on 7 March 2006
I'm guessing this has been released following the success of "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Spirited Away", but in my opinion, "My Neighbour Totoro" is Miyazaki's best work.
The story follows two little girls, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the country with their father while their mother is recouperating in hospital. Miyazaki captures perfectly the curiosity of two children full of life, chasing dust bunnies (suswatari) and exploring the garden. What this film also captures is the simple beauty of Japanese country life - from clothing and architecture to the girls' respect of a roadside shrine to Jizo-san, the patron saint of travelers.
Totoro himself is a "spirit of the forest" but nothing in the film is more real. He is like a giant furry fat rabbit (without the rabbit teeth!) and when Mei first finds him and goes to sleep on his belly, it makes me want to get the biggest softest grey blanket and snuggle up too. However, my favourite character has to be Catbus. What cat lover could not be utterly taken by a giant tabby cat who is a real live bus, with furry seats, who leaps across the countryside taking Satsuki and Mei for a ride?
This film is magical - and suitable for all ages. The drawing and animation is incredible - especially when you think it was done in 1988 before computer graphics took over. The soundtrack is fantastic too, and the end song will have you singing along!
Don't be put off by the fact that Disney have the distribution rights, either. Miyazaki was incredibly strict when he did that, and controlled an awful lot of things such as the script, editing and merchandising. This means that none of the original spirit is lost, and you don't get any of that over-commercialisation associated with many of the Disney 'brands'.
on 16 March 2007
This film is intended for small children, so Miyazaki says. I was thirty-six when I watched it. I was so charmed that I showed it again to my father, who was then seventy-seven. He was so charmed that he insisted we must show it to his grandson, who is four. I have seen more exciting films, or funnier films, but none which gave me more sheer delight. It is a great shame the world isn't really as nice as this, but when you are four, like Mei, or even eleven, like Satsuki, this is how you want it to be: everyone bigger is kind and can be trusted completely, and everything always comes right in the end. Knowing a little boy of Mei's age I can vouch for her being highly realistic, from the obsessive looking through a hole in a bucket to the scowling and sulking! The most touching moment is when Catbus' destination board changes to "MEI", showing Satsuki that he knows exactly where her little sister is, and that he's going to take her straight there. My only criticisms, if you can call them that, are that the DVD doesn't contain the legendary sequel "Mei and the Kittenbus", in which Mei meets and goes for a ride with Catbus's little son, and that I can't ride in Catbus myself. As a cat lover and occasional bus user I feel I was born to do that, and it's a disgrace he's only imaginary!
on 18 October 2007
You don't need another review to say what a wonderful film this is. I wanted to praise it for keeping my two year old son happy. We originally got it from the library - then he wanted it every week so it became the first film he actually owns. Several months later he still loves it (even in Japanese) and I'm still delighted to watch it with him - nothing scary, no nasty characters and plenty of roaring!
I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed this film. Although I'm a self confessed ghibli fan, this is essentially a film aimed at children, but which I loved from the word go. It has beautiful animation and a simple story that captivates you and makes you smile the whole way. The characterisation is great and the kids in the film are genuinely endearing. The specific touches, like the cat bus, add that spark of magic and wonder for kids and adults alike. I really was surprised at how much I liked this film and have to rate it very highly in Ghibli's output of work. Great viewing and not to be missed.
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on 8 September 2008
I love Miyazaki, but because I always thought this specific movie was more child oriented, I never really felt the desire to watch it. Now that I have, it's my favorite Ghibli movie yet.
I found 'My Neighbor Totoro' a bit "lighter" than most of Miyazaki's movies, which in no way makes it less fantastic. The story is quite simple, it follows the lives of two girls, Satsuki and Mei, who move to a small house in a rural area, together with their father, so as to be closer to the hospital where their sick mother is recovering. While playing and exploring the new area, Mei comes across very mysterious creatures, and ends up meeting Totoro. The movie is mostly about their friendship.
I have to say it's one of the sweetest and most beautiful movies I've ever watched. It made me giggle like a little girl and although it might first seem primarily aimed at children (like I thought before I watched it), I really think it's good for all ages. Very magical, and still strange enough that it can hold your attention and interest (a "catbus"?).
Needless to say, I really, really recommend this movie.
SOUND: Original Japanese, dubbed English.
SUBTITLES: Japanese and English.
EXTRAS: Complete storyboards - Get an insider look at the film's artistry; Original Japanese Theatrical Trailer; Textless Opening and Closing Credits; Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel.
on 14 June 2006
This film is absolutely amazing. I can watch nearly all of the Studio Ghiblis on loop but this one is particularly watchable. One of those films thats handy to have when you're feeling a little low, you just can't help but smile at it.
I personally prefer watching the subtitled version rather than the dubbed version as the characters come across quite differently when compared, in the dubbed version i find Mei annoying and Satsuki rude! I prefer the characters in the Japanese spoken version.
Miyazaki has an amazing way of presenting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and this is no let down. These girls could be anyone, they could have been you when you were little and you get to watch them having the adventures you dreamed of when you were tiny.
This film is worth watching even if only to watch the scene where the Totoros and the girls make the seeds grow. It's a fantastic scene and one of my favourites out of the whole Studio Ghibli collection.
on 10 August 2006
My Neighbour Totoro is widely, and rightly, seen as a bright, delightful and gentle adventure.
The thing is, I never see Totoro as *just* a "cutsey" film. The sun-strewn idyll of the country life and the girl's freindship with the mysterious, cute, furry creatures is always off-set with the underlying story of the hospitalised mother - potentially dying, with the possibility of the girls becoming motherless. Throughout the film this grave possibility always hangs over the girls' happiness, giving the film a tense undercurrent.
There are other things too: the girls standing in the rain awaiting the return of their father - who then doesn't show when they expect him to. Helpless, the girls can only stand and wait, and hope. And the real sense of growing, gnawing panic over Mai's disappearance (the sandal in the pond, the gran's slump to the ground etc).
The sense that human tragedy and loss is potentially never far off and can intrude even the tweeist and seemingly perfect of environments gives Totoro a weight that the fantastical battles of, say, Mononoke - superb as they of course are - can't quite compete with.
Totoro is a charming film that is both heart-warming and heart-rending. It is a superb study of childhood, fantasy, family and loss.
on 20 January 2004
This is a touching story of two little girls who live with their father while their mother is recovering from an illness in hospital. When the youngest, Mae, is lost in the woods, she and her sister come across the Totoro, which I take is some kind of a ghost, but in the story looks like a really big fat teddy bear! It has a happy ending and leaves little ones giggling through most of it.
It's not scary at all, and my young children grew up watching it after receiving a copy from their aunt on her return from studying in Korea. I've just ordered it on DVD to replace that old video, which is much the worse for wear!
on 13 September 2007
It is a rarity these days to find a film that takes you completely by surprise and then sweeps you up in itself so completely that you can do nothing but watch, totally transfixed. My Neighbour Totoro is just such a film and is probably one of the loveliest films I have ever seen.
Whilst their mother recovers in the hospital, sisters Satsuki and Mei (the younger of the two) move to the country along with their father in order to get away from it all. Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, the two girls discover a rural idyll filled with mystery and magic as younger sister Mei discovers the Totoros (which apparently translates as troll, but they look far to cute to be trolls), spirits that inhabit the nearby woods. As the two girls befriend the creatures, they are taken on a series of magical adventures.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki (the man who gave us Spirited away, Howls Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke to name a few), this film lacks the more fantastical aspects of the aforementioned films (except maybe Catbus, which has to be seen to be believed), but concentrates instead on the joys of childhood and the simple pleasures of summertime. Nothing really happens throughout the film, but it is a gentle, carefree and absorbing pleasure to watch, with Satsuki and Mei (voiced in English by Dakota and Ellie Fanning) capturing the heart of even the most jaded viewer. It is rich in imagination and features a host of unforgettable characters, and it is hard to keep the smile from your face by the end of it. A simple unadulterated joy.
on 16 February 2006
My Neighbour Totoro is probably the film that introduced many western audiences to the work of esteemed Japanese animator/director Hayao Miyazaki and his celebrated production house Studio Ghibli. It is a film that I have fond memories of, having first discovered it as part of a mid-90's Sky Movies double (alongside my personal favourite Miyazaki film Porco Rosso) when I was around nine or ten years old. It stayed with me for many years before unavailability led me to record it off the TV sometime around 2001, where I found, much to my surprise, that the film was every bit as touching, endearing and enchanting as it had first seemed so many years before.
Finally, some kind soul has decided to re-release all of the Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli productions as a collection of re-mastered DVD editions, including everything from his Lupin III instalment The Castle of Cagliostro to the more recent epic fantasy adventure, Howl's Moving Castle (2004), which, like almost everything that Miyazaki has been involved with before, offer us a series of intricate storylines, breathtaking visuals, memorable characters and a general approach to bold, imaginative, unique and utterly compelling family entertainment that will almost certainly appeal to anyone between the ages of eight and eighty (urgh, sorry for the cliché!!). My Neighbour Totoro remains, perhaps, the definitive Studio Ghibli production, with Miyazaki here perfecting the visual style that would subsequently become his trademark, as well as developing a number of thematic devices that would be further explored in later projects like Kiki's Delivery Service, Porco Rosso and Spirited Away.
The story takes place in the rural Japan of the 1950's, where two young girls and their father move into an old house near the forest in an attempt to distract the girls from the absence of their mother, who is recovering from tuberculosis in a nearby convalescence home. Whilst exploring the forest, the two girls discover a family of "forest spirits", the biggest of which they christened Totoro (a mispronunciation of "tororu", the Japanese word for troll), who allows the two girls to partake in their nightly adventures. With the film, Miyazaki and his team create a depiction of the perfect summer and the power of imagination, as they use the two children to act as a representation for the audience. Mei, the younger of the two sisters, comes to represent the youngsters within the audience, as she approaches the Totoro characters with wide eyes and enthusiasm and generally accepts each of their adventures to be a continuation of her imagined child-like sense of fabrication. Satsuki, the older of the two girls, straddles the line between childhood and pre-teen adolescence. Her character is often more cynical and level-headed than her younger sister, and therefore she is the perfect representation for an adult audience who may need to put aside their own sense of scepticism when approaching a film that is so shameless magical.
The story is fantastic, with Miyazaki allowing the action to unfold slowly... bringing the girls (and the audience) into the world of totoro slowly so that the introduction of the "soot spirits" and the mythical king of the forest doesn't seem too jarring when dropped into a film that evokes such a plausible and believable depiction of reality (as with all the films of Studio Ghibli, Totoro has an almost obsessive attention to detail, with the texture of the locations and the use of light and shadow drawing you further and further into the film as a whole). The atmosphere throughout is perfect, whilst the characters (both in design and portrayal) are excellent, with the two young girls setting the template for Miyazaki's aforementioned later films, Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away, whilst the design of the mythical Totoro would become an important piece of iconography within Japanese animation (he's used as the Studio Ghibli logo, and is available in a range of plush-toy incarnations!!).
As with the majority of Miyazaki's work, Totoro has deeper themes lurking beneath the surface of the story... Here, it is the idea of childhood and imagination (and really the power of imagination, which is central to all Miyazaki's work) being worn down by the approach of adolescence. It has also been seen as a metaphorical piece, with the relationship between the girls and Totoro being an imagined one in order to take their minds off the temporary loss of their mother and their concerns over her health (a factor that probably accelerates Satsuki's desire to grow up?). Whether or not you choose to interpret the story on such a level is entirely up to you, with the film working just fine as a lovely piece of family entertainment, with a warm and ultimately uplifting story being elevated by that gorgeous design/animation, the larger than life characters, and the story that manages to create fantastical characters and enchanting underworlds, without feeling the need to view them with a crass irony or an air of damaging cynicism (something that can't be said about the majority of Hollywood animation).
My Neighbour Totoro is an exceptional film... one that has the power to enthral children and adults alike (another woeful cliché... but it's true!!!) with its evocative story, memorable characters and shades of hidden depth. If you've never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film before, then this is a great place to start, and is really an essential purchase alongside Porco Rosso, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle.