The ‘Totoro Meme’ and the politics of transfandom pleasure | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2051-7084
  • E-ISSN: 2051-7092



This article is an exploration of the ‘Totoro meme’ as a site of affective, transfandom pleasure. In the Totoro meme, Japanese and non-Japanese fans alike appropriate the now-iconic image of Satsuki, Mei and an umbrella-toting Totoro at a bus stop from Hayao Miyazaki’s 1988 film, Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro), to their own fannish ends, creating fan art that inserts favourite characters from other media into the scene in ways that often have a doubled semiotic resonance. I argue that this meme is characteristic not of the global appropriation of a broad ‘Japanese anime style’, per se, but a specific, affectively appealing ‘Ghibli style’, one that is fully part of non-Japanese fans’ own popular cultural repertoires. In its cross-border merging of globally circulating Studio Ghibli aesthetics with other fan-favourite media, I contend that the Totoro meme and its associated fanworks are in fact wholly congruent with, and representative of, what Matt Hills has termed ‘trans-fandom’ (2015), contemporary practices of ‘navigating across and combining and fusing fandoms’ (Hills 2015: 159). I conclude with a consideration of the implications of what might be termed ‘corporate transfandom’ in the context of transfannish citations of Kaze no tani no Naushika (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind) (Miyazaki, 1984) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Abrams, 2015).


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