“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.

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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.

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Overall: Five Totoros out of Five

Five

Written By The Vern

Yes Hello people. It is I The Vern. Lover of movies, women, and whiskey, but not in that particular order. Besides writing for this site. I help co host The As You Watch podcast and help contribute to the world of films wherever I can.


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  • Pingback: Hayao Miyazaki Week: Seven Days of Animation, Imagination, and Inspiration | The Cinematic Katzenjammer()

  • I agree with you that the English lang dubs of Ghibli films are done pretty well. But anyway, about this film… I’ve seen it once, and I really want to see it again. It’s such a great little kid’s movie. So charming and endearing and imaginative.

  • Though it’s great the Disney dub is solid (great for pre-lit kids) I gotta run with the originals, it has a special magic and the voices don’t grate quite so much. Stunning film. It has brought me super close to buying a Totoro onesie.

  • vern77

    It was really cool when I took my niece to see Toy Story 3. She reconigzed Totoro as one of the toys. She screamed out “It’s Totoro!!” I loved it

  • vern77

    I plan on watching these again in their original langauage again soon. Still want to watch the other English Dub version of Secret World of Arrietty very soon. That voice cast looks better then the US version

  • Hands down my favourite Ghibli. I love Miyazaki when he’s capturing child-like wonder and innocence like here and in Ponyo. I’m not so much a fan of Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke. In fact, the later film creeped me out!

  • Pingback: Totoro + parenting | The Banana Lounge()

  • Thank you so much for visiting the review Beth. Princess Mononoke is more of aimed at teenagers and adults then it is at kids. I do reccomend “Howl’s Moving Castle” and Secret world of Arrietty” when you have the chance. It’s not as dark as others.