Monday, November 18, 2013

Film Review: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

My Neighbor Totoro (Review)
Japan/1988
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...the whole family can and should enjoy thanks to the clean content, great humor, adorable visuals, and genuine sense of adventure and dreamlike creativity."

A university professor, Tatsuo Kusakabe, and his daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move into an old house in rural Japan to be close to their hospitalized mother. Satsuki and Mei, however, end up stumbling upon and interacting with the friendly spirits of the woods.

My Neighbor Totoro is light on plot but heavy on theme, heart, and ingenuity. The story follows Satsuki and Mei as they live there everyday lives until they stumble upon a friendly spirit they call Totoro. From there on, they have an unbelievable magical experience, and witness the impossible -- whether it be awkwardly spending time with Totoro at a bus stop or climbing giant trees and conjuring beautiful melodies. The only real conflict in the film appears during the final act, but with great suspense and emotion, as well as creativity. The ending is heartwarming and reassuring, a very positive conclusion.

My Neighbor Totoro is fairly simple, and, honestly, that's not a bad thing. The story is pure magic, playing out like a fairytale. It blends lighthearted humor, adorable visuals, and a light sense of adventure to create a smooth and consistent tale -- a very enjoyable and entertaining tale. Both Satsuki and Mei are lovable and adorable, and Totoro is equally sweet, despite that cheesy, almost creepy smile. These visuals and characters alone contribute greatly to the heartwarming feeling of the film. My Neighbor Totoro is one of the only films that almost brings tears to my eyes for more reasons than one. The themes, such as family and environmental, are subtle yet powerful.

The voice acting is great from the entire cast. They -- particularly Noriko Hidaka and Chika Sakamoto, who play the siblings -- capture emotion perfectly, such as sadness, happiness, and especially enthusiasm. Studio Ghibli delivers a film with great production values, from the enchanting soundtrack to the beautiful visuals; on that note, the soundtrack is perfect for the film and its themes, and it also works well on its own. Hayao Miyazaki has ingenious writing and direction with My Neighbor Totoro.

Overall, My Neighbor Totoro is a masterpiece of animation. This is a film that genuinely has a lot of heart. Maybe it's the nostalgia of my childhood, but it's almost like a moment of reflection and introversion. This is a film that the whole family can and should enjoy thanks to the clean content, great humor, adorable visuals, and genuine sense of adventure and dreamlike creativity.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Safe for all audiences.

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