My Neighbor Totoro (original title Tonari no Totoro) is a fantasy animation film released in 1988, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. A father and his two little girls move to the country, where they meet a kind forest spirit.
Hello, there! I’m dos Santos, and this is Ulven Reviews, with Movies and series from all over the world and all eras. Today we’ll talk about My Neighbor Totoro, beginning with a plot summary, through the review, and concluding with a symbolic rating.
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Tatsuo Kusakabe and his daughters, Satsuki and Mei, are moving to an old house in the country. The girls’ mother, Susuwatari, is in a nearby hospital recovering from an illness.
While the father is distracted working and the older girl, Satsuki, is at school, Mei enters the woods around the house and finds sleeping under a tree a huge forest spirit called Totoro.
The encounters of Totoro and the two little girls get more frequent with time, and the three of them, together with other friendly spirits of the forest, live many adventures.
I realized the channel needed some movies from the ’80s, so I thought My Neighbor Totoro would be a good addition. But before, let’s go to the early 2000’s for a minute.
Although Spirited Away was firstly released in Japan and a few other countries in 2001, most of the rest of the world only had the opportunity to watch it in theaters in 2003.
I remember watching commercials of the film, yet not getting interested. I was 12, and maybe I felt I was too old for cartoons or that this particular animation was for smaller children. Anyway, I didn’t watch it back then.
After many years, probably a decade or more, I got back to it and loved it, and it made me interested in Hayao Miyazaki’s work. So I wanted to watch his entire filmography. Then I watched Ponyo, Princess Mononoke… and that was it. The rest stayed perpetually on the to-watch list.
It means My Neighbor Totoro was a movie I was keen to watch for many years and kept skipping it for one reason or another. There was always some other priority.
That was until last week when I was scrolling through a streaming service trying to chose something to watch, and it felt like a good time to finally watch My Neighbor Totoro.
The only thing I knew about it was that it was a Miyazaki film and had a bear-like creature and some kids. That’s my way of watching movies, entirely in the dark about the plot.
It was clear from the beginning, the movie was aimed at a young audience, yet, it’s really enjoyable for old efs like myself. The film gives you that feel of kids exploring the world around them and being fascinated by it.
My Neighbor Totoro is a really fun movie. It seems mostly portrayed from the children’s perspective, making it full of adventure, beauty, innocence, and a sense of freedom that only a child can have. This context also explains why the mother’s illness is never mentioned by name. The kids only know she is sick and recovering.
In the film, it’s also present elements of the traditional Japanese culture and folklore. I can’t say anything further about that because I’m ignorant and only know it’s present after reading about it. However, if you know a little more about these themes, you’ll probably notice it while watching the movie.
The characters are marvelous. Despite being children, the two girls are really compelling and not annoying at all. They provide us with loads of laughs and some worries in the last act (no spoilers). It’s really amazing how the movie makes us care for animated children and fantastic creatures.
Like the girls, Totoro is an extremely likable character, even though he only communicates through noises. He’s cute, kind, and fun. These traits made him one of the most recognizable and iconic figures of cinema, especially animation.
All of the other characters are really awesome as well, the human neighbors, the other spirits, and so on. The only one who was a little behind was the mother. Not because she was bad, but because there was not much of her at all in the movie.
When I watched Princess Mononoke, it was a Blu-ray or a DVD (not sure which) borrowed from a friend. In the bonus features, there was a mini-documentary showing how these animations were made. It made my admiration even greater.
The animation style of the characters is uncomplicated and very resemblant to most of Miyazaki’s work. Of course, it’s his style, but you can see there are slight differences from one film to another.
The art of the background is just breathtakingly beautiful. The created location is gorgeous, full of nature and traditional buildings, everything in great detail. It felt like a peaceful place, full of fresh air, and it was perfect for the plot and mood of the film.
Since I like depressive and dark music, the score is not really my cuppa tea, but it’s a decent and usual score for this kind of movie, aimed mostly at kids. It’s cheerful and cute, representing the very essence of the film.
My Neighbor Totoro is amazing, and there’s nothing I disliked about it. It was really, really enjoyable, fun and simple. I’m glad I got back to Hayao Miyazaki’s work, and I’m excited to watch and review them more. I’ll give My Neighbor Totoro (A.K.A. Tonari no Totoro) 9 Moons.
That’s it for now.
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