My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

7eaa5-my_neighbor_totoro_-_tonari_no_totoro_movie_posterFrom the famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, this enchanting film is about two little girls and their very unusual neighbor Totoro.

The film opens with Satsuki and her little sister Mei arriving at a new home out in the country with their father. They are two energetic and rambunctious girls, who are excited by this new adventure. Their father is a kindly man, who spends a great deal of time with them when he is not working. Several other characters play a part including the elderly lady Nanny, the young boy Kanta, and of course the girls’ mother who is in the hospital. First, the girls chase dust creatures through their supposedly “haunted house.” Then, one day Mei follows a strange furry little creature under their house and then into the depths of the woods nearby.  She takes a tumble and all of a sudden she finds herself in the dwelling of a big fluffy Totoro spirit and falls asleep on its belly. When she tries to show Totoro to Satsuki and her father she cannot find him.

However, one evening as they wait for their father’s bus, Totoro comes to the stop, and this time Satsuki is introduced to the spirit who leaves them with a gift. After they spend another magical night with Totoro a few days later, the girls learn to their dismay that their mother is not coming home as planned. An annoyed Mei decides to take some corn to the hospital many miles away. Her disappearance causes a panic in the town, especially with Satsuki. She searches tirelessly for her little sister until her feet are sore. Her only other option is to plead with her neighbor Totoro to help her. Thanks to Totoro Mei and Satsuki are reunited and they see to their delight that their mother is in high spirits at the hospital.

This is certainly a film for children, but it would be unfortunate to call this a childish film. I must take a brief moment to praise the animation led by Miyazaki too. Every single image could almost be a painting they are so beautiful.  In my limited knowledge of anime, it is far above anything I have seen before. It was great to see this film in the original Japanese because it seemed more authentic, but what really struck me was the realistic nature of these young girls. Perhaps they speak a foreign language (to me) but their moods are universal. They can be extremely loud, they pout, share moments of laughter, and they love their parents.

Furthermore, this story does not need some major conflict to drive the plot. Their father is a loving open-minded man who does not even briefly doubt their adventures. I was even thinking that the obvious turn of events was that their mother would die and yet that is not the case. What this film really has is a wonderful innocence which can be appreciated by all ages. Instead of creating some major pathos we are simply able to enjoy this magical friendship between this remarkably cute fluffy spirit Totoro and these two girls. I certainly cannot wait for more from Studio Ghibli and I’m sorry that such an artist is retiring soon.

4.5/5 Stars

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