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My Neighbor Totoro

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Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Distributed by
Written by Hayao Miyazaki
Country Japan
IMDb profile


My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) is Hayao Miyazaki's second film out of Studio Ghibli, Inc. Hugely popular in Asia, the movie is less common in the U.S. It is generally considered as viewing for quite young audiences.

Storyline

Totoro follows the lives of two young girls following their move into suburbs somewhere outside of Tokyo. The time setting is somewhat undefined and seems almost as though it could be an era shortly before or shortly after WWII. The girls and their father have moved to the countryside because their mother is ill and they need to be closer to the hospital she's staying in. Upon arriving at their new home, the find that the world around them has a distinct otherness about it. Soot sprites live in the attic and strange creatures are seen in the grass.

The younger of the girls, Mei, follows these rabbit creatures and discovers Totoro, a large, extremely cuddly forest spirit. She falls asleep in Totoro's den and is deposited back where she belongs, but she can't locate the way back to Totoro's hollow inside the nearby camphor tree.

Throughout the film, Mei and her older sister, Satsuki, have several more interactions with Totoro. In one memorable scene Satsuki rides a sentient bus in the shape of cat in order to find her little sister, who had run away earlier in the day. The catbus takes the girls on a whirl through the countryside, during which the Satsuki discovers that adults don't see Totoro and his companions.

Elements

Totoro is one of Miyazaki's more remiscent films and recalls a time when life was simpler and more organic. It's partially autobiographical; Miyazaki's mother was ill with spinal tuberculousis for eight years and spent a great deal of time in hospitals. Totoro also draws on Miyazaki's Disney inspiration. The catbus is distinctly reminiscent of the Cheshire cat of Alice in Wonderland. It's large grin and character design are quite similar, and it also seems to disappear in the same manner as its mischievous counterpart.

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