Monday, August 22, 2011

My Neighbor Totoro


Director: Hiyao Miyazaki

Though I'm not usually a fan of animated films in general, I do have a soft spot for Studio Ghibli, who have produced some amazing films like Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away and Grave of the Fireflies. Since I'd seen almost all of their films, I was excited to watch not only one of the very few I hadn't seen, but probably one of their most beloved, My Neighbor Totoro.

My Neighbor Totoro is about a father who moves his two young daughters to the country in order to be closer to their ailing mother, who is in a nearby hospital. Everything is an adventure for the two young girls, and one day young Mei follows a little rabbit-like creature she sees through a thicket and encounters Totoro, a giant rabbit-like creature from one of her picture books. Totoro then reveals himself to the older sister, Satsuki, and later helps her through a scary situation.

Unfortunately, with as much anticipation I had watching the film, I was terribly disappointed. There was very little story involved, and what few plot devices were revealed, I felt like I was missing some information that I should have known before going into the film. For example, when Mei encounters Totoro for the first time, the viewer has no idea what it is, but when Mei tells Satsuki about it, she refers to him as the Totoro from her picture book, and it almost seemed like I should have known that, so maybe it is some kind of famous story in Japan that I don't know about. Also, why was Mom in the hospital? Because of the lack of story, I was completely bored, almost to the point of wanting to just cut bait and stop watching the film, even just 30 minutes into it. Usually, Studio Ghibli films have an abundance of cuteness that I can rely on to distract me, since I suppose these films are made for kids and shouldn't have a complicated story, perhaps be merely visually entertaining, but other than a few cute scenes with a sleeping Totoro, I just found some of the surreal action kind of creepy. And frankly, the cat bus that so many people rave about is in the movie for about three minutes. It was a cool three minutes, but obviously it must have made quite an impression on some people. The music was kind of odd and annoying too; it was really typical annoying J-pop that I don't remember in a lot of other Studio Ghibli films.

Don't get me wrong: I understand why people like this movie, and the character designs were typical adorable Studio Ghibli. (Can they make a non-adorable little girl character?) And perhaps because this is one of Miyazaki's first films, it didn't have as much of a story line or adorable characters, or even the eccentricities that some of his later films did. However, despite the fact that My Neighbor Totoro just didn't click with me at all, I will still eagerly await and see the next Studio Ghibli film.

2 out of 5 stars

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