I was down with the flu and I was curled up in my room, looking for something cozy to watch. Flipping through my collection, I suddenly remembered the My Neighbor Totoro DVD I had received as a gift a while back. Needless to say, I popped it into my player, sat back and had one of the most relaxing and peaceful 90 minutes of my life.
My Neighbor Totoro is hard to synopsize because of the tranquil and laid back first half. I suppose it would suffice to say that this classic 1988 Studio Ghibli movie is about the innocent fun of two little sisters who move into a house in a village, along with their father, only to find out that the picturesque place can be more mysterious than they thought. My Neighbor Totoro has bagged several awards over the years and helped bring Japanese animation into the global spotlight.
The basic driving force behind the story is this: Don’t you want to be a kid again? Don’t you want to go back to the days when your only responsibilities were to show up at school and be home on time? Don’t you want to look forward to each day, because there was always something new to learn, find and discover? This universal, yet eternally successful theme is what made My Neighbor Totoro click. The story is so beautifully crafted that kids look at this movie as the adventures of two sisters, while adults while adults perceive this anime to be a timeless classic that will forever remind them of their innocent childhood.
Another positive aspect of the story is that it’s character driven, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of developing the characters or making them take on hard decisions, this movie’s characters are the diamonds in the rough because of their simple and lifelike charms. They think, act and behave just like any curious and energetic children of their age would. The two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, are sure to inspire kids and bowl over adults with their sweet and loveable attitudes. The seiyu also deserve a lot of credit here, because they bring out all the energy and emotions necessary for their roles.
If you were wondering why I didn’t make a mention of Totoro, the giant chubby ferret/forest spirit, it’s because he is (in my opinion at least) present for appealing to the kids and doesn’t really play an important role otherwise. A contributor to the entertainment (and cuteness, if you like) factor.
I got my hands on a re-mastered DVD edition of this one, so I won’t be able to judge the quality of the original theatrical/VHS version. Still, you can’t make a good sculpture without good clay, so I think it’s safe to say that the art was outstanding. The backgrounds were very neat and looked exactly like a 1950s Japanese village. Characters were drawn in trademark Ghibli style, which is never a bad thing. A perfect ten.
The soundtrack added to the straightforward atmosphere of the show. Nothing fancy, just the good old piano. The OP, Stroll, was a nice upbeat song that reminded me of The Sound of Music, especially the English version.
This anime would get a sure ten from any kid who’s below 10, but looking at it from a more mature perspective, My Neighbor Totoro does have some minor issues which deny it the perfect score. Because of its age, it is rather predictable and I felt the mood swing from the lax and serene atmosphere from the first half to the more fast paced and fantastical approach to the second half was a little unnecessary. The fantasy aspect is played around with to please kids, but older viewers might not approve. The dialogue and script could’ve been a tad tighter too. But that’s about all the flaws I can come up with, after a lot of time I spent on nitpicking.
Regardless of whether you’re a kid, adult, otaku, casual viewer or just plain bored, My Neighbor Totoro is most certainly worth your time.
[ THE WRAP-UP ]
My Neighbor Totoro is a landmark anime that garnered critical appeal and international fandom. Although primarily intended for children, this 90 minute movie is bound to appeal to the taste buds of anyone, even if they’re not a big fan of anime. The story is uncomplicated and easy to watch, which is always a good thing if you’re looking for something nice and comfy. The undeniable charm of the characters also adds to the realistic atmosphere of this Studio Ghbili movie. Despite its release date, the animation is solid, just like the fitting soundtrack. My Neighbor Totoro is an anime that gained mainstreamed recognition and popularity for good reason. In other words, watch it.