MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
(Tonari no Totoro)
My Neighbor Totoro is one of Hayao Miyazakis best films. It was his first venture into the genre of shoujo anime animation that features young girls which almost all of his subsequent films do. My Neighbor Totoro is mostly a film about a love of childhood imagination of exploring a new house, of imaginary creatures, of finding secret hiding places at the bottom of the garden. Beneath these delights, Miyazaki touches on some genuinely adult emotions the girls abandoned alone fearfully waiting for their fathers bus to return or the panic after the arrival of the telegram when the mother is believed to be in a critical condition. (Miyazaki says that Totoro was very much a reflection of his own childhood when his own mother was very ill).
The emergence of the fantastic comes with utter charm the tiny soot creatures (which would make a later reappearance in Spirited Away) scurrying through the house; the comically bizarre appearance of the strange ghost creatures that Mei follows into the undergrowth; her discovery of the giant Totoro and the innocent play they engage in as she rolls about with abandon on its furred stomach. Especially lovely is the appearance of Totoro as the girls wait at the bus stop, Satsuki lending him an umbrella and her hilarious reactions to Totoros puzzling over the raindrops dripping onto the umbrella from the tree above, and then the appearance of a creature that is sort of a combination of a bus and the Cheshire Cat, something so out there that it leaves the entire audience momentarily dumbfounded. One of the great joys of the film is that Totoro and the creatures just are Hayao Miyazaki sees no need to explain their nature or their eccentric behaviour there is a wonderfully eccentric little nonsense scene where the children and creatures dance in the garden and leap up over a tree on a spinning top. The ending where Totoro and the cat bus come to Satsukis aid in finding the missing Mei is magical and absolutely lovely.
My Neighbor Totoro is laidback when it comes to plot mostly it is a film about friendships, about childhood imagination and about children dealing with strong and disturbing emotions. One of the great strengths that has matured throughout Hayao Miyazakis films as he has begun to find his feet as an animator is the contemplative beauty of the animation, of landscapes created for the pure beauty of doing so. My Neighbor Totoro comes filled with an exceptionally realized depiction of country life and the very ordinariness of the house, the surroundings and life amongst it. It is a beautifully simple and unassuming film. As a childrens film, it is absolutely perfect.