My Neighbor Totoro is the classic 1988 Japanese animation film written and directed by legendary director Hayao Miyazaki. The film told the tale of sister Satsuki and Mei, and the wood spirits they met living in the woods near their new home. The film is beautifully made and has won many accolades, as well as hearts, since it was released 27 years ago. But despite all of this, one theory believes that perhaps lovable Totoro was harboring a deeper secret all this time.
Totoro is the God of Death
In one particularly dark reexamining of the film, some theorists have come to the conclusion that Totoro is actually the God of Death, and that the only people who can see Totoro are either close to death or already dead. In this case, that means that both young girls, Satsuki and Mei, end up dead by the end of the film, unbeknownst to the audience.
How are the supposed to have died?
In the film Satsuki's young sister, Mei decides to walk all the way to the hospital on her own to visit her sick mother, however her disappearance sparks a huge search. During the search her sandal is found in a pond. The theory imagines that this is how Mei dies - by drowning.
When asked whether or not the sandal was Mei's, Satsuki cannot face the truth and lies, she then goes on her own wild search to find Totoro, calling for him and inadvertently opening the door to the realm of the dead. With Totoro's help Satsuki is reunited with her dead sister on the Catbus and the two girls, now both dead, are whisked away to see their mother in hospital.
When the Catbus reaches the hospital they do not enter the hospital but perch in a tree outside watching and the only person who actually notices that they were there was their mother, who has been seriously ill and who is also soon going to die.
I have to say, this theory seems horribly dark to me, but in fact it actually seems to share some similarities with a infamous Japanese murder case from the 1960s called the Sayama incident.
What is the Sayama incident?
The Sayama incident is a murder case named after the Japanese city of Sayama, where it happened. On May 1st, 1963 a 16-year-old girl, Yoshie Nakata, went missing on her walk home from school. Later that evening a random note was delivered asking for ¥200,000, which the missing girls older sister brought to the designated place. When the man came to collect the cash he became suspicious and ran off before the police could catch him, and on the morning of May 4th the body of the missing girl was found buried on a farm. Following the murder, the Yoshie Nakata's older sister later committed suicide.
Why could the two be related?
The case has many similarities with My Neighbor Totoro. First of all the two girls in the film are both named 'May', Satsuki is the Japanese word for May, while Mei is the English pronunciation. The Sayama incident took place between May 1st and May 4th.
The incident took place in a city called Sayama, and the house in My Neighbor Totoro is located in Sayama Hills. In the real-life Sayama, the hospital is believed to be the inspiration for the hospital the girls' mother is in in the film.
Additionally, the death of the two girls in the Sayama incident is similar to the Totoro theory, at least Satsuki's death. Following the death of Yoshie Nakata her older sister, racked with guilt, committed suicide. Satsuki was similarly racked with guilt over the disappearance of Mei, following an argument the two had had.
Finally many people the Catbus is the ultimate proof, with one of the stops reading "grave road":
While Studio Ghibli have denied this fan theory saying:
No need to be alarmed. There is absolutely no truth or configuration that Totoros are the Gods of Death or that Mei is dead in My Neighbor Totoro.
However, you have to admit, this theory is almost crazy enough to work, what do you think?