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My Neighbor Totoro


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#1 SDG

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 09:33 AM

How odd that despite discussion in a number of other threads, My Neighbor Totoro has no thread of its own.

I've finally posted my review. (I wish all my reviews could be the fruit of this level of repeated rewatchings, rumination, and discussion.)

A few previous Totoro-related discussions:

A couple of Miyazaki/Anime questions
Life after Belle: Where to take kids wanting more
Spirited Away

Edited by SDG, 04 August 2006 - 09:34 AM.


#2 Bill Moore

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 10:55 AM

I really like the new release on DVD - I think the voice acting is a little better in this dub than in the older one. (Though it's been a long time since I watched the older release, so I may not be remembering well.) I'm disappointed (as with most of the Disney-released Ghibli films) that the extras are so sparse. Maybe there's not much that could have been done, but the "Voices behind..." documentaries get old. (How many times can we hear someone say "its such a beautiful film... such and honor to do the voice... blah blah...").

Totoro the movie is one of my favorites. The whimsy of some of the characterizations are genius. How many other movies would have a family of mixed ages chuckling through something so mundain as two children exploring the empty rooms of their new house?

B

Just got back from reading your review, Steven. You describe the film beautifully - even on the point of the potentially problematic spirituality. Thanks.

#3 Titus

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 11:03 AM

One of my absolute favorites. I can't count the number of times I've seen the film, yet it never gets old (apologies for the cliche, but it's true in this case). It captures the beauty and wonder of childhood better than any picture I've seen.

This was actually the very first Miyazaki/Ghibli film I ever saw, way back in the early/mid 90's with the Fox(?) VHS that had come out. I would never have rented such a film, but my sister, who was around five at the time, unwittingly introduced me to it. I was working at a video store and so the rest of the family got free rentals. Each Friday at the end of the school week, my father would bus the rest of the family out to the video store and allow each of them to pick one item (be it a game or movie). My sister rented Totoro at least once a month -- she just adored the thing. Thus, I gained quite a familiarity with it, and, surprising to myself at the time, I was transfixed by it.

The store must've either lost or sold the VHS, because at some point they no longer had it. Nobody else in town had it, either. So, seven or eight years went by without having seen it and assuming I'd never do so again (I figured it to be somewhat obscure, at the time). As time went on and life became more hectic, it was slowly fading from memory. But, I was introduced to Ghibli through Spritied Away, like many people, and, after becoming hooked on the Sudio, realized Totoro was one of Miyazaki's older pictures.

This undoubtedly impacts my current love of the picture a great deal. With the heavy nostalgia running throughout it's 80-something minutes, said nostalgia is enhanced a great deal by my own memories of it. In fact, I bought the Japanese DVD of it a few years ago, partly because I didn't want to wait for when/if Disney released it, but also because I wanted to make sure I had access to the original dub with which I became acquainted with it in the first place and to be able to preserve that experience (though I usually opt for the Japanese track). And despite adoring nearly every Ghibli film to date, for me, the only one that's within hailing distance of My Neighbor Totoro is Only Yesterday.

#4 Bill Moore

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 12:24 PM

Just wanted to mention that I enjoyed watching with the Japanese soundtrack. Somehow the voices seemed to "match" the characters better.

#5 opus

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 09:49 PM

My Neighbor Totoro is a favorite of both my wife and myself. I'm about to start a new session of the movie discussion group that my wife and I lead, and My Neighbor Totoro will likely be the first film we screen.

As for favorite scenes, the ones Nardis mentioned are great. However, the umbrella scene is my true favorite. So simple in premise, and yet so imaginative and full of joy.

#6 Overstreet

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 10:07 PM

Opus, that would probably be in my all-time Top 10 movie scenes too.

Hey, I feel a new list thread coming on...

#7 opus

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:14 AM

So, is this movie really about an (in)famous murder case in Japan?

The real story comes from the history of the Sayama incident (狭山事件 sayama jiken). There seem to be too many coincidences between the Sayama incident and this movie to ignore.

The Sayama incident occured in May 1963. It's quite an important case for discrimination in Japan. The case goes that one day, in Sayama (in Saitama prefecture), a young girl was kidnapped for ransom, raped and then murdered. Her older sister apparently found her body, but was so traumatized by it, when asked what she had seen, she merely said "I met a large Tanuki (looks like a racoon)" and "I saw a cat monster." Sound familiar? Anyway, the older sister later commited suicide.

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if any of this did turn out to be true (Studio Ghibli has apparently denied it). Ghibli films often include darker, more complex themes. But isn't that why we love them so?

Edited by opus, 23 February 2012 - 11:15 AM.


#8 SDG

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:50 AM

My spider-sense says this is like those economic or political crypto-readings of The Wizard of Oz that marshal a lot of seemingly significant coincident details in the service of an over-developed conspiracy theory that is hard to refute but which completely misrepresents the real genesis of the story.

Some perspective: The story's origins are semi-autobiographical. Miyazaki's mother was hospitalized with tuberculosis when he was a boy, and his father brought him to the country. His mother was hospitalized for years but eventually left the hospital and lived at home with the disease for years. She did not die in the hospital.

For the film Miyazaki decided to make the protagonist a girl rather than a boy, and later split the girl into two girls (with essentially synonymous names of Mei and Satsuke, both of which mean "May"). The idea that they were inspired by the two girls in the murder case is false.

The theory that the soot sprites are heralds of death is contradicted by the fact that the old lady neighbor saw them too when she was a girl, and makes it clear that they're visible to children rather than adults.

The claim that toward the end of the film the girls have no shadows is false.

The theory that the sandal Satsuke denies is Mei's is actually hers is false. Mei's sandals are close-toed, the one in the water is open-toed.

A number of claims, such as the specific mission of the gods represented by the six statues, are unconvincing. I would want expert testimony before buying into that, and I bet expert testimony would rebut the idea.

Attempts to explain away the end credits, which clearly show the further adventures of the Kusakabe family after the mother's return from the hospital, are wholly unconvincing.

FWIW, there's a sequel short called "Mei and the Kitten Bus." Both in the beginning and the end Mei is living at the Kusakabe house.

#9 opus

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:55 AM

SDG, I knew I could count on you to analyze the analysis. :)

#10 M. Leary

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 11:56 AM

Phew. I read this a while ago and now the eeriness has dissipated.

#11 SDG

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 08:42 PM

So I just watched My Neighbor Totoro with my two youngest children, and I'm more convinced than ever—convinced beyond argument—that the Totoro death theory is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I have to correct the record on one point: It is true that Mei's sandals are clearly different from the sandals found in the pond—but the assertion regarding Mei's sandals being close-toed came from a source that was incorrect. Mei does wear close-toed shoes at one point, but when she leaves home to bring the corn to her mother, Miyazaki carefully gives us a tight close-up on her sandals as she slips them on. They're open-toed, and closely resemble the sandals found in the pond—but they are clearly different. See below.

Posted Image

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Regarding the shadow business: I've watched all the relevant scenes a number of times, and I'm absolutely convinced that Mei and Satsuke have shadows whenever the sunlight is bright enough and the angle requires it. When the sun goes down, or the angle is oblique enough that the animators can cheat it, they skimp on shadows—and not just for Mei and Satsuke, but for other characters too. There is nothing more to it than that.

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#12 Darrel Manson

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 09:37 PM

Miyazaki fans, following a link at Facebook I found a place that sells Totoro housewares: http://www.dotandbo.com/ Be warned, they want you to register to look. I gave them my hotmail address that I never check.