An Inconvenient truth about “My Neighbor Totoro”

April 28, 2011

The animation drama “My neighbor Totoro” is most chosed as one’s favorite film. For the reasons, people pick how cute Totoro is, and the pureness of two kids, and lastly the happy ending. Ghibli-made films were famous and liked by people because they gave dreams and hope to children. 

Just a few minutes ago, I was writing about my childhood and some sentences prasing the film  “My neighbor Totoro”. I wrote about the cheerful background and storyline. However I erased everything right after knowing about the inconvenient truth about  “My neighbor Totoro”.

The main point is that  “My neighbor Totoro” had its motive from a real event, the the Sayama incident. Some people say that is is just a rumour, but I insist it is related.

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from: http://cherrypistoru.posterous.com/?tag=ghibli

Why is it a real story ?
• The rumour says that Totoro is the God of Death, so the persons that can see Totoro are actually close to death, or already dead. What that means for the story is that when Mei goes missing and a sandal is found in the pond, Mei actually drowned. When Satsuki is asked about the sandal she cannot face the truth and lies about it not being Mei’s sandal. So Satsuki goes on a desperate search for Totoro, calling for him and actually opens up the door the realm of the dead herself. With Totoro’s help she finds her dead sister and they together go to their mother’s hospital. There, the only one who actually noticed that the sisters were there, was the mother, who also soon is going to die.

And in the ending scene, Satsuki and Mei don’t have any shadows some says.

•  The storytakes place in 狭山丘陵 (Sayama hills) where also 八国山病院 (Hachikokuyama Hospital) or 新山手病院 is, which is believed to be the model of the hospital where the mother is, 七国山病院 (Shichikokuyama Hospital).

There is also a murder-case (the Sayama incident) which has many scary coincidents with Tonari no Totoro. Especially that it all happened in May and both of the sisters names actually are May – Satsuki (五月), the name of the older sister that means May in Japanese and Mei (メイ), the name of the younger sister, which is how Japanese people pronounce May.
Furthermore, the fact that the little sister went missing and that both sisters later turned up dead. According to some rumors, the big sister saw her little sister’s corpse and went crazy and later should have mumbled something alike “I saw a ghost/monster cat (猫のお化け/化& #12369;猫)” and “I met a big raccoon” = Totoro, before committing suicide.

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The cute and warm story of two girls, which was actually thought as a happy ending to most people actually had its behind story. It seems very frightening to know it so late, after watching the film for five times and loving the character Totoro. People who knew about the fact were definetly shocked and I was too.

Sometimes, truth can be inconvenient and it is better off not knowing it. Formerly I didn’t know but I truly felt it and agree now.

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144 Responses to “An Inconvenient truth about “My Neighbor Totoro””

  1. wolasadal said

    Good grief! This really sounds almost macabre – and yet Tororo was a favourite?

  2. Janaina said

    All this is just a legend. Read more about .. complete this Japanese blog that makes a deep and detailed research on the subject. Denies this part:
    “Apparently Her older sister found her body, but was so traumatized by it, When Asked what she HAD seen, she said Merely” I met a large Tanuki (looks like a racoon) “and” I saw a cat monster. “Sound familiar? Anyway, the older sister later Committed suicide.”
    次姉について。次姉は長兄の中学時代の同級生と婚約しており、事件の1年後に入籍していました。その数ヶ月後、石川さんに一審で死刑判決が出た直後からノイローゼになり(医師が正式にノイローゼと診断しています)、ほどなくして自殺しました。ただし、「となりのトトロ」の都市伝説で言われているような、「妹を捜して必死に歩き回っていた」とか「『猫のお化け』『大きな狸に会った』などの意味不明な証言ばかりしていた」という事実はありません。
    (http://flowmanagement.jp/wordpress/archives/236#more-236)
    That was not the cause of suicide.

  3. Anonymous said

    I just finished watching the movie and it didn’t have much of an impression on me at first. However, after reading this, my views have changed completely. I would have never realised that a movie targeted towards children would have such a sad story behind it all. When I think about about sandal scene, it’s understandable that Mei drowned, otherwise the scene in which the grandma finds the sandal would have no purpose, and most likely the director would have taken it out. But then I guess they kind of covered that hidden story with the pictures during the credits where the whole family is together. And if it’s true that Mei did actually drown, what would you suggest that explains the reason behind Satsuki’s death?

    And I must admit, I actually got teary after reading this..

    • Wilgrem said

      But is it directed towards Children? Miyazaki’s stories are so sophisticated that I think that they are targeted towards anyone that likes a good story. Reading this article really makes sense to me. After watching My Neighbor Totoro, though I liked it, I felt it was missing something that I couldnt put my finger on. This article really fills that void with the subtext that I couldnt possibly have identified myself and makes total sense…very Miyazaki!

    • james said

      The whole theory kinda falls apart since the sandal they show Satsuki was GENUINELY not Mei’s. Mei’s sandals don’t have flowers on, while the one they show her has a small flower on it. That and “Totoro” isn’t a god of death, it’s a mispronunciation of “tororo” meaning “troll”. Mei read about the character in the “Billy Goats Gruff” book you see at the end with a picture of Totoro on the front.

    • Anonymous said

      Mei’s slipper had 1 strap, the one they found had 2 crossed straps and had a flower in the middle.

    • Dong-mei said

      Here is one possible explanation for Satsuki’s “death” When she goes looking for Totoro and the Cat-bus after the pond incident and inadvertedly opens the door to the realm of the dead. That might have actually killed her as living people cannot go to that realm. In other words, in order for the Cat-bus and Totoro to take Satsuki to the desceased Mei, Satsuki first had to give up her own life.

    • rishabh said

      if you see the movie clearly, you will notice that the sandle which was found in the pond was not actually of mei, because you can see her wear it at 1:07:14 timing of the movie and it is a different sandle which she wore before she ran out for the hospital

  4. Sistermu said

    I really don’t think this is the case. If you look at the end titles, there are many post-film pictures of Satsuki and Mei playing with their friends, and a toddler which I think is meant to be a new young sibling. I have heard that Miyazaki just made up Totoro, and he was meant to be a sort of troll, as Mei says, just a forest spirit. What you are suggesting would completely subvert the spirit of the film and would be pointed to far more overtly if it were intended. Also, Studio Ghibli completely deny it, and why would they if it were true?

    • fellowof said

      I have no idea why they would deny the truth, if it was the truth I mean… But what I wanted to point out was that there are too many coincidence between the story of Totoro, and the story of the sad story.
      We cannot be completely sure whether the two are related or not. Maybe Miyzaki denied the relation because the film itself was made for the kids. Who would want to let a child watch a animation related to such cruel story? Because if is an unconvenient truth. That’s what I think is the reason for that denial. Because I also hope the story of Totoro is just an warm-hearted story.

      • john mcfloss said

        Except it’s not that inconvenient – they’d just made Grave Of The Fireflies, a film about a brother and sister who pretty much spend the film starving to death during a war, so we know that Gibli have no issue in making films that children watch about people dying. In fact the two were shown back-to-back in cinemas. Totoro struggled, because people didn’t wamt their children to see GotF – if anything if they’d both openly been about death, they probably would have done better.

      • Anonymous said

        Why would Miazaki make a movie for kids based on the story? please think.

      • guys said

        Stop smoking stuff….Miyazaki is the author and thus he is well placed to know what his inspiration comes from and what is true or not. If you had do correctly your research you should know that there’s a cheerfull short story of Mei with the cat bus kids shown at the Ghibli museum. Totoro is about kids, nature and communion with it. For coincidences, you can search everywhere in the world, you will be always able to find some sad rumor similar to any kind of fairytales…Check about the theories that all fairytales is about sin and sex (disney, grimm…and so on…)

      • Tote said

        Oh my goodness! My best friend and I love tote I introduced her after her father committed sucided by shooting himself through a blanket in the chin he got fired from G.M. After 17 years…. My other great friend hung himself after 8 years at G.M. We have also embraced darker things not so dark to us but maybe to the rest of the world… I showed her the totoro hoping she could find love for something just as I had. ^_^ she did. She was a tote lover it helped. What you have “found” supposedly or whatever…. is ruining a dream a love a beautiful thing living people need

      • Krees said

        Hey,
        Just one detail :
        When Mei leaves the house alone to go to see her mother, she puts her shoes on and there is a close up on her feet : i looked very carefully and the sandals she wears are different from the ones the grandma shows Satsuki near the lake…
        There is no denial from Satsuki. The sandals are just not Mei’s…

      • Woof said

        Dude, this is just a fan theory. The film is just a reflection of Miyasakis childhood (growing up with siblings out in the countryside, his mother ill for most of his childhood ect)

        This is all just conjecturer. There was even a short film of Mei released after the film!

      • TK said

        Spirited Away has a number of prostitution-based themes that are very obvious if you look into it (though may miss if you watched the dub or are unfamiliar with the Japanese language). Studio Ghibli never denied these things, I doubt they would deny something like this if it were true. This theory is kind of a huge reach.

      • Matt Smith said

        I did notice that, Lainey.

      • Anonymous said

        I don’t know man, I think you’re just grasping at straws. Totoro isn’t the only film Miyazaki has made for kids, you know. I haven’t seen Kikki’s Delivery Service, but I would find it VERY hard to believe it had a similar “backstory” considering the plot. I’m not certain if Spirited Away was a kid’s story either, but if it was, then it certainly didn’t shy away from the grim stuff. In other words, the theory you’re suggesting has nothing in common with how Miyazaki is known to write for children.

        It is far more likely that these “too many coincidence[s]” are just that: coincidences.

      • Bella said

        Well perhaps they denied it so as not to freak people out, but Miyazaki did admit to Spirited Away having a much deeper meaning.

      • Cheyenne said

        I love this movie, and I get where you are coming from. So I did my own research and I am sorry to say that I myself don’t really see that many coincidences, just my opinion though.

    • Booksmartz said

      There are other rumours about it, like the cat bus is actually believed to take people down to hell so them being happy on the cat bus at the end would mean they were going to hell, there was another bit where the mother was in the hospital and she says i sense my children or something along the lines which creeped me out, umm the ending but where the children don’t actually go into the hospital and suspiciously after the sandal is found neither mei nor her sisiter have a shadow… maybe it’s just me but i think it’s creepy.

    • youmeatotaku said

      I think that the end credits is supposed to be a montage of happy moments in their life they had together

    • Taima Tomiyama said

      if you look closely to the ending their parents, satsuki and mei are younger. which means the ending was a flashback of their mother got back from the past admission from the hospital.

      and her mom said she saw satsuki and mei on the tree sitting and smiling. she saw satsuki and mei because she was ill and close to death which made her see satsuki and mei.

      and if satsuki and mei made it to shichikokuyama hospital then why they did not pass the corn personally????

      this movie is full of mystery. ~_~

  5. george said

    umm can i ask where u heard about the girl rambling bout a big raccoon thing before she killed herself? i have been looking for that but I havent found it yet. if u could show me a reference of where u found tht info would be cool. l

  6. Michael said

    I have watched the movie at least 50 times and I think that is review is mostly speculation. If you pay close attention to the sandles that Mei is wearing when she runs away to the hospital, you will notice that the straps are not crossed like the sandle found in the pond. Granny simply got a head of herself again. That detail refutes the entire incovient truth.

  7. Well, it’s no more different than Disney. The real story behind stories like Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, etc. aren’t so warm hearted like how Disney portrayed. Maybe Miyazaki just wanted to create a story about the incident because of the significance it had on him.

  8. [...] of the movie is actually based on a real story. Want to know more details? Check out this website: http://fellowof.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/an-inconvenient-truth-about-my-neighbor-totoro/  This is also where I got the information for the DARK SIDE of the movie. Of course, some people [...]

  9. blingbling said

    People read into things too hard

  10. Amy Abe said

    Some suggest that the scenes at the end of the movie are not necessarily chronological– that they are meant to be scenes from the past, when the girls were alive and the family was together. There are also theories out there (with some pretty good evidence to back them up) that the whole movie itself isn’t necessarily chronological, that some scenes are from the past, some from the father’s imagination (he’s a writer) and some from the “present”.

  11. 6shooter said

    If anything this adds to the value of the film.
    How could the merit of this piece be discarded knowing this story? If anything, I feel that it adds more depth to the whole movie. Yes, this incident is horrific I am not denying that; This story was not mentioned at all during the film.
    I although, thank you for finding the correlation. That makes me revere this movie SO MUCH MORE.
    In my opinion this movie was fantastic. Everything about it; the art, the character development, the cinematography. With all due respect, if this changes your opinion on the movie then I suggest you get some ear plugs and crawl under a rock. Life is not for you.
    As a childrens film it is fantastic. This added eerie element is for the adults, and a reflection of how the director is in his own element; making childrens movies. Adding so much to the film.

    To you soft-hearted people:
    Be more enveloped in the work not the conspiracy. Horrible things happen everyday.
    Quit being so easily offended, open your mind and observe the creation come to life and cause you to think in different ways.
    Peace and love.

  12. Sarah said

    The girl who was murdered was 16, not 5 as the urban legend seems to claim. Her sister does not seem to have found her body, as far as I could tell, which probably means somebody made up the story about her comments to make it match ‘Totoro’ better.
    Whether Miyazaki was influenced by the Sayama Incident or not as he created Totoro, I couldn’t say. If so, he took elements of a sad story and turned it into magic. He’s certainly not unused to adding darker elements to his movies.
    For me, ‘Totoro’ resonates because, as an imaginative girl of 10, with 2 sisters, I lived through my father’s long illness. ‘Totoro’ captures the confused feelings of that time beautifully. If one was to take this urban legend as truth, the message to me would be that death is a natural part of life, not to be feared.

  13. Disagreed said

    I disagree completely about Totoro. The comparisons didn’t even make sense. Mei=May? Sounds like a conspiracy. Not having shadows at the end? It was an animation thing, not indicating dead children. Grasping at straws. Articles on the incident itself made no sense and have very little details to go off of. Ghibli and Miyazaki were never afraid to discuss his motives of movies, and were in fact proud of them. Ever seen Grave of the Fireflies (A Ghibli movie more than a Miyazaki, but same thing)? How can you possibly relate the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl (and a subsequent suicide) to a toddler and young child who make friends with a spirit? Even IF he would be a death spirit. Absolutely ZERO correlation IMO.

  14. Max said

    I believe that the opinion of the blogger is flawed. About in the same year, 1988, Miyazaki released the poignant sad story called “Grave Of The Fireflies”. In that story, that could make anyone cry, the cruelty of the world falling on two orphaned children is narrated, (the little girl of the age of Mai, and the boy, looking like Kanta), until they both die; it is the saddest story I ever seen in anime.
    So this is the the evidence that Miyazaki is not hiding any gruesome story behind my Neighbour Totoro. He can do really sad stories and he demonstrated it.
    You underestimate the talent of Hayao Miyasaki. Please do not spread false rumours, enjoy Totoro, even if I do not agree with the japanese religion, because it is not what the Bible says. I am christian and I want to view Totoro as if he was like an angel of God, who is sent to take care of two innocent creatures. Easily, Totoro is my number one anime.

  15. Anon said

    You do realize how many murders there have been in the history of human beings, right? And you also realize that the chances that a film can coincide with a certain incident is actually POSSIBLE. These aren’t hard, stable facts. These are all just theories.
    It would be like comparing Romeo and Juliet, a fiction play, to an actual double lover’s suicide. Until they actually show some cold, hard evidence to back this theory up, stop trying to ruin a children’s classic for most everyone.

  16. And that film spirited away has themes of prostitution in it~
    I forgot the details and everything, but the names given to the girls working there were names given to prosititutes or something like that~

  17. Erin said

    I don’t see how the theories behind what this movie could ‘actually’ be about should have any effect on how much a person should love this movie or not. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and art is often much more than it’s original creators intent. Whether the movie has ANYTHING AT ALL to do with what you are suggesting does not change the fact that when you initially saw it, it spoke worlds of innocence and happiness to you, and many others. Perception is important, and that is what should make it special for you, not what legends, theories, and rumors other people dig up from un cited sources and throw at you.

    And if any of these rumors ARE true? It is no secret that Ghibli movies often touch on sad subjects, and things that will undoubtedly pull at your heart. Japanese culture is very different from US culture, In fact, most of the world is different as a whole. And while the US doesn’t like to see anything as ‘fit for children’ unless its 100% pure happiness and sparkling with fairies, rainbows, and obliviously happy endings to boot, there are many places in the world who do not think this way.

    A child will not watch Totoro and see a sad story that possible hints at a murder story, unless you tell them to. They will more than likely see a big fat bear/raccoon thing with a smile on it’s face, and two sisters on a magical journey. You’re looking way too deeply into something that doesn’t need it, and ruining things for yourself. Sit back and just enjoy things, instead of picking them apart.

    • Erin said

      To further on my comment more, I would also like to add..

      IF the movie is indeed at all related to the incident mentioned in this post, then I see no reason to see it as a “shocking horrible truth”. If it were true, then two little girls in Japan have the honor of having had a wonderful and talented team of artists make an entire movie as a lasting tribute to their lives, and that is a beautiful thing for them.

      Totoro might or might not be a movie about encounters with death, until someone has an interview with people from SG, then we will never know for sure. But it is most certainly not the only children’s movie to have done so. There are plenty of movies meant for children with death as a subject, or at least very strong part of the story.

      Bambi – his mother dies
      Land Before Time – Littlefoot’s mother dies
      All Dogs Go To Heaven – Charlie dies
      Up – Opening montage, is the saddest thing I have ever seen.
      THE LION KING – Mufasa is trampled to death
      The Neverending Story – Remember the horse and how sad it was when the horse dies?

      Children are not immune to encountering death, and teaching them to understand it is a delicate and difficult task for any parent. Children’s movies quite often touch on these subjects, and it helps them to understand that these things happen, and what it means when they do.

  18. loligon said

    Perhaps Miyazaki-san did base his story on this incident, but did so because he wanted the girls to have a happy ending that they never got in real life. I’m just speculating, but to me that seems like it would explain the similarities to the incident and the future images from the end of the movie.

  19. anon said

    wow this is so wrong

  20. VTDisease said

    Well thanks for trying to ruin my first ever Miyazaki movie that brought me to love more of his works…On a serious note, I highly doubt that Miyazaki intended nor Studio Ghibi tried to ‘cover up’ that this movie was secretly about two little girls dying. Japan can be known as being nuts sometimes, but yikes–showing loveable looking monsters that can hurt you? That’s a little beyond ‘nuts’, and, overall, seems like a movie plan that is just far too stupid for a CEO to agree to.

    Another thing, is that when Studio Ghibi wants to make a movie with death–they make it very clearly. Another one of their works, “Grave of the Fireflies” is nothing but sadness and death of two young siblings in war-stricken Japan. You see that movie? Clearly there is nothing to hide in there–their parents, they die. Everyone that knew them hated them, and they end up forgotten. End of story. No secret meanings, no brainwashing. It’s there, smacking you right in the face. And this is in the same style we’ve all grown to recognize as a Miyazaki/Studio Ghibi movie, though not necessarily intended for children.

    As well, if Totoro is the god of death…Then what the heck are Enma and Izanami doing in ACTUAL Japanese mythology? Certainly can’t imagine them magically growing trees to better the world! There is no listing of a “Totoro” god, at least not written as “Totoro” or looking like a giant fluffy raccoon that spins on a top[otherwise known as a Koma].

    As for the similar tale? What’s similar–Same town, two girls. That’s it. The monster cat? There are NUMEROUS cat monsters, one being the Nekomata/Bakeneko–A vicious and murderous version of a Maneki Neko, and neither looks like a bus. As well, there are no cats creatures in Japanese myths that ferry people to death. Giant raccoon? There’s the Tanuki. What exactly is it that make Totoro more likely than others?

    There are literally hundreds of ‘horror’ stories that can be linked to just about anywhere, and it seems silly that anyone would try to hide it…Take the Slit-Mouthed Woman, for example, a story that was so frightening that it actually came true['cause someone went nuts], and children were ordered to travel home in groups.

    I don’t think I need to mention how horribly terrifying Asia can make their horror films…All Final Destinations or Saw movies combined can not compare to some of the crazy things that are made in Asia…It’s already apparent, so why try and hide it?

    On a final note, not just Studio Ghibi but Japan disregards this as a silly rumor and said silly rumor originated in America, who still thinks it’s actually called “Chinese New Years” and only China celebrates it.

    Gee.

  21. Brink said

    The misconception is that this is a children’s movie and by appearance it is, but it has too many adult themes (much like all miyazaki’s films). I think it is interesting and a insight into Japanese folklore and mythology. The question is not whether you should stop watching the movies, but where do you go from here in terms of understanding the artist? Do you continue you research into the meanings of his films? They all have very deep story lines tied to issues in Japan. This is a neat tidbit and I thank you for it.

  22. Saffron said

    I was completely shocked reading all the similarities between the death of ‘ Sayama’ and the movie Totoro. It has been my favourite movie ever since i was a small child but now i have a completely different aspect of it and to be honest i don’t think i will be able to watch it again without cringing.. but thank you this was very interesting to read

  23. Schmitty said

    “When Satsuki is asked about the sandal she cannot face the truth and lies about it not being Mei’s sandal.”

    Just watched the movie due to this article. 6 or so minutes before this scene, the viewers get a close up look at Mei’s sandals. Mei’s sandals were different in both shape and color. I don’t know about the rest of the article, but this point is bogus.

  24. Aruhondoro said

    That’s just a “creepy pasta”, and a very lame one.

    To begin with, Totoro is not the God of Death, is just a mononoke, just a spirit, nothing else.

    About the shadows, there’s lots of parts where Satsuki, Mei and a lot of other characters do not have shadows.
    Specially in the ending scene, because it’s night.
    And the granny and kid that are WITH Satsuki and Mei in the ending scene? Huh? They don’t have any shadows either, and they are with them!
    They’re not dead…

    I know that this isn’t true, it can’t be, just some mere coincidences that someone wanted to exagerate.

    Greetings (:

  25. Aquadoki said

    I think it honestly does not matter, if we shall butcher every Disney movie to the actual story.. it will be quite gruesome .

    Little Mermaid : She actually became foam and died, the price drowned .

    Snow white : She suffocates in the glassbox and dies, the price is to late.

    So let us put it this way… leave the kid movies alone.

  26. Wayward said

    Wow… that definitely explains how the grandmother holding the sandal and everyone else couldn’t hear them on the cat-bus-monster.

  27. Sahtine said

    Absolutely not buying. If you watch it again and look closely at Mei’s sandals, you will see that the one they found in the water is a completely different design than the one she wears.

  28. Morgan said

    it’s wonderful that the story is about death. those girls are on their last pass through life and are enjoying it with reckless abandon because they are going to experience the true death this time. they are elated at that notion because they are about to experience a period of huge spiritual growth after which they will be reborn pure. your last go is the hardest, but the most beautiful. you’ve already experienced abject ruin and extraordinary wealth and now can just experience.

  29. Andrea said

    i loved the movie and now MORE *u*

  30. Kid said

    Don’t you think it’s odd then that there is a reunion scene with the both the grandmother and the little boy?

  31. Mara said

    If you are to watch non-documentary films, you should learn to distinguish fact from fiction. Within the reality of the film, no one dies – and photographs cum credits in the end suggest that the mother will recover too, and join the family. Do not worry about the real events which may have inspired the film. If the film ignores them, so should you, as an intelligent and imaginative viewer.

  32. Awe…I hope this isn’t true. I just watched this movie for the first time, and I loved it. Now it seems quite sad though :(

  33. soramao said

    i just read the post. mm.. but in the movie, the sandal didnt belong to mei. i double checked it by replaying it and pausing. right before mei ran away, they closed up on her sandals. its different from the one found in the river. and in the end, mei still had her shadow… even hugged the grandmother in the village…

  34. KRj said

    I wonder why on earth one would take the trouble of associating such loving story as Totoro to a horrid event ? I would very much doubt the Ghibli studio would have had their inspiration on that event.

    C’mon guys, give me a break !!!

  35. Sorry said

    I loved My Neighbour Totoro…
    I don’t think that was the reason. In the end the mother only saw a glance. They were happy…

  36. [...] The Sayama Incident refers to the details surrounding a 1963 murder case which took place in Sayama City, Japan, wherein a teenage girl named Yoshie Nakata was kidnapped and later found dead. While a man was eventually convicted of the murder, many sources still contest his guilt in the case. Kazuo Ishikawa, the man arrested, is a member of the Buraku minority, which is often discriminated against because of their status as laborers. Most of the information online about the Sayama Incident is split into two categories: sites contesting Ishikawa’s guilt, and those relating the case to Totoro. [...]

  37. SickWo said

    I don’t understand why is that story so shocking.
    If there’s a real parallel story to the most know one, I think it’s a quite soft vision of death. Who has ever imagined death looking like this good big Totoro? Moreover, every Occidental fairytale has a deeper and/or darker meaning than the one children can understand and this has never been a secret. I find this double layer game very interesting and we can find other ones in many kids stories…

  38. Anonymous said

    I can prove the sandal scene is incorrect!😄 After Mei sees Satsuki crying, she puts her sandals on before she goes missing. They have a yellow base with pink straps which DO NOT CROSS OVER. The sandal Granny found in the duck pond has straps which CROSS OVER, and has a pink flower on it. Therefore, Mei didn’t drown in the duck pond. And the corn; who else could have given the corn?

  39. Windy Region said

    I don’t know why it’s ruined for everyone. This story makes me love it even more. It gives it more depth. Shinigami and grim reapers? Hell yeah, bring it on.

  40. Hikaru said

    When i finished watching the movie i felt like as if i wanted to be there so badly but when i read this i feel like something already happened to me. It gave me nightmares about this.

  41. Luiz said

    The creepy story is very good, but, THE SANDALS ARE NOT THE SAME. The one found at the river has a flower in the middle. Mei’s sandal doesn’t have any detail.
    You can see this at 1:07:13, and then at 1:12:48

  42. Aumbre said

    The coincidences are surprising, but seeing as Miyazaki denied it I’ll assume it’s just that. Coincidences. Miyazaki would have no trouble admitting if it did have relevance to the story as he does not always make happy films[as proven with grave of the fireflies]. I can see where the idea stems from and while I would still very much enjoy the film if it had that hidden layer of macabre, in this case it just doesn’t.

  43. Taima Tomiyama said

    totoro’s name comes from TROLL. and the original name of totoro was TRORO.

    some people say totoro is a troll.
    and a troll caused the sayama incident that took place in hachikokuyama.

    mei was actually brutally murdered on the tunnel that they pass through to meet totoro and her body was torn apart and weird beast like bite marks were seen on mei’s body.

    and after miyazaki releases the movie tonari no totoro, he announced to the media that this movie is for satsuki and mei’s spirit so that they could rest in peace.

    weird huh?.

    or my grammar is weirder? wahahahaha lol :)) pardon me for my grammar. i know and can speak 5 languages and grammar composition of each language is different. and sometimes i come up with weird grammar >.<

  44. AnimeReviews said

    There goes my childhood

  45. [...] odd for various reasons. Here is the theory, courtesy of website cherrypistoru’s (via website fellowof) The rumour says that Totoro is the God of Death, so the persons that can see Totoro are actually [...]

  46. Asdfghjkl said

    This isn’t right because, the shoes mei wore didn’t match the ones in the water so thus she didn’t die , and no one could see them because like her dad said , sometimes the spirits don’t wanna be seen .

  47. Amanda said

    I was thinking about watching the show/ movie (I’m only 11) but after this I think that I’m going to be traumatized. Not only was this sad, fellowof was right. There are to many coincidences with the horridly sad almost sickingly story. Now that I know the truth, every comment I see about how cute and happy ” my neighbor totoro” was, I’ll start bawling.

  48. Sanchez said

    You guys can’t be serious. I mean okay there are coincidenes but wheres miyazaki from? Is he from saitama or where the incident took place. You cant believe everything, yeah ik the clues match up. Buuuuut i can’t believe its like that. Just watch the damn movie and stop over analyzing things. Its like youre LOOKING for things to be true to this. I say mere coincidence, miyazaki is known for cute stories but he is also known to make dark ones. In japan there are things that symbolize shit like you said a shinigami is a symbol of death, doesnt necessairly mean miyazaki used it to symbolize death in this particular film. But eh everyone has their own minds & opinions as do I, but i mean just think though; Everyone knows in Japan & i guess other places there are things that symbolize other stuff. Ex: shinigami=death. What makes yall think a Totoro or Tanuki is a death symbol? Most shinigamis in animes look dead & not cute. In inuyasha Hachi is a tanuki right? But hes NOT a shinigami, hes a demon. I think hes a demon lol i know hes not a God of death. Soo i mean idk i like all your info & stuff but think ab other things too. Take the shinigami in Death note, that was one ugly sob. & Yes i know they werent created by Miyazaki, but dont you think hed be a little bit more creative with a shinigami? Not make it cute but make it do suim else. Ehh idk lol i just thought ab all of it. Maybe its my opinion or maybe its my refusal to believe thats whats up. Ehh i still call false until said from miyazaki his self.

  49. TomBozley said

    This is downright foolish. I guess some people just really like creating complex theories. Use your head.

    There is a short sequel to My Neighbor Totoro called Mei and the Kittenbus. I’ve seen it at the Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. Everyone is happy and not dead.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0803038/

  50. Jona said

    Please don’t make a lovely story appear like a sad one. The rumors are only rumors. I checked the video again and the sandal is definitely not Mei’s. I can provide screen caps from the movie.

  51. Richard Shu said

    Perhaps an explanation is that the original idea for the movie came from the Sayama incident but Miyazaki wanted to have a happy ending so he only hinted at the possibility of Mei drowning in the movie. He may have come to that point in the script writing and decided that a truthful retelling of the actual story wasn’t what he wanted and changed the ending to fit his creative vision.

  52. da said

    Sir Hiyao Miyazaki wrote this story in order to pass on the message that we as human must appreciate the nature around us. With all the constructions and pollutions going on, it almost seems like at some point we’ll have forest no more. Almost all his movies contains themes similar to this. Don’t you realize that at the end of the movie, granny and that boy still saw the girls? According to your explanation does it means that everyone died?

  53. Jackiesan said

    Wow that is very interesting and I have seen the film more than a dozen times as it’s my favorite. I have to say that I am in agreement with you about it’s subtext and can also point out the imagery in the film that is very haunting and I’m speaking of the seed that grows into the enormous tree… looks exactly like a giant mushroom cloud referencing the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Miyazaki is a genius and I wouldn’t put it past him to have wanted to infuse this type of imagery in his films. And as for the “inconvenient truth” I also believe Miyazaki used that as a spring board for his story line leaving it up to the individual to come to their own conclusions as to what became of Mei. Wow… it makes me love the film even more since it goes so much deeper than just a magical cat that only children can see.

  54. [...] for various reasons. Here is the theory, courtesy of website cherrypistoru’s (via website fellowof) The rumor says that Totoro is the God of Death, so the persons that can see Totoro are actually [...]

  55. LOLO said

    It could also be that Miyazaki is trying to redeem the story of the two sisters stripping it of it’s sadness by making it into a whimsical story. Perhaps in honor of the deceased. Miyazaki has a gift of telling stories that bridge generational gaps (which is rare in contemporary story telling). He’s creating a whimsical view of life for children as well as easing the trauma of reality for adults. I didn’t see the rumor as sick and twisted, but something very interesting.

  56. Kiera said

    I’m doing a research paper right now on this movie, along with other Hayao Miyazaki movies, and everything I have found supports this presumption of the connections with the Sayama incident and that this movie was modeled after this sad story. Also the movie is not made chronologically and many of the parts are really just flashbacks, or so I have read.

  57. Rhaegar said

    The victim in the case you mentioned was 16 years old, and found underground in a crawlspace? Nor was she found by her sister. There was also a ransom involved.That doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with this story. It’s a big jump, for a poor effect on a heartwarming story.

    Furthermore, Japanese words have many homophones and the meaning of a name depends on the kanji used to spell the name. Satsuki’s name in Totoro is written closer to “Sand” or “Moon”.And the Tanuki, the creature Totoro most resembles, are not associated with death or the Japanese Shinigami. From wiki: The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absentminded.

  58. anidex said

    Uh, in regards to the girls no longer having shadows, it’s because it’s night time, and no one has shadows. It’s just a rumor.

  59. Angel said

    It’s exactly like princess mononoke and Spirited away… It has spirits in it

  60. Shaun said

    Hi! Just reading this. I actually don’t buy this story. I heard about it and went to check some of the details on the DVD. As far as I can tell, the sandal that Granny finds is definitely not part of the pair that Mei puts on when she leaves the house. Also, I can’t see any indication that the children did not have shadows afterwards. And, as someone points out, the scenes at the end of the film show the girls lives with their friends and parents after the end of the film.

    I did look at the trailer for the Japanese movie that was on the DVD and it does have a strange statement that is translated like “he gives back something that was taken away”, or words to that effect. That suggests to me that If the Sayama incident plays any role in the story, it may have been an inspiration for Miyazaki to use the Totoro story to right a wrong, i.e., fix the tragedy.

  61. auseru said

    Honestly everyone, whether Totoro was a forest spirit or a spirit of the dead…I still think its a wonderful story. The meaning is so hidden that a child would never think to unravel the fact: if Mei actually dies or if her mom does. The movie leaves the thought to a child that the family is brought back together at the end with the help of their friend Totoro. He definitely was a spirit to children that brought happiness and joy even in their sadness.Very cute movie!

  62. Alice said

    I just wanted to add in that the sandal found honestly wasn’t Mei’s. If you go back, and check carefully, there are clear differences between the two. I wish I hadn’t known this theory before I watched the movie for the first time. It felt more like I was watching a horror movie than a Studio Ghibli movie. :/

  63. marisol said

    Mei was not drowned, the story goes that this movie was based off of the sayama case. Mei was kidnaped and raped, her older sister commited suicide later saying that she saw the totoro and cat bus.

  64. Elie said

    The simplest answer is usually the most correct. It’s a wonderful children’s story.

  65. Whether there is a connection between the Sayama incident or not in the making of Tonari no Totoro; I believe anyone who is a Ghibli studio fan knows that Death is an element which Hayao and other directors are not afraid to approach.
    They have made masterworks where aging, old age and physical limitations are aids to the storytelling, rather than impairments.
    When I first watched Mononoke Hime I was at first shocked at how crude the maiming shots were; but I soon realized that the director was not going to censor something that may have happened in many a battle ground in Japan and other countries.
    When we watch Hotaru no Hakka (Grave of the Fireflies) we know from the start about the tragedy about to unfurl ahead, and we still watch it, hate it and love it for its testimony of humanity and grief.

    Coming back to the original point.
    If there is no connection between the Sayama story and Totoro, then we have a wonderfully told story, about two girls and a fantasy world where almost no doubt any of us would love to step into. Not to mention the lack of antagonist, which all too often permeates modern day movies, forgetting that life’s obstacles don’t always take the shape of an enemy, perhaps a disease that brings strain to a family.
    This would be a story of reinforcing love and hope against illnesses’ odds – Tonari no Totoro.

    If there is a connection between the Sayama incident and Tonari no Totoro; then we have an amazing story about what awaits us all, one way or another. Death.
    The movie then becomes a treasure in conveying that death doesn’t have to be faced as something dark and ominous, but rather, and adventurous passage to another stage of existence.
    Even if this is not the case, at the very least, this (approach to the) movie confronts children and grown ups alike with a NON AGGRESSIVE take on death; which is many miles and decades ahead of most other movies I have seen.

    Tonari no Totoro.
    To conclude, whether you want to look at it from one, the other or both points, it seems to me that there will always be as many interpretations of a movie or story as there are people to watch/tell or hear it.
    Whether you make the best or the worst out of such treasures as Ghibli movies is a choice that is left entirely up to you.
    All the best.

  66. athena said

    wow, i cant believe this. i watched totoro in my childhood and comparing this to it, i get it very much. i have read different blogs related to the sayama-totoro case and it all leads up to it being based on the incident. and personally i believe it really is based on the incident… it makes more sence that way

  67. Elliot said

    yeah… that’s not true. I mean, coincidence or not, that’s just not what the movie is about. if you are familiar with miyazaki’s other children’s movies, you would know that this movie is nothing but warm hearted and well intentioned.

  68. josh said

    O.o although this may be in fact true it still is a good movie and also the fact that it makes the movie that more interesting

  69. cece.yang.56@facebook.com said

    I have never seen the movie before. I was about to but decided I wanted to know the reason why people love it so much. After reading this it sounds really horrific and scary.

  70. Calor said

    Not convinced. I mean if you watch the last parts how come the grandmother the boy (who had a crush (?) on Satsuki) be able to be reacquainted with Mei and Satsuki?

  71. I say so what if it is based on these girls deaths. I believe that the anime then takes something horrible and eases the pain of that event. I believe that it may be a form of peace and good wishes for their spirits in heaven. Although it is an odd way of extending to their spirits a form of kindness.

  72. Totoro said

    This argument is ridiculous! There are several problems with your ‘evidence’. First, and most obvious, is the fact that the sandal found in the pond is distinctly different from Mei’s; her sandals have straps that are parallel, not crossed (X-shaped) like the sandal found in the pond. There was a reason why Miyazaki gave us a close-up view of Mei’s sandals.

    Let this movie retain its beauty; there is no need to deface its content by connecting it with the Sayama incident. Totoro is a happy, light-hearted life that has more to do with life than death.

  73. TOTORO said

    This argument is ridiculous! There are several problems with your ‘evidence’. First, and most obvious, is the fact that the sandal found in the pond is distinctly different from Mei’s; her sandals have straps that are parallel, not crossed (X-shaped) like the sandal found in the pond. There was a reason why Miyazaki gave us a close-up view of Mei’s sandals.

    Let this movie retain its beauty; there is no need to deface its content by connecting it with the Sayama incident. Totoro is a happy, light-hearted film that has more to do with life than death.

  74. Joe Rouleu said

    Ghibli denied this rumor and there’s even a sequel called “Mei and the Kittenbus”

  75. cablop said

    I think, it is not related… you can make similarities, but they are not related. Totoro is a beautiful tale, simple and fantastic about the imagination of two girls and some magic. Of course in a place as big as earth and populated as earth is now you can find a zillion tales and draw similarities between them… that happens to us even on trivial things in our daily life! Don’t spread rumors; the film is a nice piece of art, and as everything good, some people attempt to damage it…

  76. Hannah said

    Call me morbid, but this makes the story much more interesting to me. I just watched it for the first time last night (I’m 19) and the ending seemed completely off. I was in tears when Satsuki was running around desperately to find her sister, then the mood turned around so quickly..It just didn’t seem right. It was too fake, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love happy endings, but this time I felt like there was something more going on. I think your explanation makes the story much deeper, which I like.
    Thanks for writing this.

  77. NyanCat13 said

    Please don’t worry yourself! The storyline of My Neighbour Totoro is meant to be a warm hearted story of love, friendship and the beauty of the countryside. The REAL story behind Tonari no totoro is that Miyazaki, went to the Sayama hills with his brother, ( I’m not exactly sure whether he was the youngest or oldest) after his mother was told she had spinal tuberculosis. She was moved to Hachikokuyama hospital ( inspiration for Shichokokuyama from the film) which at that time was famous for treating patients with terminal illnesses. He remembers this all in detail, so decided to make a film about it. Of course, he met no giant furry monster spirits, tanuki or nekobasu but the word ” totoro” actually comes from Mei being only four and mispronouncing the Japanese word for troll , “tororu”.
    When I first heard about this shocking rumour I prayed it wasn’t true, but after reading the Ghibli forum, I do not believe it any more. Now I know you’d probably say, but Ghibli are very good at hidden meanings and symbolism in their stories so why believe what their site says? Well, I know that in Japan the 60s ( tonari no totoro is set in 1958) Sayama Incident is documented as such an awful, tragic case, I don’t think anyone would make a children’s story about it, unless of course it was a documentary.
    So my conclusion is that stop looking for conspiracy theories that may or may not be true. I also agreed that the similarities were between the two stories were a little strange, but I am wearing a pair of totoro earrings as I write this, and own countless totoro and ghibli merchandise!

    PS: Thought you might like to know that Hayao’s mother recovered in hospital! :)

  78. masethewraith said

    Yo, i never seen this movie, cuz it’s 10 years older than me but i heard of it and i like the other studio ghibli animations, this makes me not want to watch it, don’t know if this conspiracy is the truth, but it is very creepy.

  79. Bruna said

    I always thought that Tonari no Totoro was a bit dark and bizarre, but even if it is related to this sad story you say I wouldn’t love it any less. Just like in delToro’s El Labirinto del Fauno, the world we live in has dark and evil everywhere, and sometimes we can only run away in fantasy.

  80. There are coincidences for everything. My Neighbor Totoro was based off of Miyazaki’s childhood. None of his movies are related to a cruel story.

  81. MR AWSOME said

    though i still dont fully understand how the two stories are relatied i can relate them in very vegly and if this is real then it changed my view not alot but not a little

  82. I think that if the link is really there, it would not douse the youthful innocence portrayed in the movie but enhance it. Starting with the fact adults and children all share the same world. Filled with the same amount of grotesque and morbid things (like murder and death). But the thing that separates the two minds is perception; life is purely perception. So the anime “totoro’s” perception of the murder case is different.

    If the anime is based on the murder case and certain things related to the after life and spirit world, it shows it through how the children would see it. It shows how there is no fear of death as a child but maybe comfort. Something that as an adult you would indeed find scary (a spirt of the after life) would maybe link you to your sister.
    Without a developed concept of death, the ability to transport from the two worlds would inevitably be more accessible (You often read about children talking of experiences from other lives http://www.victorzammit.com/evidence/childrenwhorememberpastlives.htm ); And, therefor, the fear associated with death would also not exist.

    If Totoro is influenced by this murder case, it would only enhance my childhood association with it and its pureness. This view of the world, of what is happening, is what people value so much in a innocent child’s mind. The idea that children could be smiling and happy while hugging a strange spirit of death, is what people treasure and fear. How everything you learn is new, so why would a death spirit be scary? something big and fluffy would be much less scary than a first day at school.
    Maybe this is why children are a popular theme for horror movies? The idea that children are exempt from the concept of death is scary. The idea that there are no boundaries is terrifying.

  83. I also think that finding different layers of meaning in forms of art is very interesting. It’s finding metaphors within things. If one thing can portray one thing well, it can be used as a guideline for another idea. This is how things develop, this is how new things are discovered. I think the ability to uncover and find differ meanings in things also strengthens its quality, as this can be done with almost all good literature. History repeats its Self. One cycle mimics and mirrors another.

  84. AdamJ said

    If this story is true then why is their a short film which is a sequel called ‘Mei and the Kittenbus’?

  85. Brittany said

    This is an interesting theory, and believe me, I like macabre stuff, but this is not true. It’s not an “inconvenient truth” it’s an “inconvenient theory” that’s pretty easy to disprove. It’s not exactly a huge coincidence that the story is about two sisters. There are lots of families with two sisters, and yes, sometimes they get lost or die. However, Mei did not die. If you go to the scene with Satsuki crying at the water pump, worrying about her mother about to die, that’s when Mei puts on her shoes and runs off to the hospital. You get a very close look at her shoes. They have two small parallel straps going across the top of the foot. The shoe that was found in the pond has two small straps crossing the foot in an “X” with a flower in the middle. Satsuki wasn’t lying. That was NOT Mei’s sandal.

    As for the theory about them not having shadows – of course not, it was nighttime. Granny and Kanta didn’t have shadows, either.

    Also, the end credits show the mother coming home and the family being together again – possibly with a new addition. Unless Mei and Satsuki’s father killed himself in sorrow, the only way for the family to be together is for them all to be alive and well.

    Look at the lyrics for the end theme. The line “kodomo no toki ni dake, anata ni otozureru” means “he only visits when you are a child.” Not “he only visits when you’re about to die.” And the line “moshimo aeta nara, sutekina shiawase ga anata ni kuru wa” means “if you meet him, wonderful happiness will come to you.” Little girls dying is not “wonderful” happiness.

    Totoro is a forest spirit. He grows trees. It doesn’t make sense for a tree-growing forest spirit to moonlight as a death god. If this was the case, Miyazaki would need to be reclassified as a pretty lame story-teller, rather than one of the best there is.

    So, yeah, it’s a neat theory, but the movie itself disproves it. On the bright side, Tonari no Totoro can takes its rightful place as a childhood favorite and also that you are well within your rights to write an awesome novel about a cute, fluffy spirit that can only be seen by people if they’re about to die and you won’t have to worry about being sued for plagiarism. Do it before I do! :)

  86. madi said

    There is no proof that this is the real story.
    The movie just has a lot of coincidences.
    I know that a lot of the things that happened in the sayama incident, may be acted out in the totoro movie, but there is no proof.
    unless the creator of the totoro movie says it’s based off a murder, it’s not based off of one.
    We need to think about things before we go and try to put one thing on another.

  87. YouGuysAreWrongHAHA said

    Lol this whole theory can be debunked simply by looking at Mei’s sandals and the sandals they found in the river. They’re not the same.

  88. […] times again and again, revisiting some of the scenes she loved. The story itself actually has a much less benign background. It is based, apparently, on the tragic unsolved murder of a Japanese schoolgirl whose corpse her […]

  89. […] They point out that the story bears similarities to a real-life murder which occurred in a similar region of Japan called Sayama in which one of two sisters went missing, only to be found dead days later, before the other sister committed suicide, supposedly out of grief. In My Neighbor Totoro, it is pointed out that one of the sisters, Mei, goes missing in a spot beside a pond very much like that where the murdered girl was found, before her sister has to travel into the spirit world to find her. Spirit world or afterlife? Has Mei’s sister had to die to find her? The movie ends with the girls being tearfully reunited with their parents but others have pointed out the girls, in this scene, have no shadows. […]

  90. Two years on I doubt this will be seen, but the film is actually based on Miyzaki’s childhood experience of his mother having TB and being away in hospital for a long period of time while she recovered. His family also moved to cleaner air. I’m sure he knew the story of the two girls as well and it probably helped shape the story but Mei is reunited with Granny in the final scene of the film, prior to the credits running so I doubt they die. A lot could also be the fantasies of young children hoping to see their mum recover from a terrible illness and the final scenes could be them fantasising about this.

  91. Mom0ki said

    Honestly, the first time I read this, I thought it HAD to be true. After re watching Totoro, it honestly wouldn’t make sense for it to be true, but for people who believe it is, that’s your opinion.

    1. It shows a clear view of Mei’s sandal before she goes on her journey to the hospital. The shows are indeed different, though looking very similar. They did this as a scare, because unless you are re watching it, you would THINK that the sandal is Mei’s sandal.

    2. About the older sister in the Sayama Incident, if you look it up, it never says “I saw a big tanuki and a monster cat” or whatever. That was added probably by people who wanted to make this theory seem more… True? It’s a load of bull. I looked and looked and looked, but they only time I ever found that was attached to things supporting the Totoro theory, so I’m calling bull shit. Same with Hachikokuyama Hospital. I’ve been looking for something about it, like the location and such, but the only thing that it pops up in is the Totoro theory. Coincidence? I think not.

    3. Miyazaki actually said this story was somewhat based on his childhood, but he gender swapped and such to make it less personal. His mother was sick with tuberculosis for 9 years, which is why Mei and Satsuki’s mother had been sick, it was most likely not stated since Miyazaki didn’t want it to feel too personal.

    4. Miyazaki, as one of his co-workers said, comes up with most of his stuff on the spot. He doesn’t know how the story is going to end until he gets there. This also shoots down this theory, but it can also be contradicted.

    5. When I was re watching Totoro, I looked really hard near the end to see if the characters had shadows, and honestly, it looked like the shading got weaker, but it was that way for most all the characters. Maybe at a few points they didn’t have shadows, but after those points they had them again, so I don’t really see how this is even a thing.

    6. I’m almost positive they moved in during the spring, when the school year was coming to an end, which is why Satsuki was studying for exams, despite being newly moved in and such. Yes, time passed, but the season Mei went missing in was summer. Why would they skip a whole year is just insane, they wouldn’t. it’d make the story stupid, especially since they wouldn’t have gone over anything during those times, so the whole epilogue is not something that happened before the whole “Omg guyz Mei is missing what do”. The epilogue is very clear in the season, by showing heavier outfits and such. It can be assumed its fall/winter, since Totoro even had a snowman built of him.

    7. I can’t really deny that Totoro was a shinigami, but I really doubt this to be true. As it is stated, he is the king of the forest. Appearing to Mei as the troll under the bridge from Three Billy Goats Gruff. Totoro must have been so offended, but I doubt he’d be a shinigami, that would just be stupid. If he was, and the dust bunny things also where a symbolism of death, then wouldn’t Granny have been dead long ago? She mentioned how she used to be able to see them when she was young, so it just doesn’t make sense.

    8. The girls are named Mei and Satsuki, both meaning May, because it is a symbol of youth and innocence. The month of May is a very fresh season, being very beautiful and “new”, which is why they’re both names after it. It’s to show the childhood innocence and such. If they really wanted to relate the victim and her sister, wouldn’t they have taken their names and changed them up a bit? Why take the month? I think it’s a coincidence that you all are taking too seriously.

    Anyways, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. You keep passing around false information and you’re just ruining the childhoods of poor little kids everywhere.

  92. Uhhh said

    God this is so fucking stupid.
    It’s just a kids movie.

  93. Ernie said

    Ghibli already debunked this as not being the case

  94. Julie said

    If you compare the sandals, they weren’t the same.

  95. rishabh said

    if you see the movie clearly, you will notice that the sandle which was found in the pond was not actually of mei, because you can see her wear it at 1:07:14 timing of the movie and it is a different sandle which she wore before she ran out for the hospital…r

  96. […] The reading of Totoro as the God of Death expounds on the movie’s climax—a climax that has always struck me as odd for various reasons. Here is the theory, courtesy of websitecherrypistoru’s (via website fellowof)P […]

  97. Lainey Lee said

    I’ve watched the movie over and over again and I do see some coincidences, but the sandal scene. If you watch before the sandal scene you can see that her (Mei’s) sandal was a dark shade of orange, not the light shade of pink the grandmother was holding.

  98. Matt Smith said

    I’ve watched the movie over and over again and I do see some coincidences, but the sandal scene. If you watch before the sandal scene you can see that her (Mei) sandal was a dark shade of orange, not a light shade of pink the grandmother was holding.

  99. Lainey Lee said

    I’ve watched the movie over and over again and I do see some coincidences, but the sandal scene. If you watch before the sandal scene you can see that her (Mei) sandal was a dark shade of orange, not a light shade of pink the grandmother was holding.

  100. Yukina Suvuki said

    Man that’s scary as hell I guess I shouldn’t have seen this huh

  101. Yukina Suvuki said

    And the truth is scary I never knew that totoro can be this scary and I never knew he was the god of death

  102. […] The Sayama Incident refers to the details surrounding a 1963 murder case which took place in Sayama City, Japan, wherein a teenage girl named Yoshie Nakata was kidnapped and later found dead. While a man was eventually convicted of the murder, many sources still contest his guilt in the case. Kazuo Ishikawa, the man arrested, is a member of the Buraku minority, which is often discriminated against because of their status as laborers. Most of the information online about the Sayama Incident is split into two categories: sites contesting Ishikawa’s guilt, and those relating the case to Totoro. […]

  103. Giovanni said

    This theory does not make much sense: first May is clearly seen with both sandals till the end, and then when the girls are sitting on a tree near the hospital the legs of both are projecting a shadow.

  104. brittany said

    I actually heard that totoro is a mispronouciation of totoru and he is the king of the forrest and the two smaller totoru are his helpers and that only small children that wanted to see them could and i mean come on that could have been any hospital in japan all it says is hospital in the middle of the mountain it doesnt say anything directly towards the. Location you mentioned above and the writer said himself that these chracters except the cat bus were mostly made up

  105. Arcene said

    That rumor provides an interesting way to look at the story, but it proves to be unsatisfying and rather inconsistent in the end.
    One of the elements of that story is that soot sprites are little harbingers of death. If they’re around, someone is going to die — that’s dandy, but they make out like soot sprites are part of some old and widely held spiritual belief in japan. They aren’t. Miyazaki invented them for that movie and later brought them back for Spirited Away. Either way, granny very clearly says that she used to see spirits when she was a little girl. So… Unless granny is actually a ghost that everyone can see, that’s a bit of a plot hole.
    The sandal in the pond really isn’t Mei’s. All you have to do is look at her feet. Mei’s sandal straps go straight across, while the one in the pond is a criss cross pattern. You can see this in the last scene with Mei in it before she disappears.
    Also, it sort of makes sense that the story would take place in Sayama. Their dad works in the city, but they wanted to move to the country for their mother’s health. Sayama is about 45 minutes to an hour out from Tokyo, so the commute isn’t the worst, and you’re able to be in the country.
    The hospital may be based off of an actual hospital. The whole story may take place in or near Sayama, but that’s not incredibly blatant. The evidence I usually see regarding that is the fact that Granny has a box of Sayama tea in one scene. That doesn’t mean much though, seeing as how Sayama is a major tea producing region and Sayama tea is shipped all around the country.
    It’s a neat story, in a way, but there’s very little basis for it. The sandal scene is supposed to be the evidence for Mei’s death, but it really isn’t her sandal. The rest of the story kind of flops without that.

    • Arcene said

      Oh, and they don’t have shadows because of the time of day.
      Also, the name thing was supposed to be rather cutesy. When Miyazaki was first coming up with the film, he imagined only one girl (I believe her name was Satsuki). So, when he later decided to write a sister in, he named her Mei as a sort of play on words, since the two girls were originally one girl. So, yes, the girls are both named May, in a way. Seriously though, horrifying things happen every month in every town.
      The other thing, is that the Sayama Incident involved a larger cast, shall we say. There were the two sisters, but also a brother. All of them were considerably older. There may have been a love triangle between the two girls and one of the suspects. The sister killed herself after testifying in court, presumably from guilt, as many people feel she gave a false testimony. The only similarity is that two sisters existed and the possibility that the one mumbled something about Tanuki. There are so many other details that don’t make it in at all. Also, the Sayama Incident is so famous, because it was seen as an example of classism and bigotry. None of that made it into the film. If you’ve watched any more adult Miyazaki films, you’ll see that he doesn’t shy away from societal issues — especially war. If he wanted to metaphorically discuss the Sayama Incident, I imagine he would have more of a point in the story. Where does the story go in this rumor? The girls die and totoro is a death god. That’s it? Not much of a plot. As is, the movie is about a child’s fearful perspective (the fear of not understanding what’s wrong with their mother, a fear of her death). It’s about learning to come to terms with that, to care for your family, and to face what you perceive to be monsters. Many Miyazaki films come off as fables. The original story fits his writing pattern, whereas the rumor comes off as a weak, pointless ghost story

  106. Cam C. said

    After reading the story, I now agree that Totoro is the god/angel/spirit of death. However, I do believe there is a small chance that he is the spirit of death and life? My only evidence is the scene where Totoro causes for the oak tree to grow. Also, where Totoro choses to live. The life and the vibrance of the place is not parallel with where I thought the god of death might reside. Perhaps this is only an observation…

  107. Lexi said

    what about the ending when the grandma and the boy saw the girls?This is really interesting…

  108. Harry said

    I think the ending can be interpreted whichever way one wishes. For most, me included, i like the idea of a happy ending, and i can’t see why Studio Ghibli would put such dark tones into a young kids movie. However, the sad ending is just as plausible as the happy ending, and the backstory behind it can add to this side of the argument. I think it comes down to a matter of personal opinion and preferences; do you prefer the happy ending, or the sad? Perhaps Miyazaki made the film so that either interpretations could work.

  109. The only sad and inconvenient thruth is the fact that you are spreading rumors as If they were truth, and in the process trying to maculate a masterpiece.

    The truth is that the movie is extraordinary, in many levels. And this kind of situation is pure conspiracy theory, like many others that arrows famous or good things/persons.

    Something like: Hey! There’s a rumor about visiting this website! If you access and read all the text, a ghost will appear ande rase all the files in your computer!

    Nah…

  110. cobaltblue said

    This sounds similar like conspiracy theory – the ‘who-knows-cause-it-could-be-true’ type. I would just believe the official statement from Miyazaki.

    Adults tend to attempt digging deeper meaning cause their way of thinking is more complex, thus this alternative interpretation develops. I agree that hearing the mom got sick without clearly being explained and the scene when they found a kid sandal made me think that they would die later. But that is it.

    Depends on the genre Miyazaki intended this to be. If it’s fantasy, then it’s just an innocent story. If it’s not, then explaining how Satsuki found Mei and then got back would not make sense, esp if we use reasoning that it’s just imagination of Satsuki and Mei.

  111. tina said

    Grasping.
    So much grasping.

  112. batu said

    interesting..
    i decide to watching this film again (the last scene :) )
    but.. i see that Satsuki and Mei have shadows..
    and they meet and hug with the older women..:)

  113. This truth isn’t inconvenient. It’s fascinating. This and the one about Spirited Away. This makes me praise Miyazaki’s genius even more.

  114. Another World said

    I don’t think this is true since I read an article that said that an interview with Miyazaki was asked about this theory and he claimed it to be NOT true.

  115. niannisa said

    Reblogged this on morningpetrichor and commented:
    Woaaaaa…. one ruined image of Miyazaki T.T. He’s always so misterious T.T

  116. raykinen said

    as far as i (and my 2 kids who love this movie sooooo much) can see from this movie are these “awesome creatures” totoro is somekind of forest guardian or jungle spirit that grows trees and protects them. About the “bus cat”, that thing is a truly a transportation between 2 worlds, the livings and the deads. The point of most miyasakis movies is only one thing: “respect the nature”. respect the spirits, respect the elders, respect animals, respect the forests, respect the “other” world, respect the ugly truth, respect the values, and last but not least, respect life!!

    i always tell my kids the values of the scene, of the story lines, and whole movies as a value. why is she doing that, why this happens, and my kids are really curious & wonder so they ask a lot lots of questions! damn, that movie is really open the door of unlimited imaginations. *my first daughter loves to draw and all miyasaki’s really triggered her talent.

    so what if things u wrote above was true? are u gonna stop watching and hate this movie? are u gonna tell ur kids to forget that they ever watch totoro or spirited away or pocoyo or kiky and other miyasakis just because u dont like the ugly truth behind them? is this movie somekind of cursed? just open ur mind to another “unconvinient” things happened in this world. miyasaki is just one bloddy genius man whose talent is way upon our reach. Ever wonder why disney took the distribution lines? yup, it sells! :-)

  117. Winnie Tao said

    I rewatched the movie and the two sandals were different. May’s sandal had two pink horizontal stripes, whilst the sandal that the Granny showed the older sister had two pink stripes in a cross shape with a flower in the middle… ? Please tell me if I’m wrong hahaha.. ><

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