Everybody needs good Totoros
To be honest I am not the biggest fan of animation, I find that whilst many can impress on a visual level the actual storylines are weak. But the few Studio Ghibli movies I have watched have thus far impressed as whilst the old fashioned hand drawn animations look good they have an equally good, if not better story to accompany them. And "My Neighbour Totoro" is no different and is a prime example of why Studio Ghibli animations are so good, wowing with some great animation yet also delivering an enchanting tale which draws you in to the lives of Satsuki and Mei as they meet the soot sprites and Totoro's which live in the woods next to their new home.
Satsuki and her little sister Mei are full of excitement as they explore their new home in the country and closer to the hospital where their mother is. And as they explore the house and the nearby woods they discover it is a magical place as they first experience the soot sprites which live in their home, scuttling into cracks in the wall when anyone enters and then they meet the Totoro's who live in the woods and take them into their fantasy world.
The thing I love most about Studio Ghibli animations are the stories and "My Neighbour Totoro" has a brilliant one. Not that it is complex but that it is simply enchanting as we follow Satsuki and Mei in a series of adventures in their new home. From the excitement of exploring their new house, the little soot sprites which hide in corners when they enter a room through to the whole story about the big friendly Totoro which lives in the adjacent woods; it is simply enchanting. As an adult it makes you feel like a child again, having care free adventures and yet it also works on a more youthful innocent level, fuelling the imagination of younger audiences with a magical bus which comes in the form of a cat.
But whilst enchanting and imaginative it also has a purpose as all this fun and exploring also has the story of Satsuki and Mei's sick mum in hospital and a series of events which lead to panic when Mei goes missing. It is simple but also clever because all of the fun which fills the first two thirds of the movie comes together for the final third where you do have this semi dramatic storyline. And this may sound silly but it does draw you in as you become concerned for Mei and upset for Satsuki as she frantically goes searching for her little sister.
And to top this off is that writer and director Hayao Miyazaki really captures the whole emotion of it all. When we watch Satsuki exploring the new house and Mei runs behind her, copying her every move and word it rings true because that is what happens in real life. And there is a lot more of this where the animation whilst a fantasy has strong elements of reality to it making us connect with Satsuki and Mei as real people. In fact watching "My Neighbour Totoro" makes you realise how so many modern animations are lacking in that element of reality which allows us to connect to the characters on another level.
But of course "My Neighbour Totoro" is an animation and which thanks to being hand drawn has that old fashioned feel to it. Of course it was released in the 80s but even then there was something special about the animation which made it feel like a piece of art rather than just some cartoon. And the reason why "My Neighbour Totoro" feels like art is the attention to detail, not so much in the actual characters as their simplicity is part of their charm but from the actual scenery. From the towering wood next to the house through to the stunning skies and landscapes it is all so detailed that it grabs your attention. And so whilst being entertained by the enchanting story and the humour you also appreciate how impressive it all looks.
What this all boils down to is that "My Neighbour Totoro" is still an impressive animation and one of my favourites from Studio Ghibli. The simple reason why it is so impressive is that whilst the whole animation side is eye catching you also get a simple but brilliant storyline which is so enchanting. It allows adults to enjoy what they are watching; remembering the care free days of childhood whilst for younger audiences there is just the right amount of humour. Of course compared to today's CGI fuelled animations it may look old hat but in fact it adds to its classiness and makes it stand out as something special.