Like most films produced by Studio Ghibli, “My Neighbor Totoro” is a classic from my childhood that I would be content rewatching anytime.
The acclaimed film follows sisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe. They are moving into an old country home with their father, and as the girls explore, they discover and befriend the spirits who reside in their house and the neighboring forest. One of the spirits they encounter, Totoro, later helps the sisters through several obstacles they face.
Satsuki and Mei are very joyful, eager and energetic girls with a childish innocence that I find charming. They also love having fun and working together, and I like that their strong sibling bond is shown.
Throughout the film, the two do a lot of activities together, from chores to searching for the forest spirits to waiting at the bus stop.
They obviously prefer to do things together and seldom have arguments, and on the rare occasion that they do squabble, it is usually resolved quickly.
The sisters’ personalities affect the tone and ambience of “My Neighbor Totoro,” and make it lighthearted and cheerful. They are always laughing and smiling.
The overall aesthetic of the film also adds to its exuberant nature because of the warm tones and bright colors used in the animation.
The way Satsuki and Mei amuse themselves with little delights and spend time together makes the film so easy to enjoy for anyone.
For example, when the Kusakabes first move in, the girls find and start collecting acorns scattered around the house and backyard.
There is a charming, homey simplicity to the plot being about their ordinary yet content lives, and they get changed in small ways after meeting Totoro.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Satsuki and Mei wake up in the middle of the night to find Totoro and other forest spirits using their powers to hasten the growth of seeds that the girls had planted days before.
The two rush out to help despite not having powers of their own, and together they watch a massive camphor tree spring out of the ground within minutes. Totoro then brings them to the tallest tree in the forest where he lives.
Satsuki and Mei eventually fall asleep, and in the morning, they see that a tiny sapling was where the colossal camphor once stood.
I think this scene was drawn and animated beautifully.
I like to think that in this part of the story, Totoro is teaching Satsuki and Mei the beauty of nature. By growing the seeds into a fully-fledged tree, he is showing them what their hard work will eventually look like.
Also, all the characters in “My Neighbor Totoro” are cute. I love the art style that the animation is in because it is so childlike and adorable.
Overall, I’d recommend “My Neighbor Totoro” to anyone wanting to watch a lighthearted, feel-good movie.
— By Lauren Lu