You never know what you could meet next time you’re waiting at a rainy bus station.
The Catbus from Studio Ghibli’s iconic anime My Neighbor Totoro has been traversing the streets of Hiroshima lately, and the experience of spotting it whether you’re waiting for a late bus or otherwise has to be surreal.
What at least appears to be the the adorable furry vehicle that shuttles Satsuki and Mei around in the movie is actually more of a bicycle contraption. You know those human unicorns that dance around at kids’ parties or on Halloween? Those things that look like they have four functioning legs when the magic is really conjured by two people wandering around under the same costume? This is kind of like that.
Another thing this incarnation of the Catbus has in common with the animated one are those giant glowing eyes that flash at passersby as it glides down the sidewalk. They probably light up at night thanks to lightbulbs or batteries. It also has that unmistakable Cheshire grin and 12 legs that make it something of a cat-centipede hybrid, even if it can’t exactly walk on them.
If only the real Catbus could just materialize like that. This one can’t exactly take any passengers, since its passengers are also its drivers, but just imagine what it would be like if this bizarre creature parked itself at the side of the road. Hayao Miyazaki’s vision involved a few more supernatural elements. It automatically changes the destination display above its head depending on where you ask it to go, and rats with glowing red eyes are its headlights and taillights—creepy, but awesome nonetheless.
Maybe the most amazing thing that could be done in the film but not (yet) in real life is the interior. When Satsuki and Mei climb inside the Catbus, they get the luxury of plush fur seats that are far superior to those plastic seats that your backside slowly but surely goes numb on until you finally reach your stop.
If you happen to be in Japan and believe in magic enough to spot this bizarre mode of transportation, please comment so the rest of us can live vicariously through you.