This is a popular urban legend in Japan. Are Satsuki and Mei actually dead halfway through the film?? *TURN ON ANNOTATIONS AND CC FOR SUBS*
Because of the bold inclusion of "Sayama Tea" in the first 20 minutes of the film, and his comment that the movie is about "emancipation of Satsuki and Mei's souls," it may also be that Miyazaki is honoring the memory of the Nakata sisters in the Sayama Incident through his work.
Sayama Incident: Nakata Yoshie (16) was kidnapped on her birthday, and a ransom note was delivered to the father demanding 200,000 Yen to be placed near a Tea Field. The police arranged for Tomie, the older sister, to deliver fake bills for the ransom. Three days later, she was found raped and brutally murdered.
"Sayama Tea" is clearly, largely written on a box behind the grandma as she is helping the family unpack. (16:32 in the movie)
6 Ojizo-san, 6 deaths of principal witnesses during the course of the Sayama Incident-- Okutomi Genji (possible suspect), Tanaka Nooru, Nakata Tomie (older sister), Ishida Torizo, committed suicide. Masuda Hideo (accompanied Tomie to deliver the ransom), Ogawa Shogoro (discovered Yoshie's wrist watch) also died.
Miyazaki films often have very profound messages, and layers of complexities. Because Totoro, at first glance, seems like a simple children's movie, I think the Satsuki-and-Mei-are-dead interpretation seeks to find deeper meaning behind the adorable classic.
Is Totoro really guiding Satsuki and Mei to the afterlife? What do you think?? Leave a comment of your interpretation! :D
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