• David Osgar

Sunday Movies- My Neighbour Totoro

We've looked at live-action Disney. We've explored the captivating world of stop motion 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 at this legendary studio and its array of touching, and feel-good movies, then where better to look than 1988?

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

It's certainly an ambitious offering, especially considering Grave of the Fireflies is considered to be one of the saddest animations ever made. 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 animator's attention to detail and commitment to drawing every single frame is not only a feat of creative excellence but 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 this and is a great therapy for what has been a difficult and trying year 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, light-hearted, and family adventure. The playful songs and cute characters, along with the energetic and wonderous young girls plays perfectly to fans of this type of content and those of the same age 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, along with their new environment and their father's work. 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 is all something we can appreciate this year thanks to the walks and hikes many of us have found ourselves taking in 2020, alleviating everyday stresses and repetition.

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.

It's perfect for a comforting weekend watch due to its touching themes, realism, and joy. With legendary film critic Roger Ebert commenting- "whenever I watch it, I smile, and smile, and smile."

Even if the film does not relax you, its soundtrack most certainly will. Composed by one of Miyazaki's close collaborator's Joe Hisaishi, a legend in the business, whose captivating creations includes- Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, and Kiki's Delivery service (not to mention the Ni no Kuni video game series).

The film's score is not only a selection of familiar classic orchestrations, but a calm and therapeutic waltz through nature, like you are taking a walk, 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 take a chance on something different this Sunday 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 - rogerebert.com

Or heck, watch any Ghibli feature, with special shoutouts to the equally calm, but also underrated stories such as Whisper of the Heart, Only Yesterday, Princess Kaguya, and When Marnie Was There.

All of these, 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 now.

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