My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro ★★★★

Japan has produced many revered films, particularly throughout the Post-War era and into the 1960s. Though the formation of Studio Ghibli was not until the mid-1980s, two of the studio’s earliest films, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro hark back to this period. Though directors and studio co-founders Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki grew up in Post-War Japan, their approaches to storytelling are different. Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies is straightforward, whereas Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro has prominent elements of fantasy. Though cinephiles admire both filmmakers’ works, it is perhaps Miyazaki’s family-friendly films that have a broader appeal.

Set in the late 1950s, My Neighbor Totoro follows Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe (voiced in English by Dakota and Elle Fanning). They and their father move to the Japanese countryside so that they are closer to their mother, who is in the hospital recovering from a long-term illness. Despite this, the family are in high spirits. As Satsuki and Mei begin to settle into their new home and rural living, the girls become acquainted with some unique creatures that reside near them.