The Truth Behind ‘My Neighbour Totoro’
Studio Ghibli films often have darker, more complex themes and undertones going on. My Neighbour Totoro isn’t the exception in this case.
On the surface it is a very heart-warming tale of two sisters Satsuki and Mei who, after moving into a new house, begin to see some strange things. Soon they meet a giant mystical creature which they name Totoro.
What many do not understand is the meaning of Totoro and his magical friends. In the Japanese culture they are the Gods of Death.
Although Ghibli denies this there are some startling resemblances between My Neighbour Totoro and a grim murder named The Sayama Incident:
The Sayama incident occured in May 1963. It’s quite an important case for discrimination in Japan. The case goes that one day, in Sayama (in Saitama prefecture), a young girl was kidnapped for ransom, raped and then murdered. Her older sister apparently found her body, but was so traumatized by it, when asked what she had seen, she merely said “I met a large Tanuki (looks like a racoon)” and “I saw a cat monster.” The older sister later commited suicide.
A few of The connects we can see are:
The darker message that we get, once we look below the seemingly heart warming message that is being show to us is that Mei is murdered after she goes missing. In her grief, Satsuki decides to join her. This is where the Nekobus comes in. It is a cultural reference and is said to be the transport to the other world. Also, to further support this case one of the lines in the Nekobus song are:
notta okyaku wa youki na obake,
“those guests who ride are cheerful ghosts.”