The mute and friendly Totoro is a welcome change from the wise-cracking, loud, and obnoxious characters dominating kids films these days...
By Ned Jordan
Sisters 10-year-old Satsuki and 4-year-old Mei move into an old country house
with their father while their mother convalesces in a nearby hospital. Their
suspicions that the house is haunted (in a good, friendly spirit sort of way)
are soon proven when Mei finds a giant forest spirit living in the enormous
camphor tree at the edge of their yard. The benign mute spirit that they name
Totoro watches over the trees in the area and soon takes to visiting the girls
and watching over them as well, and comes to their aid when Mei becomes lost
trying to walk to the hospital on her own to visit her mother.
I imagine that a knowledge of Japanese folklore would help you to fully
appreciate the story in My Neighbor Totoro, but even without that it still
manages to be a delightful and magical tale. This is a film that children will
love, and adults will both enjoy the story and appreciate the fact that this is
one of those rare children's films with well-developed and genuine characters
rather than the typical loud and obnoxious catch-phrase spouting characters
dominating children's movies these days. The animation is wonderful, especially
in the way it paints the idyllic country setting of the girls' home. It's the
kind of place that you'd like to visit on a warm summer day just to lie back and
daydream, and you'll enjoy visiting it again with each viewing of the film.
The Special Edition DVD release of the film includes a second disc of special
features. The most interesting of these are the interviews with filmmaker Hayao
Miyazaki and insight into the sources of inspiration for the story, characters,
and location of the film.