2016 is the year I started to appreciate and watch more anime. The medium is so rich with content that starting somewhere was overwhelming. Fortunately, a friend of mine made up a recommendations list with different shows and films to watch. While My Neighbor Totoro wasn’t on the list, another Hayao Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke was, which led me to then watch the film I’ll be talking about here. Spoiler alert: I loved it.
My Neighbor Totoro is such a simple story, which is where its greatness lies. Cinema brings messages and themes, and while Totoro too brings minor examples of both, it’s simply a fun story with amazing components.The film portrays childhood in its true nature, providing an escape from reality for anyone that watches it. If a film can be enjoyed, understood, and appreciated by anyone at any age, it’s a masterpiece.
There is a reason that Totoro is the mascot of Studio Ghibli; its art style, character design, and animation is perfect. Japanese art is distinct from Western style art, and My Neighbor Totoro takes full advantage of this difference; the characters’ creative design will be forever regarded as some of the best looking – especially the famous cat bus.
The pace of this movie is interesting. For starters, it clocks in at a short 88 minutes, so by the half hour mark I started to wonder where the title character, Totoro, actually was. Not that I was complaining, as I was loving the development and story so far, it just seemed odd. After that, however, I understood why we spent over a third of the film dealing with the main characters’ new housing situation: It established who the sisters, Satsuki and Mei, were and set up their curious nature, which evolved and developed with the story. In many ways, the two main sisters were discovering new things along with the audience, which is why the film is so easy to understand and enjoy.
Truly, my only critique of My Neighbor Totoro is the unnecesary side-plot with the mother being sick. The story could’ve been just as well told and fun without the burden and weight of that part of the story.
Before closing out this review, I must mention how incredible the music is. The score is subtle but effective, and will be in your head for days.
My Neighbor Totoro is a charming, feel-good family film that does its job perfectly. If you’re looking for a beautifully animated nostalgic adventure through two characters’ childhood, the film is for you.