Cert: U Runtime: 86 mins Director: Hayao Miyazaki Cast: Hitoshi Takagi, Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto and Toshiyuki Amagasa
To-to-ro? You’re Totoro!… I bet you’re Totoro…
Recently I’ve been re-watching some classic Anime movies, I realized I have yet to cover an anime film. For a very long time My Neighbor Totoro. So what is My Neighbor Totoro? Two young girls, Satsuke (Noriko Hidaka) and her younger sister Mei (Chika Sakamoto), move into a house in the country with their father to be closer to their hospitalized mother. Satsuke and Mei discover that the nearby forest is inhabited by magical creatures called Totoros (pronounced toe-toe-ro). They soon befriend these Totoros, and have several magical adventures.What most impressed me about this film is Miyazaki’s keen knowledge and expression of how it feels to be a child, how we perceive and react to the world around us, with energy, excitement, enthusiasm, imagination and curiosity. To me, this is what came across, most profoundly. Animation and sound are good overall in the film, nothing especially impressive. This is to be expected, as a first time feature length film director rarely is granted a large budget for their very first film. What’s impressive about “My Neighbor Totoro”, is the storytelling.
That’s what matters most, of course. Film is simply a highly visual medium of storytelling. Miyazaki based the story of the film on his own childhood, growing up in rural Japan during the 1950’s. All of the locations in the animated film, have their real life counterparts in Japan. Totoro can best be described as a large, gentle, friendly, furry, teddy bear-cat kind of creature, who is actually a spirit of the forest, near the new home of the two girls. Miyazaki is wise to hold off and wait until the halfway point of the story, to introduce the main character of Totoro, to build up the anticipation of Totoro’s arrival in the film. The cat bus is an especially charming and imaginative character that appears later in the film. Miyazki’s story telling style keeps some suspense going, regarding the mother’s relation to the story. Miyzaki’s film takes it’s time to slowly introduce it’s characters and become acquainted with them. Clearly, Miyazaki is a gifted storyteller, with heart and details in his characters and stories. What people appreciate most about his animated films is that they are about ordinary, common people in extraordinary situations and told with heart, charm, genuine emotion and special little details, regarding the characters, landscapes and inventions.
When first released theatrically in Japan, “My Neighbor Totoro” was only modestly successful. When it was later released on television in Japan, it took off in popularity.Miyazaki’s animated films are the type that always present something new both in characters and inventions, in an engaging and captivating way. With most of his animated films, it always worth experiencing them again and they continue to delight and entertain, both children and adults alike.I consider myself a child at heart. I remember how it felt to be a child. How the world seemed so different at that time in life.. Children perceive and react to the world much differently than adults. Viewing a film such as “My Neighbor Totoro”, Miyazaki recaptures childhood very accurately. Doesn’t really matter he is Japanese. Children are children, with the same traits, all over the world, regardless of country or culture.To me, Miyazaki deserves comparison to the great animation pioneer, Walt Disney. I realize this is a big compliment, however I feel that Miyazaki has earned and deserves comparison to Disney. Like Disney, Miyazaki is also highly imaginative, artistic and detailed with his animation stories, as was Walt Disney.