My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro ★★★★★

It's understandable that so many find films like MONONOKE or SPIRITED AWAY more rewarding Miyazakis. And it's not like they are dumb picks: narratively and thematically bold, with dense animation to match, they are great films (and in SPIRITED AWAY's case, a masterpiece). But my favorite of Miyazaki's remains the pared down, wandering TOTORO. So slack it lacks even the vignette nature of its closest Western analogue, THE ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH, TOTORO instead feels like a total anomaly among animated film or even kid's fare in general: a completely naturalistic film, driven by no consistent plot but the emotional state of its central girls, from whose imagination and feelings the entire film erupts around them. Maybe it's weird to call a film with giant creatures and Catbuses "naturalistic," but how else to account for a film that so patiently treats every variation in its characters' emotional state, where kids rejoice when they find out a delightful fantasy was a dream as if thrilled their minds could conjure such a scenario? So many animated films, including some of Miyazaki's are busy, designed to keep their young, impatient viewers' attention. TOTORO trusts that kids want a break and just to observe as much as grown-ups do, and for that it is unmatched.