Film Review: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Also known as: Tonari no Totoro (original Japanese title)
Release Date: April 16th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki
Music by: Joe Hisaishi
Cast: Japanese Language: Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi; English Language: Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Tim Daly, Frank Welker

Tokuma Japan Communications, Nibariki, Studio Ghibli, Toho, 86 Minutes

Review:

“Trees and people used to be good friends. I saw that tree and decided to buy the house. Hope Mom likes it too. Okay, let’s pay our respects then get home for lunch.” – Tatsuo Kusakabe

Considering that this was released with Grave of the Fireflies, I don’t know how Japanese families got through both movies, as the feels are so damn strong in both of them. However, I hope that this one was shown second, as it’s the one that leaves you on a positive note.

This is one of the cutest movies ever made and I think it’s damn near impossible not to love, unless you’re a heartless heathen that hates everything wholesome and sweet in the world.

The story follows two very young sisters as they move into a new house with their father in the Japanese country. Their mother is sick in the hospital, so throughout the film, they visit her when they can but as the story rolls on, you learn that her condition has worsened.

All the while, supernatural things are happening in and around their home. The girls eventually meet a spirit named Totoro. As legend would have it, he only appears to those who are near death. The girls can see him because of their mother’s condition.

The girls have a few cool adventures in this and the spirit world opens to them more and more. However, even if it feels like the writing is on the wall regarding their mother’s mortality, this does have a wonderfully positive ending that I wasn’t expecting, especially after seeing Grave of the Fireflies before this movie.

Up to the point of this film’s release, this was Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus and for great reason. It’s his most endearing and human story out of his earliest pictures. This is also the first that I feel became truly iconic outside of Japan. In fact, Totoro went on to be Studio Ghibli’s mascot.

Rating: 9.5/10

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