My Neighbor Totoro
Type: Movie
Genre: Children
Version: Region 1 DVD
Reviewed: 12/19/05


Hooray for the only Studio Ghibli film that was kiddie enough to make it to American shores in a non-butchered format! I’m sure most of you have happy memories of curling up to watch Satsuki and Mei and their adventures with Totoro. If you don’t have such memories, you have terrible parents who hate you. My Neighbor Totoro is one of the few children’s films out there that doesn’t patronize its audience, which means that the film becomes essentially timeless, you never grow too old to enjoy the film or feel embarrassed by it.

It begins with the Kusakabe family moving into their new home in the countryside. Satsuki and Mei immediately run into little soot sprites, and their neighbors tell them the house is haunted. After the family settles in, Mei finds a small fuzzy animal wandering around the backyard with a bag of nuts, which she chases down a secret tunnel and into the lair of Totoro, a giant adorable forest spirit thingy. Totoro then eats Mei, and Satsuki vows revenge or death on the blade of her family’s demon-killing sword.

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Totoro has terrible gas.

…or it turns out Totoro is an herbivore and they all end up having a series of charming adventures together. Hanging out at bus stops in the rain, raising giant trees, flying around causing the wind, there’s no end to the excitement. It’s hard to capture the feeling of the movie in words, but when you watch Totoro roar for the first time, or see his hideaway home, Miyzaki’s talent for creating memorable moments shines through. The climax, of Mei running away and Satsuki calling on Totoro to bring her back, is charming without being sappy, and ends a film that could have been cheesy but is instead endearing.

One can see a lot of Spirited Away in this movie’s character designs, and the scenery of rural Japan is nostalgic and comforting, which is quite the feat to pull off considering most of us have never

Screen Shot
Cat+Bus=Catbus. This, gentlemen, is creative genius at work.

been to such a place. There’s no big explosions or showy monsters, but the animation is handled with such care that you’ll find the movie over and wish there was much, much more. Music is handled by Joe Hisaishi once again, and once again he creates a score that perfectly compliments the onscreen action.

That being said, Totoro is a movie for kids. It was Miyazaki’s pet project for years before he finally convinced the studio to do it, and even then it was shown as a double feature with Grave of the Fireflies. It’s not a bad film but any means, but the story and action are designed to delight, rather then thrill, the audience. Totoro is simply a classic film, that with Miyzaki’s storytelling, rises far above the status of a typical children’s movie.

-Andrew Duff