense of self."[4]

Design

His physical appearance is taken from Bombyx mori, a silkworm. Character designer Masashi Ando elaborated, "No-Face is basically expressionless, but I ended up adding just a tiny bit of expression. It might have been better to make his mask more Noh-like without any expression at all, conveying his expressions by lighting. No-Face swallows the bath house workers, and I thought it might have been interesting if he acquired their personalities and ability to reason. This way he might become more human and appealing."[5]

References

  1. The Art of Spirited Away, page 109
  2. Ueka Nobukazu, ed. "Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi" o yomu 40 no me, Tokyo: Kinema jumpou-sha, 2001, page 106
  3. "The World of Spirited Away, and the Power of Fantasy", Eureka, Published by Seidosha, August 25, 2001
  4. Spirited Away Roman Album, Tokuma Shoten, September 10, 2001
  5. The Art of Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli Library

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