I’ve seen quite a few Studio Ghibli films recently, including my previous favorite, Spirited Away. With a goal to watch all of their movies, I decided to watch this one next, as Totoro’s Internet presence was immense. I would see Totoro scattered all across the Internet, not knowing what he was or where he came from. The fact that I found this film is awesome by itself, but I now see why Totoro is such a celebrated character. Keep in mind that my reviews are spoiler-free, no need to worry.
My Neighbor Totoro begins with a family, consisting of a father, Tatsuo Kusakabe, and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, moving into an old house in a rural area, surrounded by forest. This house is nearby a hospital, where their mother, Yasuko Kusakabe, remains while she recovers from an illness or an injury perhaps, the movie never gives a backstory to the family. I would like to have known why the family moved out in the first place, or why their mother was in the hospital. You’re immediately introduced to the personalities of these two girls when they arrive at the house, curious and playful.
The character named in the title of the movie, “Totoro”, is nowhere to be seen until he is discovered in the forest with his two furry companions, resembling a smaller version of himself. Totoro is any child’s dream; a large, furry animal that appears to always be in a happy mood, possibly explaining the Internet’s love for the character, which I could totally understand after watching the movie all the way through. There was also a catbus. Seriously, who doesn’t like a catbus?
The story develops rather sporadically, some segments being slower than others, while others speeding on right by. Avoiding giving out too many details, I can say that the climax of the movie was quite generic, but Totoro gives it a twist, setting this movie apart from others. Without the introduction of Totoro, the movie would have been quite bland. Although his name is in the title, Totoro does not sow up in nearly as many scenes as I wished he had, but instead made small appearances that, for the most part, did not have a serious impact on the direction of the movie.
I should also mention that the style of animation here was excellent compared to other 80’s anime. That’s debatable considering the fact that I’m watching it in glorious 1080p. Heck, it even seemed a bit better than some of the stuff I’ve seen in the 2000’s. I don’t want to directly compare this to Spirited Away, but the fact that I liked the animation better in this film than in Spirited Away, which was released about 20 years afterwards, really says something.
Although the movie may have been an enjoyable ride all the way through, it ends quite abruptly, leaving a fair amount of loose ends untouched. We never knew why their mother was in the hospital in the first place, which you can learn using outside resources, but I can’t recall that ever being mentioned in the actual movie. Overall, the charming characters, combined with the expertise of Ghibli animating and a cute story, make this one enjoyable package. I encourage you to watch the film and experience it for yourself, especially if you’re a fan of Ghibli films.