My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro

totoroSisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe have just moved to a new house with their father to be closer to their ailing mother, who is sick in a nearby hospital. As she is exploring her new surroundings, Mei discovers an unusual nearby inhabitant – a furry raccoon-like spirit called a totoro. The two girls come to discover that there’s more than just one of them as they are introduced to a fantastical side of the world that they never knew existed.

My Neighbour Totoro was the second film to ever be produced by Studio Ghibli – it’s an enchanting and heartwarming tale that is not only my favourite Ghibli film of all time, but is up there with some of the best films I’ve ever seen.

Just because it’s an early Ghibli release doesn’t mean that there’s any compromises to quality. The magical creatures in particular are well-drawn and completely adorable. The lush forest and dark night visuals are such a feast to the senses that I can clearly conjure them up in my mind’s eye even now. Hisaishi Jo’s musical score is so complimentary and vivid, really keeping that magical quality throughout the story.

totoro 3The characters, both human and not, are absolutely fascinating. There is something very real and honest about Satsuki and Mei and how they impact each other as sisters – from Satsuki’s protective instincts and Mei’s inherent curiosity to even Kanta’s young, boyish characteristics. I adored the totoro’s and their amusing antics, and it’s no wonder that they’re so popular in the UK and the US as well as in Japan. Totoro in Japan is the equivalent of Winnie-the-Pooh in Britain (to prove it, he also has a little cameo of his own in Toy Story 3 – yes, I spotted it and went crazy). Totoro is a mascot in his own right, and I haven’t even begun to discuss the cat bus. I wish I had my own cat bus. I wish it picked me up from work on weekdays.

totoro2Though the pace could be considered slow to some, there was just so much else going on that I barely noticed it. In some places it has a dreamlike quality, and in others it was generally funny (totoro at the bus stop in the rain springs to mind). It would also switch back from this fantastical wonderland and back to ‘real life’, with Mei determined as only a little girl can be to bring some fresh corn to her sick mother despite setbacks in her treatment meaning the sisters aren’t allowed to see her.

I recommend everyone treat their inner child to My Neighbour Totoro. It’s delightfully charming, short and sweet, and has a cast of undeniably loveable characters. And a cat bus. Did I mention the cat bus?