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Cats have established a certain mystique across multiple cultures. In Japan, legends of bakeneko (化け猫) and nekomata (猫又) tell of cats with supernatural powers. These tales were likely part of the inspiration for the Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro, a rapid transport capable of running, jumping, flying, shapeshifting, and reaching its destination with no knowledge of the route. With its wide grin and ability to disappear, the Catbus also owes some credit to the Cheshire Cat from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The Catbus' package is a single folded plastic tray with a printed cardboard insert. The tray is formed to securely capture the Catbus between the two main sections, while the bottom has molded supports for strength and stability. The main trays snap together at the four corners, with adhesive tape providing extra security in transit. The insert has the movie title in the top left corner, surrounded by drawings of the Catbus and Totoro. Smaller "creature" icons dot the perimeter of the panel. The back is a repeat of the front, but the movie title and some of the bottom icons have been replaced with legal and retail information.
As far as I can tell, 14 pieces went into the assembly of the Catbus: the main body, the destination sign, two eyes, four mice, and six whiskers. The destination sign, eyes, windows, and teeth are all smooth plastic, while everything else has been covered with a soft, fine fur. The coverage is surprisingly even, with only minor edge problems around the mouth and a few errant hairs stuck to the windows. The teeth are bright white with black edges, the sign is white with "Mei" written in black kanji, the windows are off-white, and the eyes are yellow with black pupils. The whiskers are fine black plastic threads, and while they look good they are a bit too long for the package and end up somewhat deformed. The body is light brown with darker brown stripes on back, sides, tail, legs, and toes. The nose is pink, while the four mice are gray with black noses and yellow (front) or red (rear) eyes. All of the markings are done nicely: sharp enough to look like a proper bus, yet varied enough to suggest an organic creature.
Nothing: what you see is what you get.
Accuracy is a bit hard to call thanks to the varying nature of the Catbus. The shape is good, the face instantly recognizable. It has the correct number of feet (12), and the number of side windows are within the range set by the movie (appearing with as few as 10 or as many as 16). The nose really shouldn't be flocked, though, and the mice should all have red eyes. The destination sign should be red as well. Scaling is even more difficult to pin down thanks to the artistic style of the movie. With the tail curled, the Catbus measures 7¼" (18cm) long, so depending on your interpretation of "bus" it will fit with anything from 1/24 (VW Microbus) to 1/50 (Bristol MW6G).
While most Catbus collectibles either go fully sculpted or fully plush, Sekiguchi hit a perfect balance that captures the design and feel of it beautifully. It's not a perfect replica, but it is very nicely done and an interesting addition to your collection. There's not much beyond the basic design, so if you like what you see you will not be disappointed. Recommended.
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