One of the most beloved films from the mind of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki revolves around two sisters who discover a world they never imagined.
Sisters Mei and Satsuki Kusakabe move into a small house in the countryside with their businessman father. The reason involves their mother, who is hospitalized in a nearby facility. At first, they are unsure what to think about the house, but their father reassures them that everything will be okay. One fateful day, little Mei comes across a strange little creature and begins to chase the little creature, who is planting seeds. Mei discovers a forest nearby and comes across a monstrous but likable creature known as Totoro.
When Mei attempts to convince Satsuki about Totoro, at first she is extremely skeptical. However, on a night where their father is late to the bus stop, Satsuki patiently waits while Mei dozes off. Satsuki soon meets Totoro herself, who is awaiting his own bus, the mystical Cat-Bus. Satsuki finally tells Mei about her believing in Totoro as well. The sisters soon start a beautiful friendship with Totoro and his little versions. However, when Mei learns her mother will have to stay longer, she gets extremely upset and runs away. Satsuki must seek the help of Totoro to find her sister.
Hayao Miyazaki is truly one of Japan’s most legendary animated filmmakers. When he formed Studio Ghibli, he made the titular Totoro his mascot for the company. Unlike lots of animated films where there is a protagonist and antagonist, this is a straightforward family story of two sisters who discover and ultimately befriend mythical creatures in a nearby forest. If anything, the antagonist of the film is that of simple angst when little Mei is upset to the point that she decides to run away.
Aside from this little side track, the film is a cute story about family. Miyazaki made the film as a tribute to his mother, who suffered from tuberculosis. To bring that homage, the character of Mrs. Kusakabe, Satsuki and Mei’s mother, also suffers from it and sporadically appears as a way of bringing a warm feeling for the sisters, especially when she believes herself in the creatures of the forest when told by her daughters. It cheers an otherwise ill Mrs. Kusakabe up. As for Mr. Kusakabe, he’s not arrogant or outspoken. He has his own wonderfully told tales about certain myths such as dust bunnies and seems that he too would believe in the creatures himself based on his attitude.
Aside from the Totoros, the other legendary character worth seeing that sporadically appears as well is the Cat-Bus, whose eyes are the headlights and has a big smile on his face. Totoro himself is quite a fun character to watch, from his introduction in meeting Mei to the bus stop sequence, in which he gets so excited when rain drops onto his leafy umbrella. This is seen by perhaps one of the biggest smiles ever seen possibly ever. After its initial Japanese release in 1988, first Fox, then Troma Entertainment (yes, THAT Troma), and Disney would release the film in English dubbed and subbed versions.
My Neighbor Totoro is truly an animated classic that to this day still stands the test of time with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki at the top of his game. A film that should be made by all families.
WFG RATING: A+
A Studio Ghibli production. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Producer: Toru Hara. Writer: Hayao Miyazaki. Editing: Takeshi Seyama.
Japanese Voice Cast: Chika Sakamoto, Noriko Takagi, Shigesato Itoi, Tanie Kitabayashi, Toshiyuki Amagasa, Hitoshi Takagi, Naoki Tatsuta.
English Voice Cast: Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Pat Carroll, Lea Salonga, Hitoshi Takagi.