My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988): Japan

Reviewed by Katrina Storton. Viewed on DVD.

 My Neighbor Totoro My Neighbor Totoro, a film based on childhood innocence, imagination, and wonder. Hayao Miyazaki has done it again with another wonderful film. Just like the countless other films he’s made (Spirited Away, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, The Wind Rises and many more.) he has based them off of children and their imagination, Japanese spirits or just the pure element of wonder. Anytime someone is to watch My Neighbor Totoro they are sure to laugh, and uncontrollably smile until their cheeks begin to hurt. This movie has an essence, a way of sending you back in time to when you were little and had an imagination that soared like no tomorrow. The story bases around 11 year old Satsuki and her 5 year old sister Mei. The two sisters move into a new home with their father, the house appears to be haunted but by kind spirits not the stereotypical evil apparitions. Upon exploration of her new home Mei ventures off into a tiny tunnel following two tiny spirits with bunny like ears, which leads to the spirit of the camphor tree. (A tree which is adjacent to their new home) Mei approaches the spirit with no fear and instantaneously befriends him, and translating his occasional roars into telling her his name is Totoro. This spirit becomes the dominant thought of Mei’s mind, when she tries to show Totoro to her sister and father she can’t because he isn’t where she last saw him. This mimics children and imaginary friends. Satsuki believes her sister, but is upset she cannot see Totoro for herself. As the tale progresses the two sisters decided to wait for their father at the bus station. His bus arrives but he isn’t on it, Mei falls asleep on Satsuki’s shoulders, and Satsuki is left to wait for her father by herself. Soon Totoro arrives, stands next to Satsuki and appears to also be waiting for the bus. Internally joy overcomes Satsuki since she has now seen Mei’s friend, but she maintained her composure and simply offered him her spare umbrella. Doing this she connects with Totoro. He ends up loving the umbrella and keeping it, giving her a gift in return. Totoro leaves on a bus shaped giant cat, which is his own personal travel spirit. Since now Mei and Satsuki have both made a bond with the spirit of the camphor tree, the two sisters themselves are bonded even more so. They are bonded over more than just the fact that they are sisters, but that they shared an experience with a spirit that can only happen when you are young and still have your sense of wonder and imagination. This is what inspired the cover art for the movie, the two sisters aren’t on the cover, instead they are combined as one girl since as the movie progresses they become closer as sisters almost as one. They become one due to Totoro and it starts when Satsuki meets him at the bus stop, thus the cover art has the sisters as one girl at the bus stop with their companion Totoro. The rest of the film is over the bond between the two sisters as they try to reach their sick mother at the hospital after being told she has gotten worse.

This movie is perfect for any age group or gender; fun for the whole family or even if you’re watching alone. My Neighbor Totoro may be seen as a child’s film but that is one’s opinion. I highly recommend this film for any day, even more so for a bad day you want to turn around.


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