My Neighbour Totoro is the 2nd film in our Miyazaki Month, and my (Sam’s) personal favourite. It is the third film released by Studio Ghibli and also the third film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It currently sits at 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, and is currently at #170 on the IMDB Top 250 movies list.
Check out Chris’s review after the jump!
Satsuki and Mei and their university professor father move into a remote, dilapidated home in rural Japan so they can all be closer to the hospital their mother’s staying in. Satsuki is 10 and Mei is 4, they’re both curious and exuberant. As they settle into their new rundown home, they begin discovering little creatures in and around their house which is surrounded by a large beautiful forest. At first they see dust creatures which inhabit their entire house before Mei, Satsuki and their father moved in and upon further exploration of the surrounding forrest, Mei discovers a group of fantastical creatures known as totoro’s. Mei, through her curiosity and fascination with the rabbit-eared creatures befriends them, with the totoro’s. Mei, when waiting for their father to come home, introduces the totoro’s to Satsuki and from this moment on, a friendship blossoms. The totoro’s keep the girls safe and help them along the way in discovering the facts of life and death as well as the nature of friendship and family.
Hayao Miyazaki’s 1988 animated classic, as you would’ve guessed, still holds exceptionally well even in 2012. One of the many things that Miyazaki’s films are praised for are their timeless appeal. Watching Totoro, it could’ve been made in any year, from yesterday, to the early 70’s. Another aspect to Miyazaki’s greatness is the universality of all his films. Totoro is definitely no exception, in fact it’s in this reviewer’s humble opinion that Totoro may be one of, if not his most universal film to date. Don’t let the appearance of the totoro’s inspire any doubts about this, like any Miyazaki film, the magical realism aspects enhance the characters and solitifies the human story at heart.
What makes My Neighbour Totoro something special, even including Miyazaki’s impressive and rich filmography is how grounded the film is. The totoro’s aren’t introduced for a good half an hour, in the mean time, we get to meet (and love) Satsuki and Mei, they’re adorable characters who highlight the innocence and curiosity children have. They’re rich in their observations and reactions to certain things, including their approach to the totoro’s themselves. The father, who’s usually busy keeping the house together in one piece encourages his daughters’ adventures and insights into life and essentially, the bigger picture. They’re a family, one that helps each other out when in need. The rich character’s and their development really say a lot about animated films and the power they can have over children and parents, or anyone who comes across them.
The emphasis on human development and love makes My Neighbour Totoro one of Miyazaki’s best, if not his best film to date, yet that’s quite a claim considering what he’s accomplished. It just goes to show, when done correctly what any film looking into the human condition can flesh out. It has been dubbed in English by Disney with Elle and Dakota Fanning voicing the Satsuki and Mei characters, but of course, it’s recommended to watch the film in its original format. If any faults had to be picked with My Neighbour Totoro it’d only be the inclusion of some scenes in the beginning of the film, as lovely and significant as each scene is, some don’t resonate like others do which can be considered a minor inconsistency, but it’s indeed very minor, otherwise it’s almost faultless.
It’ll keep you hooked with it’s light tone and multi-layered themes and for the next 84 minutes, let My Neighbour Totoro take you away.
By Chris Elena
Be sure to check out Chris’s reviews and film discussion at chriselena.wordpress.com