To-to-ro? You’re Totoro!   Leave a comment

Tonari no Totoro – My Neighbour Totoro – 1988
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Country: Japan
Runtime: 86 mins
Music: Joe Hisaishi

Tonari no Totoro is an animated film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki: Founder of Studio Ghibli, who is one of the biggest icons in Anime industry. Also, Miyazaki is one of the greatest anime directors of all time simply because of his unblemished creative vision, the simplicity, the affluence; the dreamlike impression marked with amazing radiance that grips your heart as you sit in delightful elated reverie.

I got introduced to Studio Ghibli via a superb movie called “Spirited Away” and since then i’m hooked to it. The firm’s logo is character Totoro. Tonari no Totoro is the fourth film of the studio and Totoro ultimately became a well-known icon in Japan.

Set in Rural Japan, Satsuki (10) and Mei (4) move to their new home with their Dad. Their mother is admitted to a nearby hospital and is on the road to recovery. They first encounter small black spirits called susa-atari (Soot balls) which live in dark places. They meet old lady who was the caretaker of the house before they moved in. She has lived in the village all her life and is familiar with all the old folk stories filled with astonishing creatures.

They all settle down in their new home, Satsuki goes to school, the younger sister: Mei remains at home and Mr.Kusakabe is a professor at university. Satsuki is very outgoing and happy person, Mei-very inquisitive, adventurous; Mr. Kusakabe loves his daughters very much and encourages their imaginations.

In the garden, Mei encounters two small creatures (Chu Totoro and Chibi Totoro). She follows them until she falls into a hole of a giant Camphor tree. There she meets a similar giant creature named ‘Totoro’(forest spirit), exhausted she falls asleep on the soft tummy of Totoro and when she wakes up finds Totoro missing and returns home. Her attempts to find the secret hiding place of Totoro goes in vain as the hole which she had fell in had mysteriously disappeared.

On a rainy evening, Mei and Satsuki decide to pick up their father from the bus stop. Satsuki meets Totoro for the first time and offers an umbrella to take cover. Totoro is overjoyed with his new-found gift and in return proudly presents a package of seeds to Satsuki. A cat with a hollow body that serves as a bus (Neko Bus) appears and Totoro embarks on it.

Satsuki and Mei plant the seeds in their garden. In the midnight, Totoro, Chu and Chibi gather around the planted seeds and dance, Mei and Satsuki join them in their little dance, the seeds sprout and grow into a tree. Totoro takes them for a ride over the village on a flying top, they sit on the tallest branch of the tree playing flute.

One day they receive a telegram relating to their mother’s health. Satsuki gets really anxious and yells at Mei, Mei with a cornstick leaves village in hope of seeing her mother.  Satsuki realizing Mei’s absence asks Totoro for help. Totoro summons Neko Bus and they finally locate Mei. They visit the hospital, sitting on a tree branch, watch their mother who has now fully recovered from her long-illness. Mei drops the cronstick at bottom of a window opening. The sisters happily return and prepare to welcome home their mother.

The story is very simple, may not be as impressive as other Miyazaki films but it perfectly captures what it is to be a child. It is so well directed and animated that it articulates about the individuality of characters, giving them room to grow, to flourish, to believe in what they do. Mei stands apart; brimming with dynamic exuberance, the innocence, inquisitiveness, and expressions – Flawless. It’s pure bliss that radiates throughout the film. Joe Hisaishi’s soundtrack is also very inspiring.

Totoro is very special and in that it frees the viewer to be a child again and to contemplate the world through a perspective that we have perhaps forgotten.

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