Who Is Toto? The Most Famous Japanese Cartoon Character

To have a good night’s sleep, eat right and get proper rest is to have a beautiful life. The ancient saying goes like this “A well-taken care of a pet is as good as a well-loved one”. The beautiful image of a caged bird, lying on a bed is often recalled by people today when they think about good health and happy animals. Toto the sloth bear, in the film Jungle Jim, may seem like just an animal sleeping in a cage but these cute little pictures of him have become a symbol for compassion toward animals and awareness to the natural world.

In some ways, To Po, Toto the lazy bear, was ahead of his time. His appearance, a lanky fellow who wears mismatched clothes and carries a tin can of oil, was an inspiration for Bugs Bunny, who finally developed a character that we could relate to. Toto’s status as an obscure character was punctuated by the release of two movies based on the original plot and characters. These were, Jungle Jim and Tin Man.

Before we proceed, it would probably be interesting to note that both Tin Man and the original toto bear (the very first toto) appeared as characters in the animated films based on them. In both films, Toto, a simple orphan, found himself stealing the canned oil from a rich and sympathetic matron and refusing to return it. He was soon transformed into a talking, singing animal with the help of his trusty sidekick, Bumblebee. In the second film, he joins the Rock Band group and goes on to become the leader.

The earlier, original story of Toto was a hit in Japan, but was not picked up by Hollywood. It was more of a cultural icon than a comic book Superman. Its enduring popularity can be credited to the sheer simplicity of its story. It presented a setting unlike any other comic-strip hero’s: a post-war world in which atomic weapons had replaced most of the fighting force. The toto character was simply an overlooked victim of war and fate, until…

Toto’s name is Japanese, meaning “wind-drainer”, and he appears in almost all drawings and sketches of the original fairy tale characters, like the Wizard of Oz and the Little Red Clown. He is shown as having long, flowing hair, and wearing clothing like a typical Japanese kimono. In many versions of the original story, Toto’s partner is shown as a fox. Their relationship is non-existent in all other versions.

When the original version was illustrated, he had black, shiny hair and wore a red hat, much like Professor Xavier in the X-Men. But he is never seen without his red hat. The original Toto has never been officially recognized by any country as a national hero. His place in pop culture would probably lie in a parallel industry to superheroes like Spiderman and Batman.

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