Film Review: IMDbinge -My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Catherine's 2016 Challenge - watch all 250 of IMDb's top rated films. Today she reviews My Neighbor Totoro, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, currently no. 128 on the list.
The Japanese Studio Ghibli has been making award-winning animated films for decades and has a reputation for the weird and the wonderful – even the 2013 documentary on the studio is titled ‘The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness’, and for anyone who is familiar with the world they create, such a kingdom it is. At roughly 118 minutes, My Neighbor Totoro is slightly shorter than some of the studio’s other features and not quite as unusual as those such as Spirited Away, one of its most celebrated and famous productions. With the English dubbed version featuring the voices of Dakota and Elle Fanning, My Neighbor Totoro follows two young sisters who move to the country with their father, leaving their mother at a hospital in the city as she recovers from a long illness. As they soon find out the countryside is full of magical presences, the girls immediately take delight in the fact that they think their house is haunted by ‘soot sprites’ – cute black balls of fluff that scurry or float away when anyone comes near.
Like many of Studio Ghibli’s features, the draw of the story comes not only from the elements of wonder but also from the more emotional, human elements of the narrative. Even in such a delightful exploration of spirits and wondrous animals, the shadow of their mother’s illness lurks as a looming presence and other fearful aspects go awry. It is by no means as harrowing as some other Ghibli films, especially those that are set during wartime, nor is it the weirdest but it has a child-like wonder that makes My Neighbor Totoro a perfect Ghibli film for children – those who are just beginning to be introduced into the wonderful world of anime.
Although I have to say that this is, by a long way, not my favourite our their films. That is not to say it isn’t fantastic, as pretty much all of them are, and it has widely received critical acclaim and the late, great Roger Ebert listed it in one of his ‘Great Movies’ lists. Perhaps the problem is just that I waited a little too long to watch it. Of all animated films it seems silly to suggest that Ghibli films are just for kids; they certainly aren’t. I just think I would have enjoyed this particular one slightly more at a younger age because it lacked some of the darkness I’ve become used to in their films. However, it is an enchanting watch and, just as a side note, the ending theme song is really excellent.