My Neighbor Totoro – Studio Ghibli

My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ Tonari no Totoro) is a Japanese animated film, written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli in 1988. This fantasy film is about two daughters Satsuko and Mei and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in post-war rural Japan.

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio based in Koganei, Tokyo, Japan. The company’s logo features the character Totoro (a large forest spirit) from Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro, because of the success of that particular film.

What the film does best is capture the characters of the two sisters, because of how convincing their portrayal of the two young girls is, it makes the film so much more relatable for the viewers and while the film has its surreal, slightly scary parts, you can’t help but fall in love with these two characters. In particular I find the portrayal of the youngest sister Mei to be incredibly strong as their portrayal of the brave, inquisitive four year old girl makes the viewer’s laugh and relate to Mei especially for viewers with younger sisters or daughters.  While aspects of the film are unknown, such as the character Totoro and the Cat Bus, the viewer can’t help but like these surreal, slightly scary characters, because of their animal like characteristics and image. The illustrations of these characters have been based upon animals to make them more likeable by the audience; the aim of these characters is not to scare the viewers but to make the audience like them just like Satsuko and Mei do. This shows the audience how the two girls are supposed to feel about these characters, through their likeability and animal image the audience are supposed to mirror the sister’s feelings towards these characters.

The film has received various positive reviews. Film critic, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated My Neighbor Totoro as one of his “Great Movies” calling it “one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki”. In his review, Ebert declared “My Neighbor Totoro is based on experience, situation and exploration—not on conflict and threat,” and described its appeal:         “it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls… It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need.” Ebert explains that the reason the film is so successful is because of how convincing and realistic the portrayal of Satsuko and Mei is. I completely agree, while My Neighbor Totoro has various funny and sad moments that make it a fantastic successful film for all ages, it is the characters of the two girls that make the film so relatable for the audience which is the real reason that the film is so successful and loved worldwide.

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