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My Neighbor Totoro – Review May 1, 2009

Posted by Cello in Anime Reviews.
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I think so far we have reviewed a wide spectrum of films over the last few weeks. We’ve covered the brutal, the shocking, the dramatic, and the tame. I defintely consider myself to have an ecclectic taste in films. My Neighbor Totoro is a film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. Sisters Satsuki and Mei have just completed moving to a new house with their father. Their mother, however, is in a nearby hospital sick. Soon after moving in, Mei stumbles across an unusual neighbor, a totoro– a furry raccoon-ish spirit. Spectacular things occur.

Miyazaki’s films are above all visually enchanting, using a watercolor look for the backgrounds and working within the distinctive Japanese anime tradition of characters with big round eyes and mouths that can be as small as a dot or as big as a cavern.  Miyazaki doesn’t rub the audience’s face in glitzy animation tricks; he supervises a more complex style that relies on humanity rather than razzle-dazzle. Clearly the studio aimed this movie at kids but it is indeed a wonderful piece for the child in all of us. The way the kids react to the new house suggests that country living can be more beneficial than the city; and greater at feeding the imagination. While exploring their home they discover moth-like Soot Spirits.

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This film feels like a celebration of the wonders of the natural world. Writer-director Miyazaki explores themes of the environment, health, growth, curiosity, family and understanding. Unless you’re the type that only watches anime for blood, guts and titillation, then My Neighbor Totoro should be a delightful experience. The background artwork is meticulously detailed and contains some beautiful renderings of the countryside. The character animation is very smooth and nicely detailed as well.

I know it seems that every Miyazaki movie is deemed as an automatic classic but I personally feel if that is the case, then Totoro is perhaps his most personal film, a reflection of his own childhood. By now, if you haven’t already seen this film, you’re likely scratching your head and about to give up even trying to follow along with this movie synopsis. “Weird, largely unnamed, practically indescribable, and basically mute creatures are central to this film?”, you ask. “And I’m supposed to care?,” you follow up. The answer to both of those questions is, without a doubt, yes. Call it Miyazaki magic or the power of imagination, but My Neighbor Totoro is a prime example of captivating, story-driven cinema.
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Comments»

1. somekindofmuffin - May 1, 2009

My son and I love this movie. He always wants to pretend to be Totoro after we watch it. It’s so good

2. Heather - May 1, 2009

I’m so glad I have my new laptop and can watch your clips now. Your review had to me sold, but actually seeing a piece of it, helped me understand a little more about what you meant………

3. jessbo88 - May 2, 2009

This is my favourite Miyazaki film OF ALL TIME! With Spirited Away a close second. I have a soft toy Totoro on my desk at work. Miyazaki’s focus on the environment, the spiritual and his reflections on valuing the little things make this and his others films precious pieces of animation history.

Ms Harker
http://www.musingcontinuum.wordpress.com

4. ironanno - May 2, 2009

Perhaps one of the best children’s films ever made Totoro is interesting for a more adult audience as well. You can just sit back and admire the animation, listen to the great soundtrack and be transported to a world with only a child’s small troubles and problems.

5. hagiblog - May 3, 2009

Here’s another of those ‘should have but haven’t watched’ flicks. I guess I’ve always been more of a giant robot kinda guy but this sounds like something I can sit and watch with the kids on a sunday. And it’s sunday so maybe I should go pick this up!

6. Stephen K - May 4, 2009

Hey, great review! I like that you review these films with a background of appreciating Japanese cinema, it helps us put it more in context. I love most of the Ghibli films, but I must say Totoro is one of my favourites.

7. glothelegend - June 5, 2009

I just started getting back into Anime movies, after not watching one for a while I just finished “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, which is, in my opinion the greatest anime film ever (so far), even beating out Akira and Howl’s Moving Castle for my personal favorite.

I have yet to watch this one, and I really didn’t think it looked that good. That last paragraph peeked my interest though, and now I need to see this.

8. Julia - September 7, 2009

I remember watching Totoro when I was about 6 for the first time. I think my eyes were as wide as an anime characters during it. And the thrill i had when my dad bought a furry Totoro back from a business trip to Tokyo. Thanks so much for the nostalgia trip, I completely agree with the review.

9. Leonia - October 29, 2009

Totoro is a cute film, with nicely character, and a amazing Totoro (I also want to sleep on his stomach) xD

10. KellyGreen17 - December 1, 2009

From the first moments you are sent into a childhood place in your heart. Totoro’s animation is of the highest quality expected from Hiyao Miyazaki. Any Miyazaki fan will be thrilled. The Susuwatari are just the cutest ever and seeing them in Spirited Away gives a wonderful continuation of the Miyazaki culture. And to conclude I must agree with Leonia (above) I wish I could nap on Totoro’s stomach as well!!


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