“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” – My Neighbor Totoro (anime) – 10/10 Tulips

“There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”  ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Fantasy

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: This is very typical Ghibli, with great animation, iconic character designs, and great detail on little things. In short, it looks great!

Dub Vs. Sub: I prefer the original dub to the new Disney dub (there are some sound effects left out, some changes in dialogue), but both are just fine. I also think that they are just as good as the sub.

Summary: Two girls and their father move out to the country, in part because of their mother’s illness which leaves her in the hospital. In their explorations of the house and surrounding area, they discover Totoro- a magical being that lives in the forest, who helps care for them.

Review: My Neighbor Totoro is perhaps *the* iconic Ghibli film, at least in Japan. I have managed to keep from seeing it until very recently, when a friend loaned me her copy of it. I think it’s a good thing, since I’m at an age where I can look at childhood with nostalgia and wonder, just like these girls explore their world with wide eyes.  They’re thrilled to be able to get an old house, full of places to explore and things to do with a little bit of imagination- and as they discover, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye. Soot spirits and cat buses and Totoros live their lives around them, unseen to adults but enchanting the children with the wonders of life.

At the same time, it has the subtle theme of children trying to come to terms with their mother’s illness. Both girls love their mother, and want her to come home- dealing with it is hard. Mei has a hard time having any member of her family be gone from her- she can’t even stay at a neighbor’s house for a full school day without needing to see her sister. Her sister is just as panicked and worried about their mother, and when the movie takes a serious turn, things become more complicated when Mei decides to go on her own to try and make their mom better.

Like in most Ghibli films, there’s an environmentalist theme that runs through it, justified in this case because wild and abandoned places hold a fascination for children, that there might be something hiding in the next tree or living in an attic. Being out in the forest provides a wonderfu backdrop for a story where most anything can happen. One of the most fascinating scenes is when the girls wait for acorns they planted to grow, and Totoro appears one night to help them out; the strength of their hopes and a little touch of ‘magic’ makes them sprout, and brings about a ision of what it would look like if allowed to grow, and grow, and grow! The scene is entrancing in both its simplicity and its power. Granny also teaches the girls that the home-grown vegetables are good for you and make you healthy… so when Mei decides to visit her mom, it’s an ear of corn that she grasps with all her heart.

Totoro also makes an enchanting playfellow for the children, with him opening their eyes to amazing things, and they in turn showing him interesting things from their own world. An incident with an umbrella turns into a meeting with a cat-bus and the sight of a forest sprouting in a night, and all ends with music being played in the branches of an old and venerable tree. The friendship that grows between the three is adorable, and Mei’s disappearance brings out how friends help each other in their times of need! The sheer amount of joy Totoro has when helping Mei’s sister is astounding. It’s a reminder that friends should love to help each other, and that sort of thing is what friends are for. Everything about this film brings about ideas and ideals of friendship and imagination, while still dealing tactfully with a subject that can make children’s lives harder – and even with that, these kids still manage to find joy in their everyday lives.

Overall, this is a story about children that will bring about a touch of nostaligia in adults.

Recommended: All ages! The “worst” content is a scene where the father and two daughters are bathing together, something that is culturally acceptable in Japan. Unless you’re offended by a one-second glimpse of baby-butt, it’s a great show for everyone.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Spirited Away (anime)

Natsume’s Book of Friends (anime and manga)

Cencoroll (anime)

Dennou Coil (anime)

Miyori no Mori (manga)

Kiki’s Delivery Service (anime)

The Cat Returns (anime)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rocklobsterjwt
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 15:25:27

    Totoro is one of my favorite Ghibli films of all time. I really enjoyed it, especially the opening song. Glad you finally got around to watching it!


  2. TWWK
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 20:51:46

    Heck yeah! My Neighbor Totoro is awesome – one of the great animated films ever. I never tire of watching it.


  3. GoodbyeNavi
    Feb 27, 2012 @ 11:59:53

    I really enjoyed My Neighbor Totoro (I don’t own it weirdly enough) and its definitely nostalgic. I could see myself as a young girl being intrigued by a fantastic old house and beautiful old trees.


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