My Neighbor Totoro: Review

Grades:

1 Star: A pile of crap that’s best forgotten.

2 Stars: It’s ok. Some good and some bad, but not enough good to make it good.

3 Stars: A good movie that you can enjoy, but it’s not great.

4 Stars: A classic that will stand the test of time.

Movies stick with us for different reasons. Some make us cry and we feel the intense drama. Some make us laugh so hard until it hurts. Some movies can do both of them and one of those is My Neighbor Totoro. A legendary film from the great Hiro Miyazaki. When I do my list of top one hundred favorite movies of all-time, this one will be way up there.

Characters

Meet Satsuki, she is a rambunctious child who lives with her father while her mother recuperates in the hospital. Mei is her younger sister who is such a sweetheart. She has so much energy and cuteness that shines through. They live near a kind lady who they name granny. The voice acting is impeccable. No one over does it and every line is delivered with perfect pitch and timing. The characters are like the ones you usually see in a Miyazaki movie, the understanding dad, the wonderful mom, and the relatable and cute kids. Does this take away from the characters? Nope, they are so real and likable, you don’t even notice. They are normal people who we can relate to, and see the world through Satsuki and Mei’s eyes is quite an experience. Totoro and his companions are great. They have personality and great design. You will never forget the cat bus. Yes, you heard me, a kitty cat bus! It’s sooo cute you’ll wish there really was a kitty cat bus! Oh the horror! Make it real!

Story

The story is simple and it works. A father and his two kids move out to a small home, so they can visit their mom (his wife), more often. Mei goes into the woods and she finds a creature named Totoro. She tries to convince her sister and father that she found him, but he doesn’t appear. Is this all in Mei’s head? The story does deepen when mom gets sick. Satsuki and Mei try to find a way to see her see if she is ok. This is so relatable to any child. Who wouldn’t want to rush to the hospital to see their mom if she was supposed to go home, but gets sick? Mei and Satsuki also try to find out what is Totoro’s deal. Is he a friend? Watch and see.

Directing

As usual, Miyazaki does his typical perfect job directing the animation with vibrant colors, wonderful character design, and a smart screenplay. I love how Miyazaki makes his characters look like regular people, instead of the typical anime tropes. It makes their situations more relatable. There are quiet moments in this movie that are spectacular. Miyazaki respects the audience’s intelligence. He knows we can handle quiet moments and lets us fill in the blanks on what’s going on. Audiences don’t need zooming cameras and in your face loudness in order to compel us. Give us a good story and characters we can relate to, and we can have the patience to watch any movie.

Screenplay

The screenplay maybe my favorite part of this movie. When Mei tells her dad and Satsuki that she saw Totoro, we could’ve gotten the same, “Sure you did, you are nuts.” tropes we’ve seen a thousand times. Instead, we get a caring father and sister who really want this to be real for Mei. That is such a breath of fresh air to see in a family movie. The story has enough depth, but doesn’t bog down the story with too much plot. Instead, the screenplay focuses on the journey for Satsuki and Mei. This is perfect! It keeps it simple and relatable without drowning out the spirit of what makes this movie so good. It is pure magic. Simple, sweet and gentle. My favorite part of this masterful screenplay is the lack of cynicism. This is an honest and sincere screenplay without a hint of cynicsm in it. This is so refreshing and I wish more screenplays would take this approach. This is one of the best screenplays for any movie, I’ve ever seen. Miyazaki wrote this masterwork of a screenplay and should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for it.

Flaws

I can’t really name any to be honest. Maybe the running time, which is eighty-seven minutes long. I would have loved if this movie had been four hours long! Maybe, that’s the sign of a great movie. It leaves you wanting more! This is a near perfect movie that delights with sights, sounds, heartfelt moments and hearty laughs.

Final Thoughts

My Neighbor Totoro has become a huge cult hit and it is easy to see why. The gorgeous visuals, adorable characters, charming story and sweet tone will make this a family favorite for decades to come. Ninety-nine percent of big Hollywood animated movies pale in comparison to this movie. If you are looking for adorable, and wholesome family entertainment that is also a great movie. Look no further than My Neighbor Totoro, one of the best movies, (not just animated, but movies period), ever made.

My Score: 4 stars. One of the best animated, no, movies PERIOD, of all time. A charming classic that you will love and watch many times without the magic wearing off.

Photo Courtesy of:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toys-games-napping-with-totoro-my-neighbor-totoro-ensky-puzzles/32328880

Why Is Anime So Popular?

In the 21st century, Japanamation (or Japanese Anime), has exploded in popularity. Names like Miyazaki, Hosoda and Shinkai mean as much to animated fans as Pixar does. What is causing this? Let’s take a look!

Different Style

Anime has a distinct style that allows bigger facial expressions and over the top humor that wouldn’t work with western style animation. This can lead to bigger for audiences and it can convey different story telling methods to the audience.

The Forgotton Hollywood Category, Drama.

Let’s face it, Hollywood don’t do good dramas anymore. Some independent movies can do it well, but big budget dramas are almost dead. In Anime though, it’s alive and well. You feel the pain the characters do, movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Your Name and Ponyo will have you in tears when they feel pain, and cheering when they are happy. Drama when it’s done right can be so rewarding.

Less Cynical

Aren’t you tired of cynical movies? Don’t you want movies with real heart and sincere emotions? You get that a lot in anime. Wolf Children is a great example of a loving family who works to stay together and you really know that the family loves each other. It is real and the characters don’t wink at you to let you know it’s a game. This makes you more invested in the story and the characters.

Great Escapism

When you turn on TV or go to You Tube, you can come across so much harsh reality. We all need to deal with it, but too much can bring you down. Watch a sweethearted anime movie. You can see relatable characters overcome obstacles and hardships. You’ll see lots of gentle stories like the Secret World of Arrietty. What a sweet story about a loving family who happen to be small and how they deal with it. You’ll feel so good after you watch it. Forget your problems for over 2 hours and enjoy. There are other movies like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Ponyo that will make you feel great after watching them.

Imagination

Oh the things you can do with animation. Spirited Away is a great example of this. You’ll see creatures you’ve never seen before and a world that will make your sensors go wild. Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbor Totoro are packed with imaginative images that will fill your mind with gorgeous colors, character designs and weird creatures which will blow your mind. You’ll feel like you are on cloud nine seeing all of these incredible images.

Diversity

Anime has a lot of different sub-categories. Some are wild sci-fi, sexy, some are dark and some are wonderful family movies. You don’t get a lot of adult animation in the west (adult swim used to, but not now), anime knows there are fans who crave adult animation. Vampire Hunter D, Death Note and Akira are great adult animes that are smart, dark and edgy for older . Then you got cute and wholesome animes like The Castle in the Sky and Summer Wars that are great for the whole family.

Relatable Characters

No matter how wild the images or creatures, anime gives you very relatable characters. Taki and Mitsuha from Your Name, are typical college kids who are trying their best to get by. Working jobs, going to school and trying to balance their home life. Who can’t relate to that? Even though there is a sci-fi element, the movie never forgets to give us characters we can relate to and care about. Wolf Children is another great example of this. Hana, Yuki and Ame are a typical family. Yuki is a regular housewife who is trying her best to raise her kids on her own. This makes the drama real and we feel for them when something happens. No matter how outrageous the story.

Traditional Animation

Remember when Disney did movies like Aladdin, the Little Mermaid and the Lion King? Nearly all western animated movies are CGI now. Don’t get wrong, I love CGI, but there is something about hand drawn animation that is appealing. The colors are brighter, the textures pop and there is a quiet charm about it. Princess Mononoki, Your Name and A Silent Voice can stun you with beauty in ways CGI can’t. The gorgeous colors that will make your eyes do somersaults and the fluid movement that will cause your brain to work overtime. Hollywood has forgotten that a lot of people still prefer hand drawn animation to CGI. Anime is one of the few places where someone can get that nowadays.

Final Thoughts

For all of the reasons above, Japanese Anime is gathering a huge following in western Countries now. It isn’t just movies or tv shows either. Video games as well are showing a growing interest in anime. Games like Persona 5 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 both have sold over 2 million copies. America is taking notice. JJ Abrams is remaking Your Name, (please let it turn out to be good), and stores like Walmart are carrying more anime. This is great! If you haven’t checked out anime, do yourself a favor and check some out. There is something for everyone. Long live Anime!

Links to some of my favorite anime:

https://www.amazon.com/Your-Name-Blu-ray-Michael-Sinterniklaas/dp/B074R4KSTM/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?crid=14AP5PSLP62RF&keywords=your+name&qid=1556481013&s=gateway&sprefix=your&sr=8-3

Links to Anime becoming popular:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/comicbook.com/anime/amp/2018/05/03/anime-overseas-popularity-study-released/

https://www.infoplease.com/us/arts-entertainment/manga-and-anime-japanese-invasion

TV Shows:

Photo Courtesy of: https://www.snaptubeapp.com/how-to/anime/japanese-anime-movies.html