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Review: My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

This movie appears to have been studio Ghibli’s earliest, or at least the defining film for that studio. At any rate, the totoro logo which introduces all Ghibli films is introduced here.

Studio Ghibli films are generally considered wonderful. More than the simple beauty of the art, they have a wonderful perspective on the world and events which tugs at the heart. It’s difficult to properly describe, but it has ramifications as to the behavior of the characters: they respond to the supernatural with fascination and wonder instead of fear, and it’s an incredibly appealing outlook.

This film has that quality in spades; you can’t watch it without fully empathizing with the characters, and it’s easy to get completely immersed in their world. However, the plot seems incomplete. It’s not that anything is really unresolved (though some points are only really tied up with still frames during the end credits); it’s more that once it’s over, you look back and notice that very little actually happened. Actually, this may be my own perception intruding; the anime I watch is usually serial with an aggregate length of a minimum of 6 hours, so I expect multiple complex, detailed, intertwining storylines. The fact that I can capture the entire plot in three sentances may seem more problematic than it actually is because of this expectation. The film is worth watching for the atmosphere alone, but the simplicity of the plot does stand out.

One interesting thing about this movie is that it’s quite difficult to place in time or space. It takes place in a deeply rural agricultural area, but crops like rice, cucumbers, and corn could be grown anywhere in the country. Similarly, there exist bicycles, buses, and telephones, but I would be willing to accept a date for the series anywhere in the 100 year period beginning around 1930 (excepting the war years).

Overall, it’s well worth seeing, but more as an insight into the early works of Ghibli than as a wonderful masterpiece.

Genre: fantasy
Emotion: in tune with nature

BTFS: .68

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