竜の少年

introduction

いらっしゃいませ! You’ve found Ryuu no Shounen or 竜の少年—a brainy, little website dedicated to the shape-shifting river deity from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away or 千と千尋の神隠し. Enjoy!!

updates

Historically, this gem gets a makeover primarily in July and April—in that order. It’s like a paranormal phenomenon. But unremarkable, considering there are literal UFOs flying about… and here I am, pouring over code and copy. Anyway, these are the latest additions:

July 29, 2022 ◦ Restoration complete! Project re-launched. やった—!

April 20, 2022 ◦ Once again, it is April. A bout of nostalgia compelled yours truly to revive this turn-of-the-millennium indulgence. Using the Wayback Machine, as all of its previous versions were erased.

Past Designs & Ancient Updates
third website design: silt second website design: sky first website design: gold

April 4, 2011 ◦ Minor edits all over! Fan art in the works! And… it’s April again. I’m not doing this on purpose, I swear.

May 24, 2009 ◦ A kind visitor named HAS (bless you!) has just sent me corrections regarding Haku’s wardrobe. I was pretty off—but that’s all fixed now, yay! As for promising more fan art and better screen captures: shame on me, not done yet! Oh well, perhaps in the future… *wistfully stares at horizon* XD

October 10, 2008 ◦ Tweaked layout (promise I’m done now!). Added fan art and theme songs.

August 7, 2008 ◦ New layout: take two. Livejournal icons.

July 31, 2008 ◦ New layout, text edits.

April 4, 2007 ◦ Whoa, another update??

July 27, 2006 ◦ A site revamp? Unbelievable!!

April 12, 2006 ◦ Moved and updated to PHP.

July 12, 2003 ◦ Launched. Long, long time ago.

about site

You are looking at a reboot of a prehistoric character shrine that features loads of Japanese and annoyingly italicized romaji, because I found it endearing at the time of writing (2003!). It reminded me of my high school Japanese class. And thus it shall stay…

This website’s title comes from one of Haku’s theme songs, which plays during his battle with the paper birds. I screen captured that scene and practically the entire movie, amassing an extensive gallery. Then… woe, an entirely preventable scenario: a defunct computer, no backup, no files. The only path to recovery was the Wayback Machine. And three months of design and copy-editing.

So… that’s the story. Do contact me (Chihaya) if there is something you would like to ask, note, or contribute.

human

In human form, Haku has green eyes and raw umber-colored hair in a blunt cut bob. He and Chihiro appear to have about the same build: petite and very slender!

Haku's joyful face before a blue sky close-up of Haku's face Haku walking through a corridor of flowers

Haku’s wardrobe has the lot of us scratching our heads. My best guess is that he wears a stylized joue (浄衣): a T-shaped robe with slits over the shoulders and down the sides, and a pair of ballooning trousers. Under the joue, he sports a blue undergarment that, quite likely, is a hitoe (単衣). His belt and sandals could qualify under the broad terms, obi (帯) and zori (草履), respectfully.

Haku design: poses Haku design: facial expressions Haku design: attire and portrait

Above are some character design sketches from The Art of Spirited Away.

dragon

Haku is, for the most part, drawn like a traditional Japanese dragon. Now, dragons are already a bizarre combination of animal parts (serpentine body, stag antlers, catfish barbels, eagle talons, and so on). Our Haku is a softer, warmer offshoot of… that… with his silky, equine mane and fuzzy, canine snout.

close-up of Dragon Haku's canine-inspired head Dragon Haku at the entrance of Zeniba's cottage Dragon Haku clinging to the wall like a gecko

Something to ponder: do those changes make him a hybrid or a hybridized hybrid? Don’t think too hard on that…

name

Haku means white. The kanji for the color white is : its on reading is haku and its kun reading is shiro. Hence the title of Haku’s other theme song, Shiroi Ryuu (released on the Image Album).

Haku’s name is written as ハク. His full name is Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi, which translates into Spirit of the Amber River. It is written like this: ニギハヤミコハクヌシ.

story

Haku is a spirit who once lived in and was the guardian of a river in (re-imagined) rural Japan. One day, a younger Chihiro fell in attempting to grab her sandal. Haku caught her and brought her ashore.

In the following years, the river was drained and replaced by condominiums. The displaced deity roamed the land until he, too, wound up at Yubaba’s bathhouse. Captivated by her powers, he requested that she make him her apprentice (imagine her crow-like cackle). Kamaji, the kindly grandfather figure, warned Haku against it. But the young—and deeply distraught—dragon was keen on learning sorcery.

そのうちどんどん顔色が悪くなるし、目つきばかりきつくなってな…

Once Yubaba got control over him, his face turned pale and his eyes turned steely.

Implied is that, thereafter, Yubaba sent Haku on creepy and downright dangerous errands. The last one being to ransack her twin sister’s cottage in order to steal a high potency seal. Which was brazenly nasty and promptly backfired.

Dragon Haku swarmed by paper birds Dragon Haku growls as blood seeps from his mouth injured Dragon Haku passed out in Yubaba's suite

Throwing Haku at Zeniba (the good witch) is what ultimately freed him. The seal he swallowed had to be expelled—out went the mind controlling worm. The seal, then, had to be returned—cue courageous action affecting personal growth. Chihiro and Haku leave the bathhouse and its venal culture in favor of reconciling with Zeniba.

Forgiven and even embraced, our heroes soar into the sky and drift in the quiet of dusk. It is then that Chihiro recalls what could have sent her to the spirit world: tumbling into a bubbling river—a river called Kohaku. At this, Haku’s amnesia recedes and his former identity is restored!

a pink sandal rushes with the river current Dragon Haku instantly sheds his scales Haku's name and memories return!
私も思いだした。

You did it, Chihiro, I remember.

seiyuu

Haku’s seiyuu is Miyu Irino. Miyu has, since, chosen some notable roles such as Syaoran from Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle (and related arcs) and Sora from Kingdom Hearts, as well as minor roles such as Yagura from Naruto Shippuden. That’s just what I am familiar with. Complete list here!

Syaoran from Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Sora from Kingdom Hearts Yagura from Naruto Shippuden

As for his role as Haku: perfect match! My first impression was that his voice is really unique. Unassuming yet confident, if that’s a fair description? It has that speak-and-shout-in-the-same-pitch quality, which works beautifully. Furthermore, Miyu was in his teens at the time of recording, so Haku sounds naturally youthful. Definite plus!

voice actor

Haku’s English-speaking alter ego is Jason Marsden, who is largely known for Disney (hisssssss) roles. He does a decent job… albeit his delivery is a tinge smug. That can be partly attributed to Disney (Western dubber and distributor) distorting the original dialogue to cater to American audiences.

For example, when the bathhouse is in an uproar over a human slipping by, the workers call out for Haku. He sends Chihiro to Kamaji then answers with:

Haku is here. … I know. That’s why I was out there.

ハクはここにいるぞ。 … 分かっている。そのことで外へ出ていた。

Disney replaced it with:

Calm down, I’m coming. … I know. It’s about my mission, right?

That’s oddly curt and off topic. They were asking about an intruder, but Disney made it sound like Haku openly discusses his missions? With random, hyperventilating frogmen…?

I’ll say this: watch both versions for comparison. Spirited Away is rich with Japanese folklore and cultural nuances that shine delectably in the original. At the same time, subtitles mean less art and more text. So… the choice is yours!

why Haku

ハクが好き! Meaning, I love Haku! I do, he is a memorable character! Gracious, mild-mannered, kind—he is a gentle and youthful iteration of an ancient, maleficent creature.

Dragon Haku carries Chihiro into the azure sky Chihiro hugs Dragon Haku near Zeniba's cottage Dragon Haku and Chihiro soar over rural Japan

All the more endearing is how Haku holds Chihiro’s hands in nearly every scene. Zeniba teases Chihiro a little, calling the ryuu her ボーイフレンド (boyfriend), which earns a puzzled look. Because they’re children and they don’t have to think about that.

Haku and Chihiro facing a lush valley Haku points Chihiro's hand towards the path out of the spirit world close-up of the children's clasped hands

Also, Haku is one of the few characters not ruled by greed. He has no interest in material wealth, whereas his mentor—and her countless henchmen—are obsessed with riches. Yubaba is shown to hoard gold, gemstones, and other lucrative trinkets… how dragon-like! Although this trait belongs to beasts of Western lore.

Below (last) is an illustration titled Conversations with Smaug by J.R.R. Tolkien, depicting an ornery reptile coiled around a mound of glistening treasures. In contrast to the wise and benevolent Eastern dragon, it is a cunning and baleful fire-breather. Strikingly similar, is it not? Particularly when Yubaba snakes her locks around Haku and spews flames!

Yubaba's suite with all her wealth Yubaba breathes fire like an enraged dragon Tolkien's sketch of Smaug hoarding gold

Yubaba exhibits various draconian qualities as owner of a high traffic business center as well. She traps wandering spirits via magical contracts that rob them of their names and memories, commands the spirits to toil for the bathhouse indefinitely, and implants intestinal parasites that somehow exert mind control over their host (that one is heinous).

That’s how Yubaba controls you, by stealing your name.

湯婆婆は相手の名を奪って支配するんだ。

So, it is Haku’s purity of heart—despite the serious quagmire he wound up in—that resonates with me. Enough to forget my life and toil over this website… indefinitely.

why Spirited Away

First of all, the quality. The Making describes how Studio Ghibli uses higher frame rates—something like 25 frames per second rather than the traditional 24, which gives their animation extraordinary fluidity. That’s a great deal more work.

Hence, they are (or were under Miyazaki) the golden standard: they go the extra mile. Every aspect of their animations is so vibrantly and thoughtfully portrayed that the audience is left with a magnificent vision to dwell on. Each tale is delivered in perfect pitch: lush and lively environments, telling gestures and facial expressions, realistic sound effects, beautiful music, moving dialogue, and much more. As evidenced below, every drawing is a world onto itself!

background: rocky boundary of the spirit world background: cobblestone path through a sunlit forest background: the red bridge to the bathhouse
全貌