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My Neighbour Totoro

 

Year: 1988 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC U Cert – Universal 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki 
Starring: Toshiyuki Amagasa  
An image from My Neighbour Totoro
Review:

A Studio Ghibli classic directed and written by Miyazaki, My Neighbour Totoro features some of Ghibli’s most memorable and loveable fantasy creatures. The gentle, and giant, spirit Totoro is not only the logo of the studio but one of the most popular characters in Japanese animation.

The story focuses on two well-rounded young girls (Satsuki and Mei) whose mother is in hospital, leaving just their father to deal with moving them into a new home; one which is inhabited by little soot spirits, magical but benign creatures. The title ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ hints at this feeling of friendliness, as the local woodland spirits that the girls encounter later are not wild and frightening but really their helpful neighbours. Mei comes across Totoro when exploring the forest outside their home, following the lead of one of his mini companions, a baby Totoro. She then falls asleep on Totoro’s warm belly, waking up to discover that he has disappeared. Their father is, unlike Hollywood clichés, a friendly, reasonable and trusting man who listens and believes in their stories as the two girls soon form a beautiful bond of assistance and love with this mystical creature.

This is a heart-warming and magical film, which, as it moves through the plot at a gentle pace, takes the viewer on a playful and moving journey, exploring the relationships which blossom in the benign world of Miyazaki’s imagination.

Alice Saunders

Enduring as one of director Hayao Miyazaki’s most heart-warming animations, My Neighbour Totoro is a charming and beautifully crafted tale of discovery.

Set in late 1950s Japan, the story follows Satsuki and Mei, two young girls who move with their father to the country in order to live closer to their mother, who is recovering from illness in hospital. Immediately, the playful sisters discover that not everything is as it seems in their new home; strange, black sprites run rampant in the attic and, while playing outside, Mei discovers three rabbit-like creatures with an affinity for acorns, the largest of which she lovingly names Totoro on account of his bizarre roars. The creatures turn out to be friendly spirits of the forest and become close companions of the two girls. However, when worries about their bed-bound mother increase and Mei goes missing, Satsuki must seek Totoro’s help in bringing her sister back.

My Neighbour Totoro excels in being whimsical and engaging without the need of sustained threat and perilous situations. The sheer cuteness of Totoro alone was enough for Studio Ghibli (whose other film works include Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke) to use him as a mascot in their company logo. But the main draw is in watching the youthful innocence of two young girls exploring and interacting with the wonders around them, whether they are clinging to Totoro’s chest as he flies through the air, or riding a magical cat across the exquisitely drawn countryside. As a film, it is funny, sentimental, captivating: the perfect way to relax after a hard day of work.

Joe Baker

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Screenings of this film:

2013/2014 Autumn Term (35mm)
2019/2020 Autumn Term (35mm)