My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro ★★★★½

“My Neighbor Totoro” is the best movie about childhood I know. Hayao Miyazaki truly understands children in a way only few other filmmakers do, and he takes them and their perspectives, hopes, fears, problems and approaches towards life seriously.

Satsuki and Mei are cute and loveable kids full of life, energy and endearing optimism and above all, they act and feel like real children. The whole film is told from their perspective and you quickly begin to see the world with their eyes, as a place where adventure and wonder is all around you, even in the most mundane things like an empty house or an old forest. I also truly love the father/daughters relationship, which is characterized by mutual love, care, and understanding. How the dad completely trusts his daughters and goes along with all their shenanigans always warms my heart.

“My Neighbor Totoro” has no antagonists, no conflicts, not even a real plot, and it´s still a captivating and enchanting cinematic experience. The film explores our relationship with nature, the innocence of childhood, and the beauty and magic of simple everyday life (typical Miyazaki themes) and it does so by blending grounded realism (the girls´ behavior, details of daily life) and imaginative fantasy. The fantastical aspects include some of the most iconic creatures of Ghibli´s filmography, such as the soot spirits, the cat bus (probably my favorite Ghibli supporting character), and, of course, the eponymous Totoro, whose cuddly appearance, big grin, magical powers, and kind and innocent personality made him one of the most famous and beloved animated characters of all time. It doesn´t matter, if he is a real spirit or the product of the girls´ imagination, he is always there, when they need him, and he is the kind of friendly neighbor we all wish we had.

The only threat to the girl´s pure and wholesome childhood world is the illness of their mother. At first, they don´t think much about it but later, they start to worry. At least Satsuki begins to understand the concept of mortality, which is the first step towards the unavoidable loss of innocence that is inherent in growing up. That way, the film has a small bittersweet note that is almost unnoticeable thanks to its overall happy, cute, and lighthearted vibe.

The technical aspects are marvelous as well. The vibrant, dynamic, and colorful animations, the beautiful rural Japanese landscapes, and Joe Hisaishi´s soul-stirring score make the film a pure audiovisual delight.

“My Neighbor Totoro” is a magnificent, tender, and joyous family film full of heartfelt emotions, wise observations, and magical moments. It´s an intimate but also grand celebration of life, family, childhood, simplicity, imagination, and nature and always makes me feel like a child again. A groundbreaking milestone for animated films and movie magic at its finest.

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