Totoro is Not the God of Death
Now this is just weird. In Japan, there's a running theory about My Neighbor Totoro that has been making the rounds. The theory? Totoro is actually the god of death, and Mei is actually dead by the end of the picture. This conspiracy has been growing in popularity, to the point where Studio Ghibli had to publicly debunk it on their official blog.
Of course, here in America, we have popular movie conspiracies all the time, mostly involving Pink Floyd records. I always have a good time playing along, even though it's all complete nonsense. Still, I have to be honest. This Totoro theory is really creepy. It kinda freaks me out. Perhaps that's just because it serves as such a vivid reminder of my own horrifying premonitions of death last year, months before the sudden and shocking loss of my aunt. Just hits a little too close to the bone for my comfort, a year-long ordeal that I struggle to come to grips with.
One of the great things about Totoro is that you have this large, ferocious-looking creature that is completely benign and happy. He's peaceful. He's the monster you invite from under your bed and have tea parties. The idea that such a character could be turned into a spectre of death strikes me as a moral violation, like the rash of torture movies that have invaded our theatres the past few years. What sort of mind imagines these things?
Hmm. The more I think about this, the more I find myself wondering aloud whether Miyazaki was consciously attempting to disarm our primal, childhood fears of dark forests and large monsters. I think the conspiracy crowd in Japan has got it completely backwards on this. As if today's world needs more conspiracies. We live in an age of religious fanaticism, "enlightened" atheism, and nihilism; burning down forests, waging permanent war, crucifying their gods, and turning Totoros into monsters. Something is dangerously wrong with the souls of men.