Susuwatari (Japanese ススワタリ; "wandering soot"), also called Makkuro kurosuke (真っ黒黒助; "pitch-black assistant"), is the name of a fictitious yōkai which was devised by Hayao Miyazaki, drawn by Ghibli studios and known from the famous anime-productions My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away where, in the former, they are identified as "black soots" in early subtitles and "soot sprites" or gremlins in the later English dubbed version.
Susuwatari are described and shown as tennis ball-sized, pitch-black and fuzzy-haired beings with two large eyes and long, thin legs.
My Neighbor Totoro
In My Neighbor Totoro, the house the main characters move into is full of Susuwatari, which are rationalized as Makkuro Kurosuke (pitch-black assistant), an optical illusion caused by moving quickly from light into darkness. Seeing that the family is composed of good people, the Susuwatari leave the house to move to another abandoned area.
They later reappeared in Spirited Away as workers in Kamaji's boiler room. They are small, black as soot and apparently fuzzy, with spherical bodies and two inquisitive eyes. They move by hovering around, but they can extend stick-like legs and arms from their bodies to do certain tasks, and can lift objects many times their own weight. They make a squeaky murmuring sound when excited, and dissolve into powder (soot) if crushed.
The protagonist Sen (Chihiro) befriends a number of them by helping them carry coal. Sen is told that if these Susuwatari aren't given a job to do, they turn back into soot. Another character, Lin, feeds the Susuwatari much like farmers feed chickens, throwing handfuls of the Japanese candy kompeitō onto the ground for them to eat. After Sen is accepted among the staff of the bathhouse, chiefly by Kamaji and Lin, the Susuwatari become almost admiring of her, and help her in their small ways.
- Watsuki Nobuhiro (2005). The Art of My Neighbor Totoro. Studio Ghibli Library. Viz Media. ISBN 1591166985.
- Hayao Miyazaki (2008). The Art of Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Studio Ghibli Library. Viz Media. ISBN 1569317771.
- Hayao Miyazaki, Yuji Oniki: Spirited Away. Viz Communications, San Francisco 2003, ISBN 1-56931-794-1
- Hayao Miyazaki: My neighbour Totoro. Viz Communications, San Francisco 2005, ISBN 1-59116-699-3
- Julien R. Fielding: Discovering world religions at twenty-four frames per second. Scarecrow Press, 2008, ISBN 0-8108-5996-3, page 317.
- Patrick Drazen: A Gathering of Spirits: Japan's Ghost Story Tradition: from Folklore and Kabuki to Anime and Manga. iUniverse, New York 2011, ISBN 1-4620-2942-6, page 144.
- Ayumi Suzuki: Animating the chaos: Contemporary Japanese anime, cinema, and postmodernity. ProQuest, Carbondale 2008, ISBN 0-549-60505-3, page 14.