A Wonderful Antidote to Disney
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is not only one of my favorite childrens films, it's one of my favorite films period. This movie is truly magical. It achieves what Disney movies never do -- a wonderful story without the need to resort to evil villains or wise-cracking side kicks. In fact, two of the things I find most striking and refreshing about My Neighbor Totoro is the use of images rather than dialogue to propel the plot and the slower, almost contemplative, pacing of the action. (This is one children's movie that won't blare from your TV or yammer at your children!) The first time I saw this movie I watched a friend's pirated VHS tape in Japanese. I was instantly mesmerized and was completely able to follow the story, despite the fact that I did not understand a word the characters said. And don't be put off because it is "japanese animation." This is not your father's japanese animation. The images of the tranquil countryside are sumptuous. Miazaki's attention to the little details of life, like a leaf floating in a stream or raindrops tapping an umbrella, evoke the simpler, purer times of childhood. The children's discovery of the totoro spirits in the old camphor tree recalls a time in every child's life when magic seems possible in the mundane world. As with other Miyazaki films, there is a thrilling flying sequence. However, this film is more appropriate for younger viewers than most of his other works, some of which are decidedly adult in nature despite the fact that they are animated. As the mother of a toddler, I really appreciate the refusal to rely on cliche villians to keep the plot moving. However, I should warn other parents considering this video that the conflicts used to keep the plot moving -- the children's discovery of and search for the dust bunny and totoro spirits and Mei's desire to see her sick mother in the hospital which causes her to lose her way in the countryside -- might be upsetting to the littlest viewers without some parental company and discussion. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie whether you're 2 or 200."
Wonderful Movie, poor DVD
Jerry Goodnough | Eugene, OR USA | 12/03/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I must concur with the other reviewers of this DVD... I love this movies, and indeed bought a DVD player that could play the Original Japanese DVD release. This 'Fox' release is a poor substitute for the original film. In specific this production is Pan & Scan, and while you might be able to follow the plot, the beauty of the Miyazaki film is lost. Indeed the trimming of the picture often makes the color composition off. Also the DVD seems to be a bit over saturated, and a little off to the red side. Other basic things lacking: captions (of any form - even English!), other languages (Spanish, French would have been nice - this is a region 1 DVD after all, likewise it would have been nice to have the Japanese - some kids out there are learning this language), and indeed any extras. Given all of this the DVD is quite poor, but the story is wonderful... So get the best copy you can afford and enjoy."
Shadowfire | College Park, MD | 06/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an excellent childhood story unrivaled by any since "Peter Pan". The plot involves Satsuke, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, moving into the country with her father and younger sister Mei, where she discovers a child's realm of wonder and make-believe running in parallel to the adults' mundane everyday existence. The family's rickety cottage is filled with easily frightened dust bunnies, and deep within the tangle of roots and branches, in a safe hiding place only a child can access, Totoro, a benign forest creature, makes its lair.The story is a real jewel, simply, elegantly told. The art is of extremely high quality, excellently detailed, bright and clean. The characters are especially well-depicted, complete with expressive body language and realistically animated. In part because of the excellent dub, they are all sympathetic and deeply human, instantly recognizable as real people around us.Especially evocative is the portrayal of the children's make-believe world, full of things and places that are there only if you believe in them, like the giant Totoro and his entourage of two tiny, roly-poly furballs, and the magnificent "cat-bus" with great shining eyes and two mice announcing the next stop - the exact place you want to go.A fantastic, enchanting examination of a child's mentality, that is also a mainstay family film."
Another masterpiece by the world's greatest animator
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 12/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been a huge Miyazaki fan for nearly twenty years now, but I am ashamed to admit that I have only now seen MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO for the first time. The reason is a good one, as reasons go: it was the last important film by Miyazaki that I had not yet seen, and I was saving it for a special occasion. I love seeing again films that I have loved the first time through, but there is always a special magic to seeing a film for the first time. Unfortunately, I now no longer have any Miyazaki films to see that I haven't already seen (at least until he finishes his work-in-progress, which has been given the tentative English title HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE). Fortunately, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO was worth the weight.How does this film compare with Miyazaki's finest films? This is a hard question, because he has a large number clustered at the top, all of them excellent. I would be hard pressed to say this was better or worse than any of a number of others. However, each film is distinguished from the others by the mood and tone of the film. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO may be the gentlest and most peaceful of all his films. True, the girls have moved to the countryside with their father because their mother is in a nearby hospital recovering from a rather vague illness, and the forest is haunted, but the illness is never perceived as especially worrisome (except near the end, when a slight cold prevents her making a brief visit home, provoking a crisis with her daughters), and the spirits in the forest are remarkably benign and benevolent. There is nothing like the ecological apocalypse in THE PRINCESS MONONOKE and NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, or the parents who have been transformed into swine or threatening spirits of SPIRITED AWAY, or the armed conflict in CASTLE IN THE SKY. The world in this film is a loving world, all the way down to a remarkable creature that is a cross between Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat and a school bus (literally). Miyazaki's animation is truly in a league of its own, and I mean that as strongly as possible. It has been decades since the Disney studios were capable of a fraction of the more challenging sequences that Miyazaki seemingly animates with ease. For instance, the wind and storm the first night the children spend in their new home display effects that Disney hasn't attempted since the more marvelous scenes in BAMBI. The way the wind is portrayed as moving through the tops of the trees, the hint of spraying mist, the manner in which the wind moves like a wave over the grass, the shuttering of the house under the assault of the air, are all things of remarkable artistry. Even more remarkable is that after this brief display of mastery, Miyazaki doesn't feel the need to build a huge storm with rain and lightening, but has the wind subside and give way to brilliant white clouds sailing across a moonlit and starry black sky. Of all Miyazaki's extraordinary gifts as an animator and a storyteller, his greatest virtue might be his patience, and this is something he holds in common with many of the Japanese animators. American animated films are almost always frenetic affairs, in a great rush to fill the screen with activity, and in a hurry to get to the next part of the story. American animated films seem to be more interested in where they are going than in how they are getting there, while for Miyazaki the journey is the far more important part of the film. Certainly one reason for this is the distrust of the American film industry of the patience of the viewers, as if they are in abject terror of small children squirming in their seats if the story doesn't get a move on. Miyazaki, on the other hand, respects his viewers, and is confident that they won't give up on a film simply because the story moves at a steady pace. In MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, one of the sisters will begin to enter a room, look from one side to the other, take a step, look around again, and gradually and slowly discover what is inside. In many American films, a child would simply explode into the room and that would be it. As a result, every moment of the film becomes a discovery of marvelous and wonderful things. I would say that this is a very special film by a very special filmmaker, except for the fact that for Hayao Miyazaki special seems to be the norm."