“When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.”
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki, Rated: G, 86 minutes
I have no idea of how Mr. Miyazaki comes up with the basic ideas for the stories he creates. That man’s mind is just a waterfall of incredible story telling. Everything that he puts into his creations is filled with some much detail and character insight. It saddens me that all we can do here in America is just repackage old fairy tales and tell them to our youth. Studio Ghibli and Hayo Miyazaki are creating brand new fairy tales to tell the children and I am so glad that they are.
My Neighbor Totoro is one of those stories where it’s best not explaining too much before seeing it. The only thing I knew about it going in was that it had a giant cat that kind of looked like a fat rabbit,and another one that looked like a bus. I was almost expecting just a silly tale of these kids and their adventures with these creatures, but the film managed to have a much more deeper emotional feel to it. The story involves Satsuki and Mei traveling with their father to live in the country, because their mother has an illness at the hospital and it was closer. While there, the two girls start seeing these little tiny dirt balls with eyes called susuwatari. Even though the adults can’t see them they don’t deny that they are there and that surprised me. In most movies the adults never believe that spirits exist,but in this one they encourage it. Both the mother and the father even express their joy of wanting to live in a haunted house. In almost all other movies the ghosts can be the good ones, but they have to establish that they are scary at first. This one does not do that, but let me get back to the synopsis. So one day while Satsuki is at school, Mei comes across a small transparent like rabbit creature and begins following him. What follows next is something that will capture your imagination and your heart.
There is a lot of detail in the animation that in most other productions would have been cut. When Mei first meets Totoro, I noticed a bunch of insects flying around the scene. The story is also very detailed and takes it’s time building the characters and their situations. There are no major conflicts or villains but it does tackle the subject of having a close member of your family having a fatal illness. Most other family movies would not spend as much time as Miyazaki does on the subject of, but it’s never as sad as you think it would be. It’s hard to explain, but once you see how the story turns out you will. I like to think of this as a story about kids who sometimes deal with harsh things, but they never forget to be a kid and believe in the power of magic.
I have only seen the original language version of a Spirited Away, and I should really see more. But the English dub versions by Disney are really quite remarkable because they have such a level of love and affection for Miyazaki that the translation still manages to have the same emotions that the original language does. This is a movie that will be enjoyed in any language because it’s so brilliant and creative. Dakota and Elle Fannning provide the English voices of Satsuki and Mei and it’s great to see the start of a young actor’s career. No matter what age you are this is one that will remain enjoyable. Besides wouldn’t you love to have a cat like that as your pet. I know I do.
Overall: Five Totoros out of Five