There are many movies out there that are enchanting, however, My Neighbor, Totoro holds a charm that is unmatched. This Japanese animated movie, from Studio Ghibli, is the story of a family who have just moved to a new home out in the countryside; an old house that is dusty, rotting wooden structures outside and (temporarily) full of soot spirits.
The family follows a father (a teacher at a university in Tokyo) and young girls; their mother is in ill in hospital. The youngest of the girls, Mei, encounters a small rabbit-like creature who has the ability to turn invisible. The creature disappears underneath the house, but reappears shortly with another small creature carrying a bag of acorns. She chases them and, as they try to escape, lead Mei to their hiding place beneath a huge camphor tree. Within this den she meets a sleeping Totoro – an enormous version of the smaller creature she encountered earlier – and Mei falls asleep on his chest. Hours later she is awoken by her sister, but in an opening within the bushes rather than in Totoro’s den.
An excited 4-year old Mei explains to her sister and father what she has discovered and tries to show them the creatures, yet the path and opening has disappeared. Mei’s father explains that he believes that she may have seen the Spirits of the Forest who can only be seen if and when they want to be seen. It isn’t until later that Mei’s sister, Satsuki, sees Totoro while waiting at a bus stop in the rain.
It is at this point that Totoro steals an umbrella from the girls… but that is another story.
The story is a wonderful tale of family (even with the hardship of a mother in hospital) and friendship. It is a refreshing movie that is idyllic with no fighting, no monsters, no real unhappiness, a world where the forest spirits instil no fear into the little girl when she first meets them. The scariest moment of the movie is near the beginning where the girls first discover the soot spirits. From watching numerous horror movies, you suspect the worst, but are then pleasantly surprised by how benign these creatures really are.
My Neighbor, Totoro is a family movie that can be enjoyed at all ages, from toddlers to adults; and believe me, I did enjoy this.
A wonderful tale of family and friendship.