After watching My Neighbor Totoro, you cannot seem to get enough of the adorable characters. Writer and director Hayao Miyazaki perfectly portrayed the joys and terrors of childhood. Although it is simple and childlike, no one cannot deny how moving and heart-warming it is.
The movie was released in 1988 and in the same year, it received many awards like the Special Award at the Blue Ribbon Awards, Animage Anime Grand Prix prize, Kinema Junpo Award, and Mainichi Film Award. The movie was critically acclaimed that it amassed worldwide fame after its release. Totoro, the character, become a cultural icon after ranking in many best films. With this, Totoro became the logo for the studio.
The movie follows the story of two sisters – Satsuki and Mei and their adventures in their new home and interactions with friendly wood spirits. It is set in postwar rural Japan. Here are frequently asked questions about the film:
What’s a Totoro?
Totoro is a spirit of the forest. The name is not even a traditional Japanese character – it is completely from Hayao Miyazaki’s imagination. When you look at Totoro closely, you will see a mixture of different animals.
It is possibly a Tanuki (a Japanese raccoon dog), cat (facial expressions and pointed ears) and owl (chevron marking on the chest and the sound) combined. Totoro is actually the result of Mei’s mispronouncing “tororu” which is the Japanese word for “troll”.
What about the little ones?
The little ones are also called Totoro. In general, Totoros are spirits of the forest. If you specifically refer to a little Totoro (white in color) it is called Chibi-Totoro. If you refer to a medium Totoro (blue in color), it is called Chuu-Totoro and the big Totoro (gray in color) is called Oh-Totoro. However, when people say “Totoro” they usually refer to the big or Oh-Totoro.
What’s a catbus?
As the name suggests, catbus refers to a bus that looks like a cat. In Japan, cats are believed to have powers when they get old – they can change shape. These cats are called Bake Neko. Catbus is a Bake Neko who saw a bus and became fascinated by it. He then changed itself into a bus.
If you notice, there is a destination placed in catbus. In the scene where Mei and Satsuki saw catbus for the first time, they saw “TsukamorI” sign. This place is the name of the forest where Oh-Totoro lives.
What’s the illness of the mother?
It was clear that the mother was suffering from tuberculosis. They moved because the Shichikokuyama Hospital (where the mother was staying) has the best treatment for tuberculosis. A rich city man built the house that the sisters and the father moved into. This is the reason why the house is quite different from the others – it is more Westernised.
What’s the rope on Totoro’s tree?
The rope is commonly called Shimenawa, which is made of paper ribbons and rice straw. In Shintoism, this signifies that the tree is sacred. In one scene, you can see the father and the girls bowing to the tree. This is their way of thanking the spirit of the forest for protecting Mei.