Monday Movies: My Neighbour Totoro

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My Neighbour Totoro was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and is the third animated feature film from the critically acclaimed Studio Ghibli. It stars Noriko Hidaka and Chika Sakamoto as Satsuki and Mei, two sisters living with their father in rural Japan. The story centres around the two young girls as they move to a new house to be closer to the hospital where their mother is currently living. Satsuki and Mei try to make the best of their situation through a positive outlook, and a curiousity about the world around them. This curiousity leads the younger sister Mei to stumble across a magical world within the forest inhabited by various friendly spirits including the “keeper of the forest” Totoro.

The films core message is the importance of family. It showcases how important they are to one’s well being, and how loved ones are essential to getting through tough times. This is seen through the young Mei and her relationship with her older sister Satsuki, her father, and even her neighbour “Nanny”. Each of these relationships takes on a different form. Her father as Mei’s roots in reality. Her sister as her role model and motherly figure. Finally, her neighbour Nanny as a support to Mei’s childlike wonder and beliefs.

The idea of childhood also plays an important role in the film. The perspectives, showing the vast forest and giant trees, the wide open fields, and the bright sunny sky all reflect a childlike perspective, and a sort of nostalgia. Further, the forest spirits, and all their magic could only be observed by children. This contrasts with Satsuki’s role as a motherly figure to her little sister, and shows how even with responsibilities in life we could all benefit from a little fun and adventure.

Another prevalent concept throughout the movie is that of nature and its beauty and majesty. From the beginning shots of the beautiful rural countryside, to the little girls collecting acorns, and the incredibly beautiful tree planting sequence, My Neighbour Totoro carries a strong environmental message along with its themes of family and childhood.

This is one of the most beautifully animated films I have ever seen. I think its a shame that so many companies have switched to entirely CG films, when hand drawn animation is so breathtakingly beautiful. Each individual shot was masterfully crafted down to the smallest detail. I can honestly say that films like this gave me a new appreciation for hand drawn films, and the more simplistic elements of storytelling.

The main issue that I observe among hand drawn animations is the issue of flatness. Some just appear so one dimensional that it effects the overall feel of the story itself. This was not an issue in My Neighbour Totoro. Instead, the bright vibrant colours, and intricate detailing of each cell helped to give it more dimension and dynamism.

The opening song to the film is very cute and similar to anything you would find in a childrens movie, but what I want to talk about is the score afterwards. Each individual track is beautifully crafted to reflect innocence and a sort of nostalgia that is also shown throughout the story. It is not overwhelming, but instead perfectly matches each scene.

The story is fairly simple, and there are no major plot twists, or villains. This simple story however, is made up for by the animation, and voice acting. The characters match so well with their voice actors, that sometimes its hard to believe that those voices are not actually coming out of those animations. My Neighbour Totoro is short sweet and charming, proving once again that Japanese animation can make absolutely anything beautiful.

Grade: A

Directed by: Hayao Myazaki

Starring: Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Sumi Shimamoto, Hitoshi Takagi, Toshiyuki Amagasa, Tanie Kitabayashi

Runtime: 1 h 26 min

Rating: G

Thank you for reading my review. I really hope that you enjoyed.

Cheers and much love

-Danielle

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