Throwback Thirty – My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

films, reviews, TBT

my_neighbor_totoro_-_tonari_no_totoro_28movie_poster295_star_rating_system_5_stars As I was reminded today, there are only 19 more sleeps until Christmas. This means that Christmas shopping is in full swing. I like to think I’m doing well with the amount of gifts I’ve already bought but, when I really think about it, I still have loads to buy. And I’m starting to get desperate for ideas. When I read something on Twitter about the 30th anniversary box set of My Neighbour Totoro I decided it was the perfect present for a friend… until I saw the price and almost died. I mean, I love her but no. Sorry. On the plus side, it reminded me that I’ve been putting off doing a TBT post about this film. I don’t know why it took me so long as I really love this film. In terms of Studio Ghibli films, it is one of the all time classics and Totoro has become a massive part of Japanese pop culture. By this point, he’s essentially the Japanese Winnie the Pooh, right? If I was going to be sharing my 30th birthday year with anyone then I’m really glad it’s Totoro.

Of course, if I’m being perfectly honest, I actually watched the 2005 Disney translation because my Japanese is a little nonexistent these days. But I’m going to count it because I really wanted to watch this film today. I’ve been feeling ill all day and work could definitely have been better. So, there was really nothing I wanted to do more than sit and rewatch this masterpiece. Along with The Princess Bride, it’s a pretty good go-to feel good movie. Not that you can dislike any Ghibli film but there’s something special about Totoro.

My Neighbour Totoro is the story of two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, and what happens to them when they move to a new house with their father. The girls’ mother is in hospital recovering from a long-term illness and the family have moved to be closer to her. They move into an old house that is full of mystery and, according to local legend, haunted. Although it’s not ghosts that they find but a huge spirit named Totoro. Their father, Tatsuo suggests that he is the “keeper of the forest” but we mainly see the spirit sleeping or travelling by Catbus.

The best thing about this film is the complete lack of adversity. Yes, there are some emotional and kind of scary moments but this isn’t a film that promotes the negativity. This is a film that wants to capture the experience of being a young child and it does it beautifully. The two sisters are wonderfully rendered on-screen. Their behaviour is at once believable and familiar. The film celebrates youthful excitement and vivid imaginations. It is a film that doesn’t draw a line between what children believe and what adults believe. Does Totoro exist? Who cares. He exists for these girls so he exists for us.

There are so few films in the world as full of charm and goodness as this one. It is also funny. Watching it will take you back to a time in your childhood when you had no worries and anything was possible. It shows every aspect of the creative genius that we have come to expect from Hayao Miyazaki. The animation is as beautiful and understated as it needs to be. It is the same watercolour style that we’re used to and there is more realism than we’ve ever seen in an American animation. The tiny little details are wonderful and it’s always good to look around in order to spot everything.

I don’t really know what I was expecting to come out of this review. There was never any chance that I was going to turn around and say that I hated it. I fucking love this film. I loved it when I first watched it and I’ve continued to love it with every rewatching. It’s kind of perfect.

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