"Thank you for all you've done for Mei. Please look after her and protect her forever."
My Neighbor Totoro
Released: April 1988
Written by Hayao Miyazaki
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
If you've heard of Studio Ghibli, then you've heard of My Neighbor Totoro. This is their most widely known film. It is a fairy tale. It has some adventure. It has magic. It has an abundance of cuteness. It is for kids. The plot is fairly simple.
A father and his two children move into a somewhat dilapidated house in a remote and rural area to be close to their wife and mother who is recuperating at a near by hospital from an illness that is never named. The father is stressed by having to handle the children, his job which is now a long bus and train ride away and worry for his wife but he is loving and indulgent of the girls. The children, also fearful regarding their mother, spend much of the time exploring their new environs with all the enthusiasm and gusto of youth.
Mei, the younger, and then Satsuki encounter a woodland spirit called Totoro and befriend him. He is big. He is furry. He is loud. He is magic. He is above all, cute. They also meet his friends; some miniature totoros and the most odd and to me disturbing 12 legged cat bus.
The main drama in the movie revolves around the childhood fear of losing one or both parents. Dad being delayed and missing his bus. Mom getting sicker. Mei getting lost. All reflecting the one big fear that all children have. It is when these fears become the strongest for the girls that Totoro and his allies become most active in order to help and soothe them. Which of course makes us love Totoro, and his mile wide grin, all the more.
As I've said, this movie is aimed squarely at kids who the world over have loved and will love it. As and adult it is certainly endearing and watchable but it isn't complex dramatically.
*I was curious so I looked up exactly what a Totoro is. Apparently it is based on a creature from Ainu folklore. The Ainu being the indigenous people of the Japanese islands who now live mostly on the northern island of Hokkaido. The Totoro or Koropokkuru lives in groves of Butterbur plants and use their leaves to shelter from the rain, explaining Tororo's leaf umbrella. They bring good luck.*