Jul 24, 2009

[Movies] Tonari no Totoro / My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Tonari no Totoro / My Neighbor TotoroStudio Ghibli has been famous for it's animated films for years, including them winning an Academy Award in 2002. For one reason or another, I have yet to see any of the Ghibli works until now but I'm glad that I now have access to most of the library of their films.

It's hard to precisely define what makes it truly a Studio Ghibli work - something that I'll definitely work on defining that for myself as I watch more and more of Hayao Miyazaki's works. It's definitely rather distinct versus other types of anime that I've seen in the past but I just can't quite put my finger on it.

I guess at best what I can say for now is that these animated films tend to be a lot more than what they appear to be on the surface. I'm definitely going to enjoy the Ghibli universe, hehe.

Tonari no Totoro / My Neighbor Totoro is perhaps one of the better-known Studio Ghibli productions, the characters of which feature prominently in the studio's logo. The move follows the story of the Kusakabe family who have moved to the provinces in order to live closer to the hospital where the mother is confined. Thus it's just the father and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, who are going though each day in their new house, waiting for their mother to come home.

Beyond this part of the story, the girls begin to encounter strange creatures like the dust bunnies in the house and some unusual creatures in the forest. In time, Mei discovers a much larger creature that she names Totoro, who proceeds to become their friend and show them a more magical side to the world.

A cosplayer portraying Totoro from My Neighbor...
Image via Wikipedia
The sense of whimsy and wonder in this film is amazing and it draws immediate comparisons to Alice in Wonderland given the "white rabbit" chase at the start of the movie, the hidden magical world beyond our mundane normal one and even a large smiling cat, although not at all like the original Cheshire Cat of Lewis Carroll.

What did strike me a lot was how well Miyazaki managed to recapture the finer details of every aspect of the story. When I say every aspect, I really mean everything - it just blows the mind. The characterization of Mei was the perfect embodiment of the younger sister who idolized her older sibling. Without using words, he managed to depict the slower, more idyllic life of the countryside through imagery and subtle nature noises. There were just so many things that made me go WOW, he even remembered that! That was definitely something brilliant, especially for a hand-drawn animated feature like this.

At its core, My Neighbor Totoro had a simple yet direct and poignant story to tell. Whether it's just about the family trying to deal with the illness of the mother, the children learning to see the world in a different way with the help of Totoro or a father's constant love for his children, it can be pretty much whatever you choose to see in it. That's one of the things that makes this movie so intriguing - it gives you something different to take away with you every time you watch it. It's the kind of movie that gains new meaning depending on your experiences, the circumstances around you when you watch it or what's foremost on your thoughts. Then you can watch it again and repeat the whole cycle.

Plus, Totoro is ridiculously cute. He doesn't say a word and yet his silence speaks volumes. Plus when he's together with his two animal companions, it's just way too much cuteness at once! Hahaha!

My Neighbor Totoro gets 5 Susuwatari / soot sprites out of a possible 5.

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