When I tell someone that my main area of film research is Studio Ghibli films, there is a fifty percent chance that the next question I get will be:
“So did you hear about the theory that Totoro is actually a vicious death god?”
I don’t blame anyone who thinks that — the long-standing attempt at simplifying the work of someone as masterful as writer-director Hayao Miyazaki is effective because on the surface, there’s not a lot going on in My Neighbour Totoro.
Two children, one soft and fluffy forest creature, fantasy fun in the countryside.
For a lot of people, My Neighbour Totoro is pretty, cute, and nothing more.
To me, My Neighbour Totoro is one of the most life-affirming pieces of cinema ever created.
Of course this won’t be a surprise to you if you saw the video I posted last week about how Totoro was originally created to follow Grave of the Fireflies in cinemas. It was designed so that a film about the horrors of war would be followed by a film taking you out of that dark place and into a world of healing.
But there’s even more than that happening, and for that you have to know a bit about Japanese mythology.
Which is what today’s video is all about (click to watch):
While I fully intend to do a debunking of the “Totoro Death God” idiocy later on, I think it’s more important to start with why this film is actually interesting from a cultural standpoint.
So in this talk, I covered three topics:
- Miyazaki’s personal mythology,
- how Totoro mirrors Fireflies,
- and trauma healing.
And I promise you, even if you’ve seen this film a million times (like I have), you will not be able to guess what some of the film is really about.
Like last week, I’m really interested in what you think of this.
So watch the video and then leave a comment and let me know! 🙂