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In Spirited Away, Chihiro is tested to identify her parents from a group of pigs. Chihiro answers that none of them are.

Good. But how did she come to that conclusion? Surely it made sense to say that none of them were her parents (they're pigs, after all ;D), but is there not a clue or any other hint about Chihiro's answer?

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I believe it's implied that it wasn't a logical or conscious realization; it's a 'link' issue; being her family, she had a bond of some sort with them, and was able to realize that none of the proffered pigs were them.

Kind of consistent with a lot of moral stuff both in the movie and in the genre in general; if you notice, she didn't solve many problems in the movie with brainpower, so much as with 'heart', courage, or determination. She was able to identify (or fail to, in this case) her parents because they were her parents, and there was a significant bond; had there not been one, she would have failed, and deserved to fail, as they weren't significantly a family. (Slightly heavy-handed for a moral point, but it was a kids movie :) )

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    Ah, of course, I didn't consider the illogical part of the movie :) – Voldemort Oct 4 '12 at 20:37
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    Yeah; it's easy to forget that many movies we discuss here really were made for (or partially for) kids (that being the 'secret' reason behind JarJar Binks, the Ewoks and others...) This movie, however, was made when Miyazaki took a trip with 5 girls who were friends of the family and all about 10 years old; he realized he had never written for that age range, and based Chihiro on one of them. But, it's still meant to be a movie for kids, with messages on a level for them to pick up :) – K-H-W Oct 4 '12 at 22:48
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    Although logically... it would have worked out the same way if there were no link, and she simply thought she could recognize her parents with ease. Personally I think Miyazaki simply saw that this was a better story element than Chihiro correctly choosing her parents, or facing no test at all. – Beta Oct 11 '13 at 2:56
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According to Rocket News 24, this is what Miyazaki himself answered a few years ago:

“I’ve never explained why Chihiro knows that her parents are not among the group of pigs towards the end of the film. Those people who are constantly seeking explanations often say that it’s illogical. However, I don’t think those kinds of things are important. After all the things she’s experienced up to that point, Chihiro simply knows that her parents aren’t there. You ask why she knows, but knowing is human life. That’s all it is. If you can point out that something is lacking here or there, then the audience should fill in the gaps for themselves. I don’t want to waste time thinking about those kinds of things.”

More recently, again from Rocket News 24, a Studio Ghibli employee said that Chihiro could tell because she had obtained special abilities in the spirit world:

“Chihiro, as a 10-year-old girl, could understand the difference because she had overcome difficulties and had managed to acquire the ‘energy to live’ – which is something everyone can do naturally”.

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methroach wrote:

In fact, Haku told her to remember what they looked like. She later dreamed that she would not be able to distinguish them from the other pigs. But at the end, she was able to tell that they weren't part of the group she was shown because she grew up and gained confidence in herself during her adventures.

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She got told by Haku that if she forgot she wouldn't be able to help her parents and would get stuck in the world of spirits, so she always tried to remember what happened. That's how she could tell.

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I think in the earlier scene when Chihiro's parents first eat much at the restaurant, they have some kind of hairs left on their head. Meanwhile, the pigs were chosen by Yubaba seem had no hair on their head. But of course it's also a family bond I think

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For me, Since haku told her to not forget who she is so she may include how her parents looked like ... And her parents weren't pigs in the first place so it's understandable that her parents are not one of those pigs

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  • Welcome to SFF!. This does not appear to answer the question. Please visit our tour page to see the kind of answers we are looking for. – Skooba Jun 9 '16 at 17:52
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Kind of conspiracy but it makes sense. Here it goes: I think that Yubaba (the witch lady who came up with the challenge) didn't know the difference either. By putting pigs that were recently turned into pigs, she guarantees that none of the pigs are Chihiro's parents, and then that nullifies her spell (which states that if Chihiro can tell which pigs are her parents, they can all go home human). That is supposed to make things easier for herself; but all along Chihiro knows its impossible to know which pigs are which, and therefore knows that the witch won't risk something as stupid as putting random pigs together, because the witch herself doesn't know which pigs are her parents. Its complicated, but basically boils down to this: if you figure out the secret to the spell (none of the pigs are her parents), the answer becomes invalid (which one of the pigs are her parents) and thus you deserve the prize (the pigs in question are human again).

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