Blu-ray Review – My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

When you look at the history and worldwide reputation it’s had over the years, it’s hard to believe Studio Ghibli having a film open so badly in it’s native Japan.Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro did suffer that poor opening but like a certain famous high street chain store ‘ this is no ordinary animation, this is a Studio Ghibli animation’. Like all good things, they mature as they get older, Totoro is that fine wine you will enjoy second time around that’s, of course, you didn’t enjoy it the first time around as it has a kind of magic very few filmmakers can achieve.

My Neighbour Totoro is a charming tale about 10 year old Satsuki and her inquisitive younger sister Mei (voiced by real life actress sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning) who move to a new home with their father into the country to be closer to their mother who is in hospital nearby. Far from the hustle and bustle of the big city, the sisters discover a mysterious place of spirits and magic and the friendship of the big fluffy woodland creature Totoro. This is a family suffused in the joys of country living with an elegy of two fading miracles: the fairytale world of childhood and the disappearing countryside.

My Neighbour Totoro is a beautifully constructed film. Unlike many of the other Studio Ghibli films, Totoro is not set in any war feuding countries or has villains hell bent in destroying the environment or the natural beauty of the location. The film is totally grounded in the real the world with a story that is told from a child’s point of view, enticing the children to be imaginative and creative essentially enjoy childhood. The simplicity of the story helps the film flow naturally helping the children be characteristically children even if they are of the animated, this is something Disney have forgotten about recently and surround them with unnatural fantasy surroundings.

The film does have one typical Ghibli trait, fantasy and a giant mythical spirit, the Totoro who is like the (giant) imaginary friend children sometimes have hence why the girls do not fear as to them he’s like that first cuddly toy a child gets. Totoro isn’t actually on the screen too much but enough to become the face of the studio like the way Mickey Mouse does it for Disney. Every Studio Ghibli film his logo is seen at the start of the film and no matter where you are in the world when you see the Totoro you know what your getting and he have become that recognisable he even got a cameo in the last Toy Story film!

The girl’s parents nor many adults actually have much screen time either but this doesn’t mean to say they are not well developed characters either. We do see the girl’s mother(Lea Salonga) a few time but thanks to letters written by Satsuki we do cover some of the ground but not the reason why she’s in hospital as this isn’t important as this is all from a child’s view on life, they know your ill but telling them what is wrong they would be lost forever. Their father (Tim Daly) is so busy working  even at home, to make ends meet it’s also a reminder of how tranquil and safe the countryside was in the 1950’s (the era the film is set) and the trust they had for neighbours like Nanny (Pat Carroll) who was like a surrogate parent to the girls.

I’m a newbie when it comes to Blu-ray, so out of the films I already own or watched via the format, My Neighbour Totoro is the first film I can say I’ve experienced the true power of the format. The bu-ray transfer has been nothing but fantastic, the picture is clear, crisp, colours so vibrant the hand drew style animation really shines through giving the feel an organic natural feel. The best scene to show Blu-ray’s power is the bus stop scene when the Totoro joins at the stop you see the improved lighting, sounds crisp and We meet the Cheshire Cat bus which is like something straight out of Alice In Wonderland, the scene also delivers some depth and atmosphere to the film.

When you talk about films be them live action or animated in the status of been categorized as classic, legendary even cult My Neighbour Totoro is all 3 categories.The quality of Totoro (and Studio Ghibli) is nothing but sublime, as what we get could easily be regarded as one of if not the studios finest film. To highlight the sheer brilliance of the film it was one of the very few animated films (highest entry) to make the recent BFI poll of 250 greatest films ever made, a testament to how highly regarded the film is with fans and critics,Miyazaki actually has the privilage of 2 films as Spirited Away is also in the list too. Scorsese, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Tarkvosky, and Miyazaki habe all got one thing in common they are all master storytellers, My Neighbour Totoro is a perfect example of why animation is not just for kids just lovers of film in all its beautiful forms.

[rating=5] |Paul Devine

Animation, Fantasy |Japan, 1988 | U | 12th November 2012 (UK) | Studiocanal | Hayao Miyazaki | Pat Carroll, Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning, Tim Daly |Buy My: Blu-ray (+ DVD) [1988]

Originally Posted at The Peoples Movies | 12th November 2012

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