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Is Totoro God of Death?

After recently rewatching Hayao Miyazaki's children's animated classic, My Neightbor Totoro, I realized it had a lot of potential for scary moments and decide to recut the Studio Ghibli film into a horror parody trailer.

art by sachsen

So often filmmakers think about music at the end of the filmmaking process, where music is sort of an after thought, "obviously we need some music here." I wanted to take this opportunity to demonstrate just how drastically music (and editing) can change how an audience perceives the picture.

It was actually quite a learning process for me in terms of how trailer editing is done. After some googling, I decided I wanted to follow a traditional 3 act structure, starting with introducing the mood and the arrival of the girls at a new house. The 2nd act they begin to discover the house is haunted, and the third act is about the disappearance of Mei.

Musically, I began with 2 tracks from a score I did for a film called Friend Request (directed by the talented Nicholas Acosta), the title track Friend Request ( and Creeper (which was an unused cue in the original film: After editing the trailer, I went back and re-orchestrated and reworked Creeper to better fit the picture. It definitely helped a lot to edit to music, but also being the composer, it was great to rework the music so it really amped up the scares at the end.

Behind the scenes in creating the music from Friend Request

While working on this, I actually came across an article about a theory on how Totoro is actually a ghost story, where the Totoro is a god of death, who only appears to people who are dead or about to die. In the end, the 2 little girls have crossed over and are ghosts, which explains why the mom says she hears the girls, but doesn't see them while they look down upon her from a tree. This fascinated me, since I sort of subconciously arrived at that conclusion while watching the movie.

You can read more about the theory here, including the real life Sayama case dealing with the kidnapping/murder of two girls in Japan in May of 1963 (Satsuki means May in Japanese, and the name Mei sounds like the english word May), when Miyazaki was in the beginnings of his career.

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