Tuesday, 2 March 2010


My Neighbour Totoro...I gather by the the frequent bouts of laughter that everyone enjoyed it!! I didn't give a lecture about it this time because it is truly a heart warming film, and I just wanted people to enjoy it for what it is, for a change, instead of me piling on the usual death, war and destruction themes I have given to you in past weeks. To understand this film you do not really have to know the ins and outs of it to just love it, but I am going to explain what it is all about anyways :D

My Neighbor Totoro is the second feature of the studio Ghibli and the second directed by Hayao Miyazaki. In this film Miyazaki gives us a break from previous frantic action packed animations such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Vampire Hunter D and Dragon Ball and gives us a more realistic view of family life with believable bundles of fantasy thrown in. The plot is basically about two sisters, Mei and Satsuki who move into the rural Japanese countryside with their father to be nearer to their mother, who is in hospital suffering from TB. Once the children get there they discover that they are living amongst fantastical creatures such as soot sprites and forest spirits.

The story takes place in the 1950's in Tokorozawa City in the Saitama prefecture. This place used to be a farming community and the residents are trying to stop urban development on this land calling Totoro no Furusato (Totoro's Home) National Trust Movement, using Totoro as it's symbol character. Miyazaki also donated $3 million to Tokorozawa City so they could buy up land that was about to be developed.

The film has a personal touch by Hayao Miyazaki, and many believe that it is an auto-biography. Miyazaki grew up in the same prefecture the film was set in, his mother also had tuberculosis and spent a lot of time away from home.

What is totoro?
Well Totoro is completely of Miyazaki's own design and imagination and is meant to be the spirit of the forest. It seems to some that he is made up of several animals; an owl due to the patterns on his chest, a cat because of his ears and facial expressions and tanuki's ( a Japanese version of raccoons). The other little spirits that you saw in the movie are also Totoro, the little white one is called Chibi- Totoro meaning small totoro. The blue totoro is called Chuu- Totoro meaning medium Totoro and the massive Totoro is called Oh- Totoro meaning...big...well duh

What is catbus?
The Japanese believe that when cats get old enough they have magical shape changing abilities, known as "Bake Neko". Miyazaki imagined that a bake neko saw a bus and was intrigued by it and decided to turn itself into a bus. It is also believed that Miyazaki was inspired by Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire cat, as the cat disappears and reappears in similar fashion and smiles in a similar way as well.

Is there a message?
Miyazaki says in numerous interviews that he saw this film as primarily entertainment with no real message. But however there seems to be several clear messages. The title tells us that humans and the rest of nature are friends. 'Look at this wonderful countryside' Miyazaki seems to be saying:

"I honestly did Totoro from my feelings, not by nostalgia for a time. I hope that children will always want to run in the fields, picking up acorns, playing behind the temples, and to be curious enough to look under the veranda of the house, after seeing my film. That's all I want. "

With My Neighbor Totoro, Hayao Miyazaki knew what he wanted to make a warm film with no conflict or confrontation. It is truly a film about childhood innocence, friendship and the belief that magic is all around us.

1 comment:

  1. It was soooo heart warming. I wish I'd seen this film when I was like, 13, and needed the emotional pick-me-up. I thought the Fanning sisters did a great job but I heard a lot of people object to the Disney dub? Yah, loverly film. Looking forward to some more Studio Ghibli.

    - Rae