There are a lot of people out there with a lot of ideas in their heads. Some of those people though, hold onto that notion, concept, or belief that something that we are being shown has a deeper meaning. Those ideas then spread and we arrive at things like urban legends, rumors, and gossip. Studio Ghibli is no stranger to conspiracy theories and other darker stories, so today, we wanted to have a little fun and talk about some popular theories online that people have cooked up over the years when it comes to Studio Ghibli and the movies that they turn out. Get your popcorn, tin hats, and coat hangers because some you may know, and some, may just sound so real that you start to believe it.
TW: Suicide, Self-Harm, child prostitution. Proceed at your own discretion.
1. Totoro is Cute, Cuddly, Fun, and Wants Your Soul.
This theory is probably the most prevalent one online. The theory is that while Totoro is cute and cuddly like a big bear spirit thing, the argument says that he is actually a Shinigami. The reason for that being sparks from Mei’s disappearance. When she goes missing, Satsuki finds her shoe and everyone fears for the worst that Mei is dead. Satsuki runs away distraught and uses the Catbus to go to Totoro’s Lair.
In the movie, it is shown that Mei is fine and has been there the whole time. However, the fan theory is that Totoro’s Lair is actually where Satsuki kills herself to be with Mei after discovering the hard truth about Mei. The reason being is that when Satsuki gets into the Catbus, remember how it shifts the sign on the top for its destination? Just before it shifts and takes Satsuki to Mei, it says “Grave Road”. Then later in the movie, if you watch closely, there are times where characters will no longer have shadows. So, the theory is that Totoro took Mei as a god of death and Satsuki was crushed and decided to join her. Creepy right? Well unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Studio Ghibli did come out and deny the theory saying that there were mistakes in the animation and that is why shadows were not shown prominently in certain places and that there was no back story that Satsuki killed herself.
2. Come for Dinner, See the Show, Spend the Night with a Lady?!
This next theory is another one that is popular and has made it’s rounds around the internet and that is that the “Bathhouse” run by Yubaba in Spirited Away is actually a metaphor for a brothel. More specifically, I feel that this is closer to a soap land than to a brothel, but I will explain it in more depth below. Let’s start with the madam of the house. “Yubaba” is actually old slang for what the madam was called of a brothel in older Edo times when sex workers were legally permissible. Whether the women where there of their own volition, or sold there by someone, is another story. Anyway, Yuababa keeps all of the wealth for herself and forces all of the workers aka the women to live together in cramped quarters akin to how brothels are portrayed. There are, of course, rooms for special guests which is what happens when No Face comes in. The real part that is problematic is with No Face and Chihiro aka Sen as she is renamed. Sen does her work, but No Face is offering her gold in order to have her. She refuses over and over because she is a child, but No Face represents this sort of dark customer who searches for younger, and probably illegal, girls. This rumor, by the way, has yet to be denied by Studio Ghibli.
Earlier I said soapland, because the bathhouse in Spirited Away does more than just service clients. Once the client comes in, they are herded into either special rooms or private baths. There, they can enjoy the baths or eat. Soaplands in Japan really shot up to prominence in 1958 when prostitution was outlawed. In these places, which do exist in modern day Japan, a customer comes in, selects the girl he wants, and then enters into a bathroom with the woman. There, she bathes him and washes his body, gives him a massage, sexual acts are performed, and the worker will also cover herself in a special extra-slippery oil and then rub herself all over the client’s body. This full-service option sounds more along the lines of what probably transpires at the bathhouse in Spirited Away, but of course, it is hard to prove and Ghibli has neither confirmed nor denied this theory. Either way, this one is pretty dark, but interesting none the less.
3. Country Road~ Take Me Home~ To the Place~ Where I Jump Off This Mortal Coil~
This one is not actually a theory but more of an actual event that happened due to a Ghibli movie. Pretty much every single romance anime ever tells the story of two people falling in love during high school or middle school. Because, ya know, in Japan, that is where a lot of people make their relationships and bonds and just never change from there. Anyway, remember The Wind Rises? The movie about the airplane pilot in Japan during WWII? The movie came out back in 2013. No, we are not going to be talking about the glorification of WWII shown in that movie nor the controversy that it faced domestically, we are going to be talking about another movie. Well, in celebration of that movie coming out in theaters, another famous Ghibli movie was shown on TV, A Whisper of The Heart (Mimi wo Sumaseba). A Whisper of the Heart shows a cute romance that blossoms between the two main characters.
According to the data found here, people were incredibly depressed after watching the movie. Why? Because it shows something that cannot be anymore. Who is going to be sitting at home ready to watch movies on the TV? People well into their adulthoods aka their 30s. After viewing the rosy story that most probably saw when they were younger, they enjoyed the story again, but as soon as it was over, feel into a deep depression over their youths lost. The harsh reality of adulthood crushed the viewers as their lives had not turned out how they had expected it. In fact, there was even an image board set up where people posted messages about how they were going to commit suicide after seeing it since they could not get back their pasts and had wasted them.
Studio Ghibli produces fantastic movies. There is not a person alive who can doubt that. However, sometimes it is just fun to think “what if?” and listen to what others have to say. We hope you enjoyed this article. It took some scrubbing and a lot of research but it was fun. There are others too that we could introduce, so if you liked this article, be sure to comment down below and let us know!