Legendary anime producer Toshio Suzuki makes it look easy in his video lesson, but is our worst artist on staff beyond help?

Although he’s one of the most famous and important people in the history of the anime industry, Toshio Suzuki isn’t an animator or designer by trade. He’s a producer, and as one of Studio Ghibli’s founding fathers, it was his job to handle a lot of the critical non-drawing stuff that needed to get done in the creation of landmark animated films including Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.

However, that doesn’t mean Suzuki doesn’t also have artistic skills. As part of a video lesson series from the Nagoya Board of Education, Suzuki, a Nagoya native, recently showed viewers how to draw Totoro in less than a minute!

But while Suzuki has a sterling record as a producer, is he as good an art instructor? To find out, we decided to measure just how much better we could draw Totoro after watching the video.

Drawing drawing duty for this assignment was our Japanese-language reporter Tasuku. To the best of his recollection, Tasuku had never drawn a picture of Totoro before, and if he had, it was so long ago that he can’t remember it. Tasuku is also a self-professed terrible artist who, by his own admission, doesn’t know how to draw anything, and between that and his lack of prior Totoro-drawing experience, we figured he’d be the perfect person to test how much improvement Suzuki’s video can provide.

Tasuku has at least seen My Neighbor Totoro multiple times (it’s shown on Japanese TV at least once a year), and before watching Suzuki’s video he tried to draw the character from memory. “Totoro…he’s kind of like a fusion of a cat and an owl, right?” said Tasuku to himself as he drew. “And he’s reasonably coordinated using his hands and arms, ‘cause there’s that scene where he’s holding an umbrella or something…and he’s got a round patch of white fur on his stomach…”

Once Tasuku’s mumbling and pen stopped, he held up his drawing, and, well, see for yourself.

▼ Totoro…?

Yeah, that’s a chubby cat that thinks it’s a person, not the lovable forest spirit/Ghibli mascot. Nice try, Tasuku, but let’s see if Suzuki can help.

Firing up the video on YouTube, Tasuku watched as Suzuki, with just a few quick, confident strokes, completed the silhouette. Tasuku could quickly see that unlike his failed attempt, the real Totoro has ears that are pinched at their base and bulge like rounded cones higher up, and Tasuku had forgotten about the checkmark-like pattern on the character’s chest. Also, to keep things simple, Suzuki was demonstrating how to draw the smallest type of Totoro, the one with white fur, tiny legs, and no visible arms.

But the biggest point of advice Suzuki gave was to space Totoro’s eyes as widely as possible. Tasuku watched as the Studio Ghibli producer drew Totoro’s eyes so far apart that they were actually touching the lines for the sides of his face, giving the character an aura of inviting innocence, a critical part of what makes Totoro Totoro, which Tasuku’s attempt had lacked.

After watching the video, it was time for Tasuku to try again. Selecting a broader-tip pen than he had for his first drawing, he carefully followed Suzuki’s examples and instructions, and the result was…

a stunning improvement, especially for such a short amount of time!

▼ Suzuki’s video

Granted, he may not have captured 100 percent of the captivating cuteness that’s made Totoro world famous and the inspiration for a dizzying array of adorable toys, but there’s no mistaking who the character is in Tasuku’s second drawing. So even if you’ve never been the artistic type, being able to draw an adorable Totoro is a skill you can acquire surprisingly quickly.

Top image: SoraNews24
Insert images: YouTube/名古屋市教育委員会 指導室, SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he always forgets that Toshio Suzuki was also the producer for Angel’s Egg.

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