Being raised by wolves doesn't make you special in the world of fiction, but an important distinction separates Princess Mononoke from that bowl-cutted dingus Mowgli. As we learn towards the end of the film, Mononoke was abandoned by her parents when the wolf goddess Moro came across them in the forest. Instead of seeing if Chris Evans in Snowpiercer was actually right about the superior succulence of human babies, Moro spared the child and raised her as her own.
But wait, what did Mononoke's parents do wrong?
"Defiling the forest" seems pretty vague. It could be anything from Mononoke's mom and dad bumpin' uglies over an especially sacred log to improper disposal of a CLIF Bar wrapper. But one fan theory suggests something far more sinister: They were hunting Moro's wolf pups, and they even managed to kill one. When the poachers were caught, the couple threw their own child on the ground as a sacrifice to save their own scummy hides.
It's never made clear whether those shitstains lived to tell the tale, but that's not the point -- the story gives Moro real motivation for taking in a human child. She was rightly furious at the murder of her pup, and she could have easily returned the favor and made a savory infant stew. Instead, Moro chose to show mercy in an attempt to prove that the forest has a better nature than mankind.
But she's still stuck with a dead pup, and that's where the skin comes in.
Though Princess Mononoke has a set of fake ears and a fancy mask, her cowl is most definitely made from an animal. And since polar bears were in short supply in feudal Japan, it would make sense that it belongs to the only species we see with pure white fur. It might be that Moro knew a dead wolf puppy that wouldn't be needing its skin anymore, and she bequeathed it upon her new daughter, ensuring Mononoke became as much like a wolf as possible.
When the time came, that must have been one hell of a mother-daughter talk. Imagine one day you not only find out you're adopted, but you've been wearing the skin of the child you replaced for your whole life. And that's not even close to the most messed up thing on this list.
This might be the most popular Miyazaki fan theories out there, but it's also the most depressing. On a surface level, My Neighbor Totoro is about a giant cuddly forest spirit that helps two girls (Mei and Satsuki) deal with the trials of growing up. But the problem is, the trials of these little girls mostly revolve around fear of death and acceptance of their mother's mortality. With that in mind, we have to consider the idea that Totoro isn't just a fuzzy body pillow -- he's the grim reaper.
There's a surprising amount of evidence to support this theory, and it only gets more depressing as it goes along. See, towards the end of the the movie, Mei goes missing. Rescuers find a suspicious shoe in a pond, implying that she might have drowned. Her older sister wouldn't have it...
...even though Granny thought differently.
This is the part where the theory branches off. In the movie ending we know and love, Mei is found with the help of the Catbus, there's a touching reunion and a catchy song that you're singing right now in your head. But according to the fan theory, Mei is goner. Satsuki is just in denial about that shoe. She then returns to Totoro's lair -- the underworld -- and kills herself.
The only reason that Satsuki succeeds in finding Mei is because they're both in the land of the dead. Together they spy on their mother from a tree; she's probably got a reserved seat on feline public transportation. After all, one of the destinations on the Catbus is "Grave Road." Why else would that be an option if the Catbus weren't a vessel for souls to pass on?
The juiciest part of this fan theory is also the most debatable. Fans have long contended that the movie is based on the infamous Sayama Incident, an abhorrent crime that involved the murder of a girl and the subsequent suicide of her sister. Though the link isn't definite, there's a lot of details that match up with My Neighbor Totoro. Besides the fact that both stories involve a missing girl, it would seem as though MNT takes place in or around Sayama.
Then there's the time period. The Sayama Incident took place in 1963. And judging by the technology, calendars and other factors, fans have narrowed the time period of My Neighbor Totoro to 1958. Not far off. And then there's the girl's names, both of which correlate to May, the month in which the Sayama Incident occurred. Mei is obviously a dead-ringer for May, but Satsuki is also the Japanese word for "May." Studio Ghibli has repeatedly denied any connection to the event, but it's hard to imagine a world where a family company admits that they based a beloved film on a national tragedy.
When it comes down to it, My Neighbor Totoro is basically a more traumatic version of Grave of the Fireflies. If you've never watched Grave of the Fireflies, just pretend your tear ducts are constantly emnating a stream of lemon juice imbued with flakes of ghost pepper, and you're halfway there.