Tue. Oct 26th, 2021

My Neighbor Totoro is an old Studio Ghibli animated movie released in 1988. My Neighbor Totoro is one of Studio Ghibli’s greatest works put in conversation with some of the other amazing films like Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. 

The movie received an astounding 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, an 86/100 on Metacritic, and has received overall great reviews from critics and audiences alike. 

However, My Neighbor Totoro does not follow the typical formula for a movie.

In My Neighbor Totoro there is no antagonist, there is no true main character — in fact there is not even much of a plot. 

The movie is just a fun and simple showcase of innocent childhood adventures.

Although there is not a true main character, the movie follows the Kusakabe family consisting of: Mei Kusakabe, Satsuki Kusakabe, Tatsuo Kusakabe, and Yasuko Kusakabe. Mei and Satsuki are the two children (Mei is 4 and Satsuki is 11) Tatsuo is their father, and Yasuko is their mother. Unfortunately, during the movie Yasuko is sick and stays in the hospital not getting much screen time.

The only other noteworthy characters are Granny and Kanta who are the Kusakabe’s neighbors. Granny is a sweet old woman who watches over Mei and Satsuki when Tatsuo is away. Kanta, on the other hand, is a little boy who was quite obnoxious towards Mei and Satsuki at the beginning of the movie, but eventually he warmed up to them and was quite nice later in the movie.

The Show Itself

At the beginning of the movie, Mei and Satsuki explore their new home as their father tries to move everything inside. The two girls seem to adapt pretty well to the new environment and find several interesting things around their home including a giant tree in the forest nearby.

As the movie progresses, the children stumble upon several spirits, the main spirit being Totoro. Totoro is a big, grey, gentle, fluffy, lovable monster that Mei and Satske meet several times throughout the movie. Some of the other spirits include the Cat Bus, two smaller versions of Totoro (one blue and one white), and the Soot Sprites.

My Neighbor Totoro essentially feels like a bunch of short clips of the family as they navigate through their lives, mainly focusing on the adventures of Mei and Satsuki. 

The main climax of the show is when the girls find out that their mother was going to have to stay at the hospital for longer, so Mei decided to go see her by herself. However, Mei did not tell anyone and she got lost. Satsuki and all the rest of the people in the village spent a while trying to find her until finally Totoro came to help. Totoro took Satsuki on the Cat But and found Mei.

 

The Soundtrack

Joe Hisaishi, a musical director and renowned composer, made the soundtrack for My Neighbor Totoro as well as many of the other Studio Ghibli movies. Hisaishi is most well known for his work in the movie Howl’s Moving Castle mainly with the theme song that he sprinkles into various songs throughout the movie.

Hisaishi sets a comforting yet mystical tone throughout most of My Neighbor Totoro. Each song perfectly blends with each scene to create an enchanting feel. For example, the song “Totoro” perfectly encapsulates the magical scene portrayed when Mei first meets Totoro in the forest. 

Hisaishi does the same thing in this movie that he does with Howl’s Moving Castle, where he uses the same melody throughout different songs in the movie to keep a theme throughout the movie.

Totoro Today

Although My Neighbor Totoro was released all the way back in 1988, it still is a favorite of many around the world. It is the perfect comfort movie to come back to for a peaceful and relaxing watch.

To this day, people still go out and buy Totoro shirts, hoodies, and plushies, proving that this movie still lives on in many people’s hearts.

With Studio Ghibli returning and releasing new movies again, many people find themselves wanting to relive the nostalgic and unproblematic feel from My Neighbor Totoro.

By Francis Fleming, senior editor 2021-22

Hi! My name is Francis and I am a senior editor for The Mycenaean. I run, I am good at Mario Kart Wii, and I'm a good cook.

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