Great choice! This should be a lot of fun! I love her expressiveness in the movie. When she sees one of Totoro’s little helpers for the first time, that “gotta have”-look is to-die-for! lol
Very nice start on the sculpt! Yeah, its tricky to get the look down. You just have to study as many different references as possible to get a real good feel for the character and then try to translate that into a good compromise for the 3D model. All that is anything but easy, I know! For Akane, I literally took hundreds of screengrabs in all possible angles. Anybody who thinks bringing a stylized 2D character into 3D with the established look intact is unsophisticated child's play, should try it for a change. ;)
A sculpt such as this is anything but plain, so my advice is to keep that in mind while sculpting. Even the smallest subtleties in the silhouette and contour go a long way here and should be worked in as much as possible. Even if they wont be visible in some angles, they can make all the difference in other ones. Also you should frequently check and adjust the mesh in Max, since ZB's perspective is not 100% accurate, to say the least, and can be very frustrating when you want to render outside of ZB.
I'll be watching this with great interest for sure!