RogerBW's Blog

Tonari no Totoro 19 September 2018

1988 fantasy: AniDB, vt "My Neighbor Totoro". Perhaps some time in the 1950s, a university professor and his two young daughters move to the countryside to be near his hospitalised wife; the house and woods prove to be full of magical creatures.

This is a story with no villains, and with almost no conflict; and yet it manages to maintain interest and dramatic tension. In part this is because of the absolutely beautiful artwork (which gave a great boost to the career of Oga Kazuo, the art director); Miyazaki is a notoriously hard taskmaster, but the results are superb, particularly the changing colours and textures of the sky, and the design and movements of younger sister Mei, who's clearly modelled from the life while following anime conventions of expression.

But mostly, I think, it's because one becomes instantly involved in the lives of these people, and their wonder as they learn about the local countryside and the things living in it. Even before the explicitly fantastic begins, there's a sequence with the wind blowing round the house at night that effectively shows how the mundane can still be magical, and vice versa. This is obviously less of a leap if you're already familiar with Shintoist principles and Japanese animism in general but it shouldn't be much challenge for anyone with a sense of wonder.

This is one of the things I show to people who think they don't like Japanese animation because all they've seen is psychic teenagers, giant fighting robots and atommic xplosions (not that there's anything wrong with that).

This film was intended to be released in parallel with Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. Somehow one does not picture them as an effective double bill.

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 02:53pm on 19 September 2018

    Spirited Away was the first Miyazaki I watched. Part way through I had to give up on all pre-conceptions of what anything in it might be about. The jumping lamp carrier just had me going "I surrender! I will just watch and marvel!".

  2. Posted by Chris Suslowicz at 03:21pm on 19 September 2018

    I thought it was released to follow Grave of the Fireflies to cheer people up before they left the cinema?

    (In my defence, I have not seen either of them, and probably don't want to watch the first one.)

  3. Posted by Robert at 06:10pm on 20 September 2018

    The effect of Totoro on my daughter was profound. She just loved it. Totoro has become a useful term for something unusual in any form of story to denote strange and possibly unnerving but not scary.

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