|Fig 1 - My Neighbor Totoro Poster|
I had no prior knowledge about My Neighbor Totoro other than the fact that I'd seen plushies of the title character more than any other of Ghibli's. Heck, he's the mascot for the company. He's in the first shot of every Studio Ghibli film. So I did admittedly have some expectation that this one might be something special. And it absolutely is.
The film begins with father Tatsuo (Shigesato Itoi) and his daughters Mei (Chika Sakamoto) and Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka) en-route to their new home in the countryside. We follow the girls as they explore the house and watch as the small family adjusts to their new dwellings, whilst in the background the girls' mother is stuck in hospital for reasons unknown to us. Eventually, whilst exploring the surrounding garden, Mei stumbles upon a small white creature which leads her on the path to the 'inner-sanctum' of the gargantuan tree close-by, where she finds herself face to face with the adorably rotund fluff-beast, Totoro.
|Fig 2 - My Neighbor Totoro - Mei chases Lil' Totoro|
All of which was achieved in no small part by the art direction of Kazuo Oga, whose mesmerizing landscapes have become a staple of the style Ghibli is known for. And the animation department who caught every emotional cue as would be expected of the studio. In particular, the way in which Mei interacts with Totoro's tail upon meeting him really gave a sense of his mass and texture. Every frame seemed to capture the sensation of bear-hugging this mythical fluff-ball and I got a true feel for the character the more he was played around with.
It was a lot of fun overall, perhaps not as much fun as I have come to expect from Ghibli, but as this was one of their initial features it should be forgiven. Like the Coen Brothers of animation, Ghibli jumps from genre to genre, often straying entirely from a traditional 'plot' without sacrificing it's core style. And if rumours of Miyazaki's return are true, the journey might not be over just yet.
Fig. 1 My Neighbor Totoro Poster (1988) From: My Neighbor Totoro - Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Fig. 2 My Neighbor Totoro Screenshot (1988) From: My Neighbor Totoro - Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki