My Neighbour Totoro: is it nothing but middle-class animation for snobby parents?

STUDIO Ghibli’s classic continues to delight Guardian readers who ban their precious children from watching Despicable Me. But is the 1988 anime in its own way just as shit?

It’s got its own corporate mascot

Disney films often seem like feature-length adverts for a toy line, though not in comparison to He-Man and The Masters of the Universe. But Totoro looks like he was designed by a committee trying to create the most plush-friendly fantasy mascot imaginable. This is ignored because the merchandise is Japanese and makes buyers look worldly.

There’s an irritatingly catchy song

Every parent has found themselves humming Let It Go or Hakuna Matata at an inappropriate moment, like a crucial board meeting or mid-fuck. What real advantage is there to replacing that with Totoro’s blaring opening number about the joy of woodland strolls, or the end-credits song that repeats his name again and bloody again?

No, it isn’t deep

Adults who love My Neighbour Totoro hide their enjoyment of a children’s cartoon behind bollocks theories. But it really is just about little girls meeting a fantastical woodland spirit and riding a bus that looks like a cat. No, their mum doesn’t die and Totoro isn’t a metaphor for Hiroshima. They covered that in Grave of the Fireflies and it’s bleak as fuck.

Yes, you know who the director is

Who directed Fast & Furious 7? Who the fuck cares? And you could find out who directed The Lion King or Shrek but you haven’t, have you? Instead you’ve been waiting to blurt out ‘it’s by the visionary Hayeo Miyazaki!’ since the beginning of this paragraph, only to horribly mangle the pronunciation.

The morals would make Disney vomit

Disney’s message about accepting yourself for who you are is so bland US Republicans consider it dangerously socialist. But even saccharine Disney would gag at Totoro’s themes: nature is wonderful, kindness is always the answer, children should have autonomy, all that shit. At least Disney throws in an fight or a chase scene. All Totoro has to offer is soot sprites.

It invites tiers of snobbery

Oh, so you’ve seen My Neighbour Totoro? But have you sat through the Japanese dub while listening to the animator’s commentary? Have you read the manga? Are you taking your prodigies to the RSC’s stage production with dazzling puppetry? Bollocks to that. Watch Lilo & Stitch instead and be mindlessly entertained.

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This week in Mash History: The first recorded mansplain, 1338 BCE

IN the modern day, women are able to call out patronising, oversimplified explanations of subjects they’re already expert on delivered by men wearing too-tight trousers.

But this phenomenon is, to borrow a phrase from the mansplainers, ‘more complex than someone like you probably realises’. A recent archaeological find revealed an instance of oblivious male-to-female condescension as early as the time of Queen Nefertiti.

Nefertiti reigned as Queen of Egypt for over two decades. This prominence had little significance, however, to a pyramid builder who felt it necessary to enlighten the Great of Praises.

Egyptologist professor Denys Finch Hatton said: “Steles recovered from noble tombs offer a fascinating insight into the Egyptian court. The respective expressions of delusion in the worker and complete disgust in the Queen are as clear as a photograph.

“Further research indicates that this regrettable exchange occurred following a project to expand the buildings of the city of Akhetaton.

“The hieroglyphics available record the builder repeatedly impressing upon the Queen that it would mean ‘lots of big rocks’ and ‘actually take a while’, before spending a considerable amount of time explaining that a pyramid narrows at the top.

“The Queen’s response is harder to make out, but our translators are confident in the general gist being ‘is this fucker serious right now?’.

“It’s a remarkable piece of social history. Especially as we now have an answer to the mystery of the corpse found in a claypit with its tongue cut out and its cavities filled with hungry scarab beetles while he was still alive.

“Of course, it must be preserved. I was just telling my colleague Dr Donna Sheridan how these carvings are very old and delicate and that hieroglypics are not pictures but a form of writing. That’s her over there, saying ‘can you believe that prick?’

It is believed to be 1292BCE, the end of the 18th Dynasty, when a mansplainer first belatedly realised the brutally sarcastic comeback he had received from an Assyrian woman was not actually a sincere compliment.

Next week: to 1660, when Samuel Pepys decides to write a fake diary for a laugh.