I’m woefully underfamiliar with the work of Hayao Miyazaki – I did see a few of his films many, many years ago, but I don’t think I was in the right place to appreciate them then. Now that I’ve seen My Neighbor Totoro (1988), I have a feeling I’m going to see more. This is a wonderful, wonderful movie, beautifully animated and refreshingly uncynical.
It’s the story of two young girls who move to an old, run-down house in the country with their father. Big sister Satsuki and little sister Mei joyously explore their new surroundings, meanwhile constantly catching glimpses of magical beings around them (which the adults in their midst, naturally, never quite see). Among these sightings: a giant, fiercely cute nature spirit they come to know as Totoro.
My Neighbor Totoro is an atmospheric, touching and amusing celebration of childhood imagination. Gorgeously animated, the film creates a palpable sense of youthful fascination with discovery, each new magical find triggering a sense of wide-eyed wonder in the children, both exciting and frightening. There’s not much plot to it, but there’s sentiment, sense of wonder, and cuteness to burn, all of it impressively artful. A unique viewing experience, upbeat and utterly charming.