Tuesday, January 16, 2007


It occurs to me I posted a review of MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO in various places, but forgot to post it here. Oh, well. Here it is:

I had heard good things--great things--about MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO for years. I still avoided it. (I tend to avoid anime. My husband puts some on: I leave the room.) Plus, it looked as if it were for kiddies. But with Elliot and Carmen praising the work, rented it.

Verdict: I am an idiot. I could not have been more wrong.

To summarize it briefly: The father and two daughters of the Kutsakabe family move to countryside in Japan (circa 1950's), to be close to their mother, who is recovering in a hospital (from some unspecified ailment, maybe TB?) The girls soon discover they are neighbors to magical "trolls"--totoros--three of them, small and medium and very large! They explore--and find wonder--in their new environs with the Totoros and they get a happy ending regarding their family situation, in a way that will make you both smile and get moist in the eyes.

Nothing complex. It's what the writer/director/artists do with this simple premise that adds up to soooooooooo much more.

This film taps into the warmest, most human, most loving, gentlest, dreamiest bits of my young self that still hides inside my middle-aged self. It reminded me of what it was like to:

~have a dad I adored and who cared selflessly for me
~ be young and see enchantments in the world
~explore and be carefree physically
~have fun with the simplest, new things, like a fresh bit of produce from a a plant in a pot or from someone's garden--which seemed like magic to me when I was young), or from a bath or from climbing a tree
~be young and lost and afraid without family nearby
~worry a beloved parent might die (as I feared when I was very, very young, like Mei, and my Papi was hospitalized.)

I understand some of the critique bandied about the vocals/dubbing, but, geesh, get past it. It's hardly an issue in light of the amazing animation. Just watch the girls, the little things, the details, that so absolutely prove that the artist(s) have observed young kids very, very carefully. There is such playfulness, such delights in the world of the Totoros. I can't watch Chibi Totoro and not giggle. Physically unable to stop myself from just letting loose with a cascade of heeheehees!

It's a movie which opens with slow, establishing scenes of this new place for the family, but which soon utterly enraptures you with these darling girls and the weird but lovable Totoros and the kind, distracted Papa. The scene with Mei on Big Totoro's furry tummy is pure perfection. Watch her legs. Notice the way she lays there and plays with Totoro's face. Enjoy the detail in the way she scoots. The gorgeous bonding that ensues feels natural and has a restful effect on the viewer.

And the scene at the bus stop/catbus stop: Wow! Look at the way the shadows and light are done. The hilarity of O Totoro and his leaf hat. The joy of raindrops on an umbrella. The sweetness of sleepy Mei and the unselfishness and kindness of Satsuki.

The scene with the night ride: Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Who wouldn't want to be five or six again and ride on a Totoro's tummy through a moonlit night, over rice fields and camphor trees?

If you have high BP, this movie will settle it down, it's such a bit of grace pouring on you. If you want something beautiful that fills you with a sense of nostalgia: This is it.

Feel young again. Feel magic. Feel joy. Watch MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.

1 comment:

Elliot said...


I knew you'd love it! It's such a wonderful movie.

I recall hearing a story about a mother who told Miyazaki that her daughter watched Totoro every day. He was appalled. He told her the whole point of the movie was getting outside and playing and observing the natural world, not sitting in front of a TV.