Synopsis: Two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, move into a new house with their father while their mother is confined in a hospital. The girls soon discover that there's more to their new home than meets the eye when they meet a friendly magical creature named Totoro.
Review: I've always dismissed My Neighbor Totoro as kiddie fare, despite knowing that the illustrious Hayao Miyazaki was behind it. What really drove me to see it was a recent conversation I had with our Japanese business acquaintance. We were talking about Hayao Miyazaki and he told me that Tonari no Totoro remains a favorite of his among Miyazaki's works. He went on to say how depiction of the Japanese countryside in Totoro was so close to the real thing, how wonderful the story was, and how glad it made him feel.
True enough, I found that he had not been exaggerating. Watching My Neighbor Totoro was indeed a magical experience. The above summary may make it seem like it's just about a couple of kids and their imaginary friend, but in fact it is not. Satsuki and Mei find a great friend in Totoro, who's always there for them... especially during their most trying times. Totoro's magic makes the impossible possible, and Miyazaki was able to incorporate this into a very real setting seamlessly -- turning it into something that's altogether believable.
The art and animation are simply beautiful, as is always the case with Miyazaki's works. Character designs are simple, but every movement and facial expression is incredibly smooth and flawless. Totoro himself looks like a gigantic cuddly mouse-rabbit -- quickly becoming my favorite anime critter to date. Backgrounds are depicted with exquisite detail and realism. No doubt about it, My Neighbor Totoro is a splendid visual feast. Superb musical scoring also punctuates the scenes, along with catchy theme songs that virtually anyone can appreciate with ease.
My Neighbor Totoro is a delightful and heart-warming tale that extols good old-fashioned values such as close family ties, friendship, and neighborliness. My only gripe about it is the somewhat abrupt conclusion, although this is more than made up for by the ending credits which more or less assure us of everybody's happiness. Overall My Neighbor Totoro is highly recommended for anime fans, non-fans, adults, and children alike.
Miscellanies: The R1 DVD is selling for a very low price but it features only the English dubbed version.