Call Me Chihiro – a must-watch Netflix movie

Call Me Chihiro is a Japanese movie that released on February 23 of 2023. It is available on Netflix and is, from what I have seen of the Japanese movie catalogue currently available on the streaming service, one of the very best titles to watch.

It’s an adaptation of Yasuda Hiroyuki’s manga “Chihiro-san”, originally compiled into nine tankoubon volumes, and was condensed into a screenplay fit for the span of a feature-length movie. It ended up being a deeply moving and powerful story with an unassumingly gorgeous surface-level appearance. Here’s our spoiler-free thoughts on it.

Picturesque on the outside and deep on the inside

Call Me Chihiro

At a little over 2 hours in length, Call Me Chihiro is a slow-burn slice of life story. It follows the titular Chihiro, a candid and easy to approach sex worker-turned-bento shop clerk who is portrayed by Arimura Kasumi – a perfect casting choice right here from the offset. Her spunky attitude and remarkable ability to approach anyone and everyone with the right method and open mindedness makes her immediately captivating, both to the people around her and to the audience.

The movie takes its time to not only peel away at the core of who Chihiro really is but also the most significant of the supporting characters around her too. Chihiro grows close to a homeless man, helps out a young boy who violently lashes out at her, and she starts to visit a hospitalised co-worker of hers from the bento shop who has recently gone blind.

Throughout each of these newfound relationships, Chihiro brings a smile to those around her and makes them feel comforted and appreciated – something that has clearly not been a part of her own life. But Chihiro gifts it to others so that they can feel the happiness that was lacking from her own existence.

Thematically important; wonderfully shot and performed

It’s no surprise how one reviewer described the movie as being like if Nanny McPhee was a sex worker. Chihiro’s past is handled delicately and respectfully with clear intent behind it with regard to her motivations. As a result, the movie very quickly showcases the core messages it sets out to explore: that of loneliness. Many of the most exquisite shots of the film linger on Chihiro in various locations and scenes where she is completely and utterly alone.

While a scrumptiously idyllic scene each and every time, Chihiro’s isolation speaks volumes and is a constant reminder of the core themes of the film. The movie emphasises this with one of its most poignant lines that comes up time and time again: “We all come from different planets. So really, it’s no wonder we can’t understand each other.”

Call Me Chihiro is a delicate reminder of what is sacred with our connectivity to everything around us. Valuing each other by understanding that we never think the same as one another is the first step, and by following Chihiro’s example, we can all feel just a bit better about our own place in this world. Since Chihiro herself does this with a variety of strangers across the movie’s runtime, the one that left the biggest impression on me was Okaji, a nerdy young school girl.

Okaji feels ever the more outcast from her current friendship circle for losing interest in the things that initially brought her and her friends together. She also feels constant tension in her family dynamic due to having a submissive mother and a controlling father. Okaji ends up learning the value of found family instead, thanks to Chihiro her own new connections outside of her family with the right kinds of people who make her feel seen, heard and appreciated.

Special mention for both character and actress goes to Basil, an old colleague of Chihiro, for her stunning debut performance. She is the only character who really confronts or challenges Chihiro and, in a way, makes it so that the audience aligns with her instead, since Chihiro is far more complex and difficult to understand in comparison. It’s an interesting dynamic that adds further merit to Chihiro’s way of living, with her own point of view likely being genuinely alien to the majority of the audience. It’s beyond fitting.

Closing thoughts

Call Me Chihiro

With Chihiro’s unique viewpoint of how to live life in mind, Call Me Chihiro is both a refreshing and interesting watch as a result. And while she quite easily brings great benefit to the lives of those around her by her simply being herself, doing so is at the cost of her own way of living.

Call Me Chihiro is as beautiful as it is bittersweet, ending on quite the sour note as it closes out Chihiro’s own story arc. At the same time, the conclusion is an overall uplifting message that all of us can do better for ourselves as well as those around us.

Call Me Chihiro leaves us with another solid character we can aspire to follow in the footsteps of, or at least to seek out for ourselves in real life — much like Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Waymond. In a world that is becoming increasingly isolated, where almost all of us feel alone despite the massive amount of possible outlets we have available to reach out to others with, Call Me Chihiro acts as a warm hug when times are even more challenging than usual. Discovering a new, possible outlook on life like that which Chihiro holds is something of genuine worth and value.

Give it a watch now exclusively on Netflix only – it’s wonderful on both the eyes and as comfort to the soul.

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Lilia Hellal
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