Sunday, September 30, 2018

REVIEW: My Neighbor Totoro (anime movie)

[This post includes spoilers.]

My Neighbor Totoro is a fantasy movie. I watched it (or, more accurately, re-watched it) as part of the Fathom Events Studio Ghibli Fest.

Satsuki (11 years old), Mei (4 years old), and their father, a university professor, move to an old house in the country in order to be closer to the hospital where the girls' mother is currently staying (and also potentially for the mother's health once she's out of the hospital?). It's never stated what illness the mother is recovering from, but whatever it is has been going on for some time. The girls are holding up fairly well, but there is an undercurrent of fear that their mother is going to die.

While exploring the area near their new house, Mei discovers a path that leads to a giant furry being she calls Totoro. Satsuki eventually meets Totoro as well, and their new friend helps them through a difficult period.

I consider this to be one of my top three Studio Ghibli films (of the ones I've seen), and it's probably the most young child-friendly of my favorites. The only scene I could even vaguely imagine parents objecting to is the family bathing scene (Satsuki, Mei, and their father bathe together in one scene). This is the gentlest of the Studio Ghibli films I've seen, with nothing you could really call a villain - the movie's tension comes from the girls' fears about their mother's health and Satsuki's worry and guilt over something that happens after she argues with her sister. In case you're worried, the entire family makes it through the movie just fine, and the closing credits indicate that the girls' mother does finally get to go home again.

From an adult perspective, the family's new home looked worryingly rickety, although I suppose there was only one part that was for sure falling apart. Children, I'm betting, would be more likely to focus on the adventure of it all - a new house to explore, with soot sprites hiding just out of sight, a hidden forest pathway, and an enormous tree, not to mention Totoro and the...little Totoros? And the Catbus! The early scenes, in which the girls were exploring their new home and screaming/yelling to scare away anything that might jump out at them, made me laugh - Mei reminded me so much of my youngest niece.

I loved the beautiful scenery, the giant Totoro, and even the Catbus (even though it also freaked me out a little - living furry seats, eek). If you're looking for something gentle and beautiful, with a bit of low-key family drama, I can definitely recommend this movie.


The Fathom Events showing began with a "Dark Dark Woods," a short, dialogue-free film about a princess who's tired of her tight daily schedule and just wants to have fun and spend some time with her parents. I thought it was cute.

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