[TT] The "My Neighbor Totoro" Conspiracy

I re-watched My Neighbor Totoro or 隣のトトロ (Tonari no Totoro) a few nights ago after having only seen it once when I was incredibly young. Only a few minutes into the movie, I suddenly began to cry. I wasn't exactly sure what prompted me to become a huge ball of tangled emotions, but figured it was time for me to look up symbolism surrounding the movie and story.


In case you had forgotten this classic Miyazaki tale, the story is set in the post-World War II era and follows two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who have just moved to a new home in the country-side with their dad. Mei is the first to encounter Totoro, a gigantic furry creature living inside a giant tree. Initially thought to be a figment of Mei's imagination, Satsuki starts to see Totoro too. After Mei becomes lost, Satsuki asks Totoro for help to find her little sister.

I did not expect to find the type of interpretations and rumours that existed for the Totoro tale. Articles online were circulating the idea that Totoro symbolized death and that the story itself was based off the "Sayama murder" incident that occured in May of 1963.

To keep this blog entry as brief as possible, watch this video:

Another interesting article to read is this one here.

Miyazaki and Ghibli Studios has denied that these rumours are true, but many have dismissed this because no company would admit to marketing a tale about death.

As with any works of art, I believe that Totoro is open to individual interpretation. For me, Totoro is a celebration of childhood and overcoming the concept of death (I do not deny that death plays any part in this movie) because of the unsteadiness of their mother's health, the innocence of a child's imagination (the black soot/dust-bunnies and Totoro as a part of their creative imaginations), and the evolving role that Satsuki has to play with the coming of age.

For another, not so dark, interpretations of Totoro, read A Psychological Interpretation of "My Neighbor Totoro" by Rieko Okuhara.

What are your thoughts on the movie and the Totoro story?

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