Be it movie, TV show, or book, whenever something achieves a certain level of popularity people begin to create their own stories surrounding them and urban legends are born. Japanese media is no different. Rumors spread and before you know it JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure accurately predicted the September 11 terrorist attack in New York.
The following is a collection of urban legends surrounding some of the most famous works in Japanese pop culture. Remember, most of these are not facts, just theories. Otherwise, about 80 percent of our most beloved anime characters are actually dead and just don’t know it yet.
■ Spirited Away is actually a story about the sex industry
Some folks out there believe that Miyazaki’s Spirited Away fairy tale was either a parable for the sex trade or, in fictional fact, the bathhouse that Chihiro worked at was actually a cover for a brothel. Japan has a particular type of sex industry known as soaplands where women erotically wash the male clientele in a public bath setting.
These subscribers feel that Yubaba is actually the mistress of a house of ill-repute due to the fact that all of the supernatural customers who visit are men. Also, Chihiro is renamed ‘Sen’ when she starts working there. Yubaba renames all her workers – a pretty common practice in the sex trade.
■ The Prince of Tennis shouldn’t call itself tennis
This popular manga and anime series had a long run in Weekly Shonen Jump and has also built up a legendary reputation online for its ridiculously increasingly implausible tennis moves. While it’s all in good fun for the readers, legend has it that an official tennis organization was none too pleased. They wrote an open letter to the magazine complaining, “Please stop using the name ‘tennis.’ This is not tennis anymore. We want you to use something like ‘tenninu’ or ‘ultra-tennis’ instead.”
■ Extended Ending to Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Sometimes when feature films make their way to television broadcasts, parts are either added or cut to fit the time constraints. It was believed that such an alteration was made to the broadcast version of Ghibli’s Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
Word had it that an extended ending contained a scene where Pazu visits Sheeta in her hometown and a scene showing Sheeta hiding a crystal in her fireplace. Studio Ghibli officially denied that these ending scenes were made.
It would seem that people got confused by some illustrations used in an Animage manga serialization which contained an epilogue that took place six months after the events of the film.
By the way, Muska’s falling scene when the castle collapses was also once an urban legend but has been proven true.
■ The Minky Momo Earthquakes
There is a belief that episodes of the animated Magical Princess Minky Momo are somehow linked with the occurrence of earthquakes in Japan. The first case occurred in 1983 when a broadcast of episode 46 of the magical-girl series aired. A superimposed warning came up informing that a mild earthquake had struck the Kanto region.
During the airing of the final episode later that year, the Sea of Japan Earthquake struck, claiming the lives of 104 people. Then – as the legend goes – the final episode was re-aired on January 17, 1995 just as the far deadlier Great Hanshin Earthquake hit.
■ JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure predicts the September 11 World Trade Center attacks
Volume 20 of the JoJo series was published in February of 1991 and inside we find a ‘Prophet Stand’ hanging from a telephone pole. The stand is wearing a shirt which reads “911” and in the background a crescent moon hangs and an airplane glides by with a rather sinister grin.
Then in another page the character (kind of) looks at his watch and remarks “Oh, it’s 10:30!” The second WTC tower collapsed at 10:28am. Have fun with that Illuminati believers.
■ The Final Episode of Sazae-san
Some feel that the final episode of this extremely long-running (44 years) animated series will reveal that the entire family had actually perished in a plane crash in the ocean while going on vacation. That’s why everyone is named after things found in the ocean.
And if you think that’s morbid, we’re just getting warmed up.
■ Doraemon’s hidden episode
There is also a theory that the whole Doraemon series is actually a dream Nobita is having while lying in a vegetative state following a car accident. If true that would explain the trippy premise behind a bizarre buried episode that is rumored to exist somewhere.
In it Nobita asks Doreamon to take him shopping in the underworld. The robot cat agrees and pulls out a hoop that takes them down there. While in the underworld, they meet people who are speaking in an unintelligible mumbling. Then they enter a room with a large model of the planet Earth. However, the model cracks open and blood begins to poor out. Nobita and Doraemon are terrified and hold each other while crying profusely. Cut to black and roll credits.
Hahaha! That zany cat.
■ The girls in My Neighbor Totoro die partway through the movie
A few frequent viewers of the Miyazaki classic found it was odd that while watching My Neighbor Totoro the two protagonists Mei and Satsuki both lose their shadows. Thus the theory was born that they had somehow died partway through the movie and hadn’t realized it which would explain the encounter with the supernatural Totoro beings thought by some to be spirits of death.
Ghibli made a statement on their blog saying that the omitted shadows were simply a cost-cutting tactic. However, theorists remained unswayed feeling that it was out of character for the famous studio to cut corners like that.
■ Crayon Shin-chan’s Final Episode
Yet another long-running animated series has a dark predicted ending. People are expecting the final episode to reveal that the main character Shinnosuke had actually died when he was five while rescuing his baby sister from being hit by a car.
All of those sassy, light-hearted adventures we’ve enjoyed over the years were actually the creations of his mother going through the grieving process. When the final episode comes we will finally understand that all this time she was just envisioning what her deceased son’s life might be like had he lived. The titular “crayon” is the object that she clings to in memory of her lost child.
Well, on a brighter note: There’s also a theory which is probably 100 percent true that says the recurring character of Shinko-chan, the girl from the future, is actually Shinnosuke’s little sister. In the Japanese language version of the anime, she sometimes slips and says “oni[chan]” (brother) only to quickly catch herself “oni… giri-head” (riceball-head).
■ Goodbye Doraemon
We’ll leave you with one last touching legend about arguably Japan’s most beloved cartoon.
The story goes that on the day Hiroshi Fujimoto (one half of Fujio Fujiko, the writing team behind Doreamon) died, Doraemon unexpectedly appeared on TV at midnight. Alleged witnesses disagree on whether or not the title credits played but afterwards rather than a typical episode of the lovable robot cat and his clumsy pal, all you could see was Nobita walking with his back turned to the camera.
This continued for ten minutes. Then, at the end Nobita said, “I gotta get going now” and the screen faded to black.