You’ve probably read this in my Miyazaki reviews possibly a thousand times, and I know if you say something enough it loses its meaning, but, who gives a crap? Miyazaki is a genius. There’s nothing else I can say. Words in the human language can’t express how brilliant Miyazaki is. Should I apologize for repeating this over and over in every review? I wouldn’t have to if you ever saw a film from the director. “My Neighbor Totoro” is the pure essence of Miyazaki. A man with a true clutch on the child spirit and imagination. He knows children, he knows how to touch children’s core emotions, and he uses that to express his wildest machinations. “My Neighbor Totoro” is without a doubt one of the sweetest and most heartbreaking animated films I’ve ever seen. Bar none.
Never has fantasy been such a ripe and sharp metaphor for childhood trauma, and Miyazaki takes that emotion and uses it to compose a simple but sweet animated adventure. Don’t you hate it when you move in to a new house, and you accidentally discovered you’ve moved next to an enchanted forest housing a trio of cat-like creatures? Well, it happens to Satsuki and Mei, two sisters whom have just moved in with their dad to a large house that they’ve heard is haunted. There, they experience certain oddities like the dust bunnies, until one day when the youngest, Mei, discovered a small rabbit-like creature walking along a path, and then the adventure begins. “My Neighbor Totoro” has become a facet of American kids films that not many notice, nor can they really explain where it’s from. Originally a poor contender in the box-office, “Totoro” experienced posthumous success after its dolls of the principal character began selling out. Much like many of Miyazaki’s creations, the film is filled with sheer wonder and also utter menace as these two children basically explore this new world before them, and in many ways learn to come to terms with life, and age as they experience a life-changing turmoil. And like many Miyazaki films, the relationships are genuine.
The characters, and the interplay between them is so utterly realistic, and engrossing the line between fiction and reality slowly fades and you’re drawn in. Miyazaki paints these two girls as sisters with an unspoken tight-knit bond, where they explore this new chapter of their lives with stride. The chemistry and emotions between Satsuki and Mei is so fun to watch and they’re often very endearing, Mei imitating her big sister’s mannerisms and words while feeding her own curiosity, while Satsuki looks after her and comes of age in the process. Miyazaki touches upon human emotion with sheer ease, he knows how to communicate with core emotions of family, life, and death, and he invents these lands as ways to connect to childhood trauma and obstacles in life that ease their pain and the same can be said for “Totoro”. Only when moving in to a new house and coming to terms with their mother’s sickness does Totoro and his two companions suddenly appear.
These creatures could be a built up manifestation of their emotions, a sort of ease to the pain of their sick mother in the hospital much like a child clinging to a teddy bear or inventing an imaginary friend. Totoro is an utterly adorable and beautiful creation of Miyazaki that’s become the flagship symbol for Studio Ghibli, but acts also as a guide for these two girls in helping them learn about life with simple growls and yawns. Every inch of “Totoro” is never disingenuous, and Miyazaki once again captures what its like to be a child in spite of the time period. Miyazaki does it yet again with a simple but beautiful portrait of childhood trauma and potential loss transformed in to a bittersweet adventure in to a far off land experiencing magnificent creatures. “My Neighbor Totoro” is an excellent film, and a highly suggested family feature.