Reviewing Totoro is tough for me because with a film that’s loved by millions and which has enthralled audiences for decades – what’s left to say, right? 🙂
My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)
But I love it and so here we go anyway!
While Nausicaa is actually my favourite Miyazaki film, My Neighbour Totoro has a few similarities such as its environmentalism and female leads, but what seems most satisfying to me as a viewer is that the drama is located around a (seemingly) small event.
(Small compared to the world-changing or boldly magical aspects of many other Miyazaki films at least.)
But for sisters Satsuki and Mei, moving to a rural landscape and coming to deal with the illness of their mother is clearly an example of incredibly high stakes. (Even more so when young Mei sets out with her corn and we get those dusk-search scenes that are so powerful.)
Obviously, Totoro and his friends really provide a sweet side to the magic, along with adding a lot of humour, but I think it’s probably the bright-eyed nature of the kids themselves as they roam the beautiful, pastoral settings and explore, that really makes the film endearing for me.
Internet theories about a darker undertone to this one aside (even with a sad story as possible inspiration for one plot point) I always see Tororo as warm and entirely uplifting. It’s the kind of film that makes me think of a child’s memory of a place – idealised and comforting, everything safe to explore.
So, on the off chance that you haven’t seen Totoro – definitely watch it!
And again, if you’re not familiar with its history – Ghibli released this and the gut-wrenching Grave of the Fireflies at the same time in 1988 and the ‘double a-side’ really helped cement the studio.
It’s since become an absolutely mammoth industry – my favourite example of Totoro‘s reach isn’t just the merch or the global adulation, but when the house was built for an expo back in 2005 I think.