The Sunday Review: My Neighbour Totoro

Sunday 27 August (2006)

my neighbour totoro

My love affair with Studio Ghibli continues this week with My Neighbour Totoro, made in 1988. Set in the 1950s, it follows eleven year-old Satsuki and her four year-old sister Mei as they move house to the countryside, to be near to their mother who is ill in hospital. Their father tells them inspiring stories about theĀ forest near their house, and then one day when Mei is playing in the garden she catches sight of a peculiar creature. She follows it into the forest where she meets an enormous furry animal which she christens ‘Totoro’. Satsuki is skeptical at first, but then she eventually meets Totoro herself, as well as his friends – including an absolutely bizarre creature called the Catbus, which is exactly what it sounds like – and the two girls have plenty of adventures with them. Before long, though, a dangerous situation requires Satsuki turn to Totoro for his help…

This film is, in a word, charming. It’s a children’s film, but one of the rare few which has the power to make anyone in the audience, no matter how old they are, feel like a child themselves. Like other Miyazaki films it features young heroines who you really develop a relationship with, and care what happens to them. Satsuki is the elder sister, and very strong – she’s forced to act as a mother to her younger sisterĀ Mei whilst their mother recuperates from tuberculosis. Mei herself is one of the cutest and most well realised animated human characters I’ve ever seen in a film – her facial expressions reveal honest and plain emotion, without adulteration.

Everything comes together in this film – the soundtrack is fabulous (including an annoyingly catchy song at the end), the animation is incredible, the story is simple and absorbing, and the feeling it leaves you with is pure happiness. It’s probably not a better movie than Spirited Away, but I definately prefer it. It’s the kind of movie I wish I’d seen as a child – shit, it makes me want to have children, just to show it to them. I don’t know how this movie slipped under the radar for so long, when there was all that ballyhoo a few years ago about Spirited Away… it’s just crazy.

This is so good in fact that it’s probably made it into my top fifty movies of all time… hell, maybe even top twenty. If I had like an actual list, I’d be able to tell, but I don’t so that way I can cram three hundred movies into my ‘top fifty.’

Watch this film on your own, or with your girlfriend, or with your kids – but not with your macho friends, because you’d never allow yourself to get sucked into all the schmaltz. But you should allow that. This is a fantastic movie.

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One Response to “The Sunday Review: My Neighbour Totoro”

  1. james Says:

    Damn straight. Totoro is definitely one of my favourite Myazaki films, probably the best film for the kiddies he did – and that includes Spirited Away. I hope you’re buying one and getting one free on all the Ghibli DVDs at the moment, Porco Rosso & Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind are two of the more recently released ones that need to be wotched.

    Thing about Totoro though… I reckon mum suffered complications. :~~

    Also! When my computer asks me to name my stuff, I always choose things from Miyazaki. My last computer is Totoro, my iPod is Pazu, the old computer is Yupa… To put it quite frankly, I’m cool as fuck.


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