The wave of Studio Ghibli Blu-Ray releases is gaining momentum in 2012. The creators of Spirited Away have just released My Neighbour Totoro for the first time, an enchanting tale which will make even the most hardened adult wish for childhood again.
That, of course, director Hayao Miyazaki’s speciality. He has the uncanny ability to take all the best parts of childhood and make full grown adults yearn for those days once again. Miyazaki’s portrayal of children on screen is nearly always anchored in reality – yet magical adventures find them wherever they happen to be because they see things adults overlook.
My Neighbour Totoro is no different. The film follows ten year old Saksuki and her inquisitive little sister Mei, as the sisters move to a new home in the country so they can be closer to their mother in hospital. However, events prove to be a welcome distraction from their mother’s illness when they discover the woodland next to their house is full of magic, spirits, and big fluffy woodland creatures known as Totoro.
The strange and magical events start the moment they move into their new house. Falling acorns and mysterious dust gremlins in the attic hook you to the tale long before the appearance of the Totoro, which is the kind of creature we would all have liked to meet as a kid. Only a child would sit on an enormous and unfamiliar animal’s belly and not flinch when it roars in her face. You just know this is the kind of adventure these two girls will look back on in adult life and wonder if it was real.
One thing I will always love about Studio Ghibli’s animation is that no matter what happens, the adults are never dismissive. In fact, they encourage the children’s belief in magic, because even though they can’t see it for themselves any more, why should that stop their kids from discovering it? In this film, dad and grandmother are in on the adventure, despite never meeting the Totoro themselves.
One can’t talk about My Neighbour Totoro without mentioning Hayao Miyazaki and his team’s imagination. The man is famed for having single-handedly given Studio Ghibli its stellar reputation, and because the rich talent of the artists working for him seems to know no bounds. Yet no matter how far their imaginations stretch, My Neighbour Totoro remains understated and genuine. The family’s love and concern for their mother is touching and heartfelt, whilst reality and the spiritual world blend together so seamlessly that the appearance of a cat doubling as a bus seems almost normal – even with its creepy grin.
My Neighbour Totoro falls into the family appropriate category, alongside Whispers of the Heart, Ponyo and Howls Moving Castle, so if you’re running out of ideas for Christmas presents, My Neighbour Totoro would be the perfect gift for children and their parents to watch in high definition this holiday season.
My Neighbour Totoro is out on Blu-Ray DVD in the UK now!