After reading the post by @Shinexalive about Spirited Away [http://imgur.com/gallery/k7Zttkz] I thought I’d share a theory I’ve read about regarding My Neighbour Totoro. [SPOILER ALERT] The theory says that Totoro is the God of Death, so the people that can see Totoro are actually close to death, or already dead. What that means for the story is that when Mei goes missing and a sandal is found in the pond, Mei actually drowned.
When Satsuki is asked about the sandal she cannot face the truth and lies about it not being Mei’s sandal. So Satsuki goes on a desperate search for Totoro, calling for him and actually opens up the door to the realm of the dead herself. With Totoro’s help she finds her dead sister and they together go to their mother’s hospital. There, the only one who actually noticed that the sisters were present, was the mother, who may possibly be close to death. This theory doesn’t stop there. There’s a famous murder case called The Sayama Incident (My Neighbor Totoro takes place in Sayama Hills) in which two sisters turned up dead. The story goes that one of the girls said she saw a cat apparition before committing suicide. The Sayama Incident also happened in May, and both of the sisters in Totoro are actually named “May”: “Satsuki” means “May” in Japanese, and “Mei” is the Japanese pronunciation for “May”.
It begins with the susuwatari, those little black balls that they find in the kitchen. There are stories that say it you see the susuwatari or Totoro, death is close.
The Nekobus (the cat bus) is the cariage that takes one to the next world (heaven, hell, whatever). This is given a little reinforcement by the above picture, showing the destination as 墓道, the first character means grave, the second meaning road.
So in the story, the idea is that Mei is murdered after she goes missing. Satsuki, feeling greif decides to join her. She enters into the realm of the Shinigami (death god) – Totoro. Notice the presence again of the Susuwatari. And the monochromatic lighting. She asks Totoro to take her to her sister and BAM. Suddenly she can see Totoro. She hops into the Nekobus; the vehicle to the next world, and they go to see their mother together, but they don’t actually meet her.
At the hospital, the mother says “I think I feel May and Satsuki smiling there in that tree…” Why don’t the sisters go and see their mom if they are already there? Why do they just leave the corn there instead? It is said that the sisters were dead at that point, and the Japanese pronunciation of “corn” is similar to “kill child”.
There is a strong belief that after Mei goes missing, she has no shadow, apparently adding to the notion that she is dead. Another yet stranger rumour is that the movie is segmented; some parts are the present, some are the past or future, some are the work of the father’s imagination. This seems a little off until you remember the scene with the huge tree. The children sit atop this huge tree (which umbrellas the small house) playing flutes with the Totoros. At the end of the film the father looks out to see this, smiles happily and continues his writing. The suggestion is that he is writing about his deceased daughters doing exactly what they are shown doing. There’s heaps more information available online that dive further into this theory but I thought I would cover the basics for those who might be interested!