Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
My Neighbor Totoro
- Satsuki Kusakabe - An 11 year old girl.
- Mei Kusakabe - Satsuki's 4 year old sister.
- Professor Kusakabe - The girls' father.
- Totoro - There are 3 in the film:
- King Totoro (Ō Totoro) - The grey, friendly forest spirit who is the largest of the three (at least 3m tall); when someone says "totoro", they are usually referring to him. Mei has a habit of mis-pronouncing things. She tried to say "tororu", the Japanese word for troll. Ō in that case means "large" but the English dub calls that Totoro "King Totoro".
- Medium Totoro (Chū Totoro) - The blue, medium-size (about 60cm tall) one who looks very similar to King Totoro.
- Small Totoro (Chibi Totoro) - The white, smallest (about 20cm tall) one who can become invisible.
- Kanta - A preteen boy of their village, ambivalent towards Satsuki.
- 'Granny' - Kanta's grandmother, who sometimes takes care of the girls.
The movie is a slow-moving yet fascinating portrayal of Japanese rural life. A university professor and his two daughters move into an old house near a forest, while his wife recovers from tuberculosis in a nearby hospital. His daughters discover "soot sprites" (or makkurokurosuke), which they believe are dust bunnies.
While Mei is chasing the soot-sprites, they lead her to find some forest spirits that Mei names Totoro. Not everyone can see the spirits of the forest, only the pure of heart. Four-year-old Mei is enchanted with them and determined to find the king of the forest. When she later gets lost while trying to bring an ear of healthy corn to her mother at the hospital, her older sister Satsuki runs everywhere searching for her, finally seeking Totoro's help. He is delighted to be of assistance, and with his help Mei is quickly found.
The movie features the Catbus, a grinning feline bus summoned by Totoro which whisks Mei and Satsuki over the countryside to see their mother in hospital. When the cat bus finally leaves them its body fades into the evening shadows, leaving only its broad grin. This has led many people to compare it with Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat.
- The name Totoro is Mei's mispronunciation of troll, which she saw in a story book and decided was the same kind of creature.
- The large Totoro has become a mascot for Studio Ghibli, gracing the studio's logo at the start of their films.
- My Neighbor Totoro was released as a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies, because it was considered that it (Totoro) would not be successful.
- The Cat Bus originates from the Japanese belief that if a cat grows old enough it gains magical shape-changing powers and is called a "bake neko". The Cat Bus is a bake neko that saw a bus and decided to become one.
- Satsuki and Mei's mother's implied suffering from spinal tuberculosis is somewhat autobiographical, as Hayao Miyazaki's mother suffered from the same illness.
- Ken Jennings, the winningest contestant in the history of the TV game show "Jeopardy!," carries a small plush "Totoro" figure in his pocket for good luck.
- Satsuki and Mei were both born in the month of May. Satsuki is the old Japanese name for the month of May, and Mei's name comes from the English name.
- My Neighbour Totoro page at Nausicaa.net
- My Neighbor Totoro in Roger Ebert's Great Movies Collection
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