top of page
  • Writer's pictureDavid Osgar

My Neighbour Totoro - a Therapeutic Masterpiece

When exploring the joys of animation, we've all been captivated by the world of stop motion or the depth of 3D animation. But for a true treat for the senses, then look no further than 2-D animation, and the masters of its craft- Studio Ghibli.

When looking at this legendary studio and its array of touching, and feel-good movies, then where better to look than the year 1988?

But wait, there was another Ghibli film released in 1988? On the same day as Totoro?

As shocking as it may be, a double bill featuring the vastly darker and more mature Grave of the Fireflies, debuted with My Neighbour Totoro.

It's undoubtedly an ambitious offering, especially considering Grave of the Fireflies is deemed to be one of the saddest animated films of all time.

In Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation, Helen McCarthy cited it as "one of the most moving and remarkable double bills ever offered to a cinema audience."

Both are worthy of mention and recognition as we focus on Miyazaki and Ghibli. But in all honesty, any offering from this legendary studio is worthy of praise, and your attention.

Ghibli animations are perfect for those relaxing, absorbent, and eclectic experiences.

The animators' attention to detail and commitment to drawing every single frame is not only a feat of creative excellence but also elevates all Ghibli work to that special tier of handcrafted art which we can all appreciate.

My Neighbour Totoro is an especially great example of its craft and is great therapy for what has been a difficult and trying time for us all.

We've all had this happen to us right?

The story shows us two young sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who have moved to a new home with their father, while their mother is ill in hospital. A simple but effective tale.

The opening of My Neighbour Totoro makes it clear this is a fun, and light-hearted family adventure.

The playful songs and cute characters, along with the energetic and wonderous young characters is perfect for fans of this type of content, especially those of the same ages as Satsuki and Mei.

The more the film progresses, the more it blossoms as its music, visuals, and characters present the story's deeper meanings and nuances.

Satsuki and Mei are both troubled and upset by their mother's illness, their father's work, along with their new environment. In reaction to this, the two find solace in the spirit and supposed king of the forest- the titular Totoro.

Their encounters always work as a chance to escape the struggle and banality of life.

Totoro acts as a bridge between the characters and the natural world, embuing the spiritual nature of animism that Japanese culture wholeheartedly embraces.

Animism and nature are both themes we can appreciate after the pandemic, thanks to the walks and hikes many of us have found ourselves taking, alleviating everyday stresses and boredom.

Many of us have learnt to appreciate what is on our doorstep and relied on art and entertainment to switch off from the doom scrolling and barrage of bad news that often hits our televisions and social feeds.

Totoro is a perfect comfort watch due to its touching themes, realism, and joy. Legendary film critic Roger Ebert comments: "Whenever I watch it, I smile, and smile, and smile."

Even if the film's visuals don't relax you, its soundtrack most certainly will. Composed by one of Miyazaki's close collaborators, Joe Hisaishi, a legend in the business whose captivating creations include- Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and Kiki's Delivery service.

The film's score is not only a selection of familiar orchestrations but also a therapeutic waltz through nature like you are on a stroll or planting a tree with Totoro himself.

Standouts from the score include- The Village in May, A Huge Tree in the Tsukamori Forest, Cat Bus, and I'm So Glad which is followed up in the film by the very catchy End Theme sung by Azumi Inoue.

Nothing to see here, just a cat bus and a giant forest spirit on a massive tree...

So why not take a chance on something different with the magical tale of My Neighbour Totoro?

Whether you have seen it before or not, the experience is always a rewarding one, as it stays with you long after you see it.

"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." - My Neighbor Totoro Review -

My Neighbour Totoro and many of the Ghibli features are available for streaming on Netflix in the UK, and HBO Max in the United States


If you enjoyed what you read, and want to support Dave and our commitment to fresh content, support Dave with a cuppa over @

Subscribe here to Fresh Take for more opinions on the world of film and television.

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

And subscribe to our podcast Well Good Movies, for more film and TV fun!

#StudioGhibli #MyNeighborTotoro #MyNeighbourTotoro #HayaoMiyazaki #Netflix #Anime #Ghibli #Totoro

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page