My first time watching My Neighbor Totoro was overdue and it helped me through a lot of pain

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) from Studio Ghibli

I’m so ashamed. It’s been around for more than 30 years and, until two days ago, I never watched My Neighbor Totoro. I know, I should be horsewhipped, but I can honestly say it was worth the wait. I needed it after the week I had, and it helped me in more ways than you can imagine. I never laughed so hard in all my life.

You see, I lost my sister this week. She was my older sister, Trina, and to be honest, we didn’t have a lot in common. We fought more than we agreed on things, but still, she was my sister and I loved her. It’s been a difficult start to the new year, but watching My Neighbor Totoro helped.

Satsuki reminded me of my sister, a strong older sister always looking out for her sibling. Strong, fierce, and domineering . . . That was my sister. Losing her hit me harder than I thought it would. It made me realize my own mortality and that it can happen to any of us. It’s how Satsuki felt when she thought she lost Mei, and how Mei felt when she was worried about her mother in the hospital. And who was there to help? Totoro!

That giant forest spirit, a lovable bundle of fur with a smile that can erase any pain, saved those girls. And you know what? He saved me too. He helped me get through my grief and focus on what we had, not the “coulda, shoulda, woulda” that bewitches us all when death occurs. Totoro made me forget all the sadness when I watched him and the other spirits do their dance over the acorn tree seedlings, or when he smiled and bounced after hearing the water drip on the umbrella. It was so hilarious.

I loved every moment of this movie and it was what I needed to bring me back to 2022 and focus on the year ahead. I can’t look back, can’t live with regrets or grieve forever. Life goes on, and thanks to Totoro, I know that.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.

Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid PublishingThe Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.

Don’t worry if your wife (or husband) calls you childish! Watching anime is a good thing, especially for writers!

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I saw a question from an online article that intrigued me. The questions was, “Does watching anime make you a better writer?” Personally, and professionally, I’d have to say YES! I watched anime as a kid, and with my own kids growing up. Today, I watch it for inspiration and, well, just because it’s totally awesome.

Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” That is most definitely true. I read books, comic books, graphic novels and manga my whole life, but I would add to that to watch movies and videos as well. We live in an age of growing technology, and anime is a popular form of vivid storytelling. All you need do is watch any of Hayao Miazaki’s movies and you’ll understand.

The stories within anime are so fanciful and cross so many genres within fantasy, from medival magical fantasy to steampunk and science fiction to time travel, you never know what you’re getting into. The thing I love about anime is not just the graphic art, the beauty of sight and sound that brings the stories to life, but also the detailed storytelling that goes into every episode.

For example, I just started watching an anime called Granblue Fantasy: The Animation. I only discovered this series because of an ad on Facebook from Animelab. The anime is a story involving magic, floating islands, primal beasts (dragons), and airships. It is a magical, steampunk adventure that enthralled me so much, I just had to watch it. I binge-watched the first five episodes last night. It has all the elements you expect from a good anime: Ruthless villains, powerful magic, steampunk technology, and light humor. Besides the fact that the anime is based on a video game makes it even more intriguing.

As a writer, I live for inspiration like this. It’s like an IV drip of imagination, slowly feeding me the inspiration for my writing. I get the same charge from watching 80’s sword and sorcery movies (Krull, The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian), Game of Thrones or even the original animated Thundercats for that matter.

The difference with anime is the vivid graphics. The images are so colorful, so beautiful, that they imprint on the mind of a fantasy writer like me. It allows me to see things in a whole new perspective, a different way to think about magic, magical creatures, or even how to combine them with technology. This is an inspiration that is unparalleled in many other genres.

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I can name so many other anime’s that provide the same inspiration:  Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon, Knights & Magic, The Ancient Magus Bride, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, Lord Marksman and Vanadis, In Another World with my Smartphone, and Full Metal Alchemist to name a few. And to be honest, that’s only “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to fantasy anime. There are more choices that can fit anyone’s fancy.

The other great thing is that you can find a variety of anime, both English subbed and English dubbed, on so many apps, websites, and channels. It makes it easy for someone like me to binge on as many different anime as I want to. I know it seems silly for a 55-year-old to sit and enjoy “cartoons” (as my wife calls them) but they’re more than that to me. Anime is an essential part of my writing, and I don’t intend to stop watching anytime soon.

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51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.