Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Shintoism, Death Spirits, & Totoro

my-neighbor-totoro-respect-camphor-tree1Lady Geek Girl: My Neighbor Totoro is nothing more than a fun family movie produced by Studio Ghibli, right? Well, not according to some people. One popular fan theory says that My Neighbor Totoro is not the happy movie that we thought it was. Rather, it’s a story about death, and Totoro is actually a god of death or death spirit. As such, the theory goes that the two girls, Mei and Satsuki, can only see Totoro because they are about to die, and at the end of the film Mei runs off and accidentally drowns. When their neighbors find a sandal in the pond, Satsuki claims it’s not Mei’s, but the theory continues that Satsuki was so distraught and in denial about her sister’s death that she lied about the sandal. Satsuki runs to Totoro and he opens up the realm of the dead by calling Catbus, who transports spirits, so she can find Mei. Then, Catbus takes the two girls to visit their mother at the hospital. Their mother sees them because she too is close to death. At the end of the movie Mei and Satsuki also don’t have any shadows, further indicating that they are dead. Studio Ghibli has denied this theory, but nevertheless, it persists among fans. But are there any connections between the Shinto themes of the movie and this theory?

Trigger warning for mention of suicide after the jump.

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Magical Mondays: Magic as a Coping Method

My-Neighbor-TotoroAs much as I love magic and mythology, I also love delving into a character’s psyche. We have stories like Harry Potter, Final Fantasy, the entirety of the Marvel and DC Universes, among many others, where magic is an actual force of nature that the characters react with and use. But we also have plenty of stories where magic results from a child’s imagination. These are stories like Bridge to Terabithia or My Neighbor Totoro.

Within those universes, we are able to explore how children respond to tragedy or conflict through the imaginary world they create.

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Art Appreciation: Khallion

I love me some good fan art. It is, in fact, the bomb-diggity. I have recently started using my Tumblr (post on that forthcoming) and the art below popped up on my news feed (Is it a news feed? My home page? Or is that the one that’s a dashboard?) Anyway, pretty things popped up and I thought that I would share.

Karen Hallion, or Khallion, is a professional artist/illustrator from Massachusetts. I personally love her art. The style is very Disney inspired with some clear influences from classical storybook art and tarot cards. And some steampunk things; you should all know I like steampunk things. Oh, and she draws nerdy and geeky things, which is why I’m featuring it at all.

What drew me in the most was her series of Disney princesses encountering the TARDIS. It was such a clever idea and I couldn’t help but like it. I like the idea of the Doctor replacing your typical prince charming (or actual as the case may be). Some of them just had the Disney princess staring at the TARDIS, but my favorite (the Sleeping Beauty one below) cleverly incorporated the TARDIS into the actual story, which is why it’s my favorite.

A lot of her art is crossovers of various kinds. The ones with clear Tarot-card inspirations weren’t my favorite, probably because I’m not a Tarot-card person. However, there seems to be two sides to her work, almost like two separate artists: the one who draws Tarot-card, steampunk-ish things and the one who does Disney crossovers of various kinds. If you didn’t guess, I prefer the Disney ones. And as much as I like steampunk in general, I think that if used in excess or used it on top of five other elements (I’ve seen this plenty of times in cosplay), it tends to overwhelm.

Even looking below, you can see a stark difference in style between the Sailor Moon picture and the Red Riding Hood picture. In many ways I suppose it’s commendable that Khallion can change her style that dramatically, but in other respects it’s rather jarring when looking at her entire body of work. I guess it’s a toss-up: either you like that she can work in two completely different veins or you don’t. And because I’m not very attracted to the work in her second, Tarot-card-steam-punk vein, I guess I fall in the latter category.

Anywho, here are my three fave pieces below!



Khallion has had some of her designs featured on TeeFury, and she has her own Etsy and deviantArt pages. So you have no excuse not to check her out!

Ghibli Month: My Neighbor Totoro

Tsunderin: Soooo yeah, as you can probably tell this definitely is not Grave of the Fireflies. It fact, it may even be its polar opposite. If you were looking forward to reading our review of the World War 2 tragedy, I apologize. Luckily for you, Ace has already written a piece on the film, so all is not lost!

As much as the film is beautiful and for all the impact and wonderful storytelling Isao Takahata gives us, there’s just a certain amount of emotion one has to be willing to expend when preparing to watch this movie. I think many people will agree with me in saying that Grave of the Fireflies is an important movie, a movie that everyone should see, but it’s difficult to watch it more than once. As someone who’s seen it twice, I think I’ve reached my quota of watching children starve to death.

my neighbor totoroSo let’s move on to something a little more lighthearted and more expressive about the joys of childhood, instead. Yes, it’s My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), and if you know anything about me, know this: I fucking love Totoro. So does Ace. In fact, while Ace and I were both studying abroad in Japan we managed to find our way into a Ghibli store and met with the largest stuffed Totoro I’ve ever seen (she would have bought it, too, if not for the fact it wouldn’t have fit on the plane home). In short, this is the movie I was warning you for regarding concerns of our nostalgia getting the better of us.

Of course, even if you haven’t seen the film before, it would be difficult to not feel some sense of nostalgia for it as every aspect of the film works its hardest to portray a sense of comfort, a sense of safety that makes people long for the ‘good old days’.

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