“My Neighbor Totoro” stars Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Sumi Shimamoto, and Hitoshi Takagi. Released on April 16, 1988, the film is about two young girls and their encounters with some friendly wood spirits.
The film is directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who also directed films such as The Castle of Cagliostro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and The Wind Rises. With the latest Transformers film out of the way, along with a new film from last weekend, it’s time for me to once again review something from the good old days of animation. No, I’m not reviewing another Disney classic. Not yet, anyway. I’m talking about the good old days of Japanese animation, mostly from Studio Ghibli. To those of you who are new to my blog, back in January, I saw and reviewed another Studio Ghibli classic, Princess Mononoke, in celebration of the film’s 20th anniversary. With the success of the special theatrical events of that movie and Spirited Away, Fathom Events teamed up with acclaimed distributer, GKIDS, to form a series of special two-day events known as Studio Ghibli Fest 2017 in order to bring some of Studio Ghibli’s beloved classics to the big screen, with this film being one of them. With no other new releases to get to until next weekend, I decided to take the opportunity and witness one of their films for the first time in the theater. Totoro was one of the animated films that I remembered watching throughout my childhood when it comes to my experience with Studio Ghibli. I somehow remembered the Fox Video English dub of the film, but the Disney dub of it, with Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning voicing Satsuki and Mei, respectively, was something that I adored the most. Maybe it’s because it has Disney in the title and I adore watching Disney films. Now that I got a chance to see it on the big screen, does it capture the same theatrical experience as Mononoke? Like I did with Princess Mononoke, I will be looking at the Japanese dub of the film because unsurprisingly, the original dub is the way to go when watching Studio Ghibli films.
To describe a film like this, this is one of those animated features that don’t involve any types of violent conflict that they’re mostly known for. Rather, it forms a simple, yet imaginative, drama that connects to both children and adults alike. Recently, we have several animated films for kids that contain certain sequences that may frighten them or contain some type of humor that they’ll soon understand when they reach adulthood, but it feels nice to see something that’s as sweet, charming, and safe as Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. You’re probably wondering why I’m comparing Winnie the Pooh to a Studio Ghibli film. Well, why shouldn’t I? They’re both kid-friendly. The film’s story has this unique blend of fantasy and realism that managed to entertain kids as well as adults like myself, and after less than 30 years of release, I still love how they tell this type of story. While the kids will enjoy its sense of imagination and joy, the adults will appreciate the film’s portrayal of its themes, such as the realities of life. To be honest, I happen to enjoy both of these things. The Japanese voice cast did a solid job voicing some very likable characters, such as Hidaka as Satsuki and Sakamoto as Mei. Takagi provided the voice of Totoro, the king of the forest that resides right next to the girls’ new home. If I could explain Totoro in just a few simple words, I would say that he’s a big, furry, cuddly teddy bear…who happens to be a part of the Studio Ghibli logo. A lot of people love Totoro when it was first introduced to the public, and I can fully understand why. He is so adorable and innocent. Every time I see him on screen, it just leaves a big smile on my face, and I’m pretty sure everybody will feel the same way. The animation in the film still looks amazing from start to finish, especially the designs of the creatures, and the musical score by Joe Hisaishi is undeniably remarkable for matching its innocent and fun tone.
Overall, in a world filled with animated films that involve violence, cartoonish slapstick, and some rude humor, “My Neighbor Totoro” still remains as one of those perfect animated features that rely on innocence, imagination, and most of all, storytelling. Like Winnie the Pooh, I would consider “Totoro” to be a harmless and entertaining film that younger kids can enjoy before they watch some of the other animated features that might be a bit scary or mind-numbing compared to this. As for me, I still love the film because of its animation, the characters, its sense of imagination, and Totoro himself. If you’re asking me which dub I prefer the most, well, you’re asking the wrong guy because I happen to enjoy both versions of Totoro, the Japanese dub and the Disney dub, for different reasons. I might be able to watch both of these versions again if I have the time, but right now, I would highly recommend the film to anyone who’s a fan of animation and to those who are big-time fans of Studio Ghibli. If you haven’t seen it yet, then for goodness sake, find the right time to do so, because it’s that good.