When Studio Ghibli was founded, we can only wonder if the creators had any idea that the films would have such an impact on the world. Studio Ghibli’s first film was “Nausicaa Valley of the Wind,” which was actually released the year before the studio was actually founded. With Hayao Miyazaki at the reigns, the studio has gone on to make some of the most successful anime films to come out of Japan, ever. While some are lighthearted and cute, others, like “Graveyard of the Fireflies,” are based on devastating historical events and left us sitting in the dark drowning in our tears. Fans have raked through every minute of these whimsical movies and discovered a lot of creepy details that are too coincidental to just brush off.
1. God of death
This is probably one that you’ve heard before. If you’re a Ghibli fan, you’re definitely familiar with “My Neighbor Totoro,” about a family of two daughters and their father who move out to the countryside to be in an area with cleaner air, closer to where their mother is hospitalized.
As the girls are exploring their new home, they stumble upon the lair where Totoro, a forest sprite is sleeping. Throughout the movie, Totoro, the other forest sprites, and a bus in the form of a cat (yes, there’s actually a cat bus) take the girls on adventures and help them to cope with their mother’s illness.
White Totoro might look like a huge, cuddly teddy bear, fans soon began to claim that it might really be a shinigami, or a god of death due to similarities between the sisters and an old Japanese murder case, called The Sayama Incident.
In May of 1963, a 16-year-old girl was kidnapped while walking home from school. Her younger sister committed suicide shortly after her body was found. In “My Neighbor Totoro,” the older sister’s name is Satsuki, which means ‘May’ in Japanese, and the younger sister’s name is Mei (pronounced ‘May’), a nod to when the murder happened. About halfway through the film, Mei goes missing for a short while and her shoe is found in a pond. Although Mei is found later and the movie ends happily, fans really think that when Satsuki finds Mei’s shoe, she is so overwhelmed with guilt that she goes into Totoro’s lair and kills herself. Once she has passed, she finds Mei and they both go to visit their mother in the hospital, who is able to see their ghostly forms because she’s dying.
This theory picked up speed so quickly that Studio Ghibli issued a statement saying that none of it was true. Even still, creepy, right?
2. Yubaba’s bathhouse was actually a brothel
Yes, you read that right. In “Spirited Away,” a young girl named Chihiro moves with her mother and father to a new home. On their way to the house, they take a wrong turn and end up in front of a mysterious tunnel. After a bit of bickering between her parents, they all venture down the tunnel and discover an abandoned amusement park. Long story short, her parents are turned into pigs and Chihiro ventures further into the magical world on a quest to save them.
After eating food from this world, Chihiro is able to mask that she’s a human being and finesses her way into a job at the bathhouse. This is where the comparisons come into play: the sign on the front of the bathhouse reads “yu,” which means hot water. Innocent enough, right?
Maybe not – apparently, in the past, women in prostitution conducted their …activities in bathhouses. The older women who were in charge of running the bathhouses were called “Yubaba,” which is also the name of the character who runs the bathhouse in the movie, and Yubaba’s employees were called “yuna,” or water women. Shortly after accepting the job in the bathhouse, Chihiro is told that she needs to change her name to Sen, and a big, black blobby character named No-Face keeps attempting to “buy” Sen with gold….you can see where this is going.
3. The Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service crossover
An eagle-eyed redditor is the source of this next theory. After finding a side-by-side photo, this redditor belives that characters Ponyo and Sosuke remain friends, grow up, get married, and open a bakery in a small seaside town and become the characters Mr. and Mrs. Osono, the owners of the bakery in “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” Although Kiki takes place years before Ponyo was created, you have to admit that the resemblance is uncanny.
4. The villagers have Leprosy in Princess Mononoke
In “Princess Mononoke,” there’s a place called Irontown where all of the residents are suffering from an incurable disease. Irontown was founded to be a safe area for these residents because after they get sick, they’re not welcome anywhere else. Due to the bandages covering most of the villagers’ bodies and the discrimination against them, fans believed this disease was actually Leprosy. Turns out, this theory was actually confirmed by Hayao Miyazaki himself. He’d visited a hospital and talked with people who were suffering from the disease in order to draw inspiration for what the Irontown villagers were experiencing.
5. All Studio Ghibli films are connected
This one’s a doozy. A number of blogs and Studio Ghibli forums have compiled examples that this theory could be true, like the earlier mentioned “Kiki’s Delivery Service” crossover, a book about Totoro showing up on a shelf in “Whisper of the Heart,” and a ton of others. This theory is really fascinating, and to this day, fans are discovering new easter eggs like characters hiding in other movies that kind of makes this impossible to disprove.
The Studio Ghibli universe is wide and every time you watch one of the films, you see something new. What’s your favorite creepy or fascinating Ghibli theory?