Friday, October 25, 2019

2019 Blind Spot Series: My Neighbor Totoro

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) is the story of two young girls who befriend a mysterious wood spirit during the post-war years. The film is an animated fantasy film that explore two girls who meet a creature as they discover a world of adventure and hope. Featuring the voices of Chika Sakamoto, Noriko Hada, and Hitoshi Takagi. Tonari no Totoro is a majestic and enchanting film from Hayao Miyazaki.

Set in the late 1950s in Japan, the film revolves around two young girls who move into a rural area of Japan with their father as they befriend a mysterious wood creature who can bring magic as they’re only seen by children. It’s a film that play into these two girls who are awaiting for the return of their mother who is recovering from a long-term illness as they adjust to their new surroundings but also meet this creature and the world he lives in. Hayao Miyazaki’s screenplay doesn’t have much of a plot as it’s more about these two girls who are living in their new surroundings and try to make the best of it as well as lament over their mother’s absence. The youngest in Mei (Chika Sakamoto) would see a small creature that would turn invisible but then would appear as she would follow that and a creature that’s a tad bigger into the woods with this big tree at the center of it. There she meets this gigantic creature she would call Totoro as she tells her older sister Satsuki (Noriko Hada) as she would meet the creature and be amazed by its powers.

Miyazaki’s direction is full of beauty in its presentation of not just the world of rural Japan but also this fantasy world of forests and creatures. With the aid of supervising animator Yoshiharo Sato, Miyazaki creates a world that mixes fantasy and reality as if they’re the same though it’s only seen through the eyes of these two young girls. The look of the landscapes as well as the tree in the middle of this small town add to the wondrous look of the film as it play into the mystical elements of the world that includes a cat bus that Totoro and his family would ride on sometimes. With the help of art director Kazuo Oga and cinematographer Hisao Shirai in creating certain looks into the lighting and in the landscape, Miyazaki brings a lot of attention to detail in his hand-drawn, two-dimensional animation style as showcases some of the emotions of the characters as well as the look of the creatures including soot-like creatures and Totoro himself.

Miyazaki also play into these mysterious moments as it relates to the girls’ relationship with Totoro but also coping with some growing pains as it relates to their mother’s absence and their father having to go to city university for work. The usage of the wide shots play into this growing uncertainty for the two girls while the medium shots and close-ups play into their interaction with Totoro and his family as well as other characters including Kanta Ogaki (Toshiyuki Amagasa) who seems to have a crush on Satsuki. The film’s third act does play into this air of dread and harsh realities as it would allow Satsuki to go to Totoro for help as it would play into not just this air of fantasy and intrigue but also in how it would deal with reality. Overall, Miyazaki crafts a riveting yet exhilarating film about two young girls befriending a mysterious yet whimsical forest creature.

Editor Takeshi Seyama does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward to play into the air of excitement in the world of fantasy as well as knowing where to slow things down for the dramatic moments. Sound mixer Shuji Inoue does amazing work with the sound in some of the sound effects that are created as well as the way wind and rain would sound. The film’s music by Joe Hisaishi is incredible for its soaring and majestic orchestral score that feature some low-key synthesizers in the background along with usage of woodwinds arrangements to play into the music that Totoro and his friends play while its music soundtrack features a few songs sung by Azumi Inoue.

The film’s superb voice cast feature some notable small roles from Masashi Horose and Hiroko Maruyama as Kanta’s parents, Naoki Tatsuta as cat-like purrs of the cat bus, Tanie Kitabayashi as Kanta’s grandmother who would take care of Mei whenever Satsuki would go to school, Toshiyuki Amagasa as a neighbor boy in Kanta who dislikes Satsuki though it’s really a front for the fact that he likes her, and Sumi Shimamoto as Mei and Satsuki’s mother who is recovering at a hospital. Shigesato Itoi is terrific as Mei and Satsuki’s father as a man trying to get his daughters adjust to their new home while being away for work and to check on his wife. In the voice of the titular character, Hitoshi Takagi provides some unique sounds for the character as he never speaks yet his grin and growls do provide a lot of personality to the character. Finally, there’s the duo of Noriko Hidaka and Chika Sakamoto in brilliant voice performance in their respective roles as the sisters Satsuki and Mei as two young girls who are trying to adjust to their new situation as well as befriend this mysterious creature as they have an air of energy and excitement in their voices that carry the air of innocence.

Tonari no Totoro is a magnificent film from Hayao Miyazaki. Featuring a great voice cast, gorgeous visuals, a touching story, a whimsical mix of fantasy and reality, and a soaring music score and soundtrack. It is definitely a film of wonders and magic that manages to do so much in the realm of animated films as well as provide a lot of innocence to the world of fantasy. In the end, Tonari no Totoro is an outstanding film from Hayao Miyazaki.

Hayao Miyazaki Films: (The Castle of Cagliostro) – (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) – (Castle in the Sky) – (Kiki’s Delivery Service) – (Porco Rosso) – (Princess Mononoke) – Spirited Away - (Howl’s Moving Castle) – (Ponyo) – The Wind Rises - (How Do You Live?)

© thevoid99 2019


Jay said...

Such a classic.

SJHoneywell said...

I love this movie so much.

I don't care that there's not a tremendous amount of plot. I don't care that it could really be summed up in a couple of sentences. It's so joyous and wonderful--seeing Totoro experience rain under an "umbrella" for the first time, the appearance of Catbus--it's damn magic.

And now I have the song stuck in my head.

ThePunkTheory said...

This is one of my favorite animation films. Although, when I think about it, I could actually say that about almost every Miyazaki movie. 🙈

thevoid99 said...

@Jay-Indeed it is. I want more Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

@SJHoneywell-Sometimes, a great film doesn't need much plot. I think the less plot a film has, the better it is.

@ThePunkTheory-I have yet to be disappointed by a Miyazaki film though I've only seen 4 of them so far.

Chris said...

A cute and heartwarming animation, glad you finally saw it. Comparable to Alice in Wonderland, where you are not sure whether it's the person’s imagination, or the events are for real.

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-There are elements of Alice in Wonderland yet I think it's far more innocent as it's just an incredible film. I hope to show it to my nephew soon.

Brittani Burnham said...

This was such a delight. I had it on my Blind Spot list years ago. My son was really young and the cat bus bothered him. (lol) Hopefully he'll give it another shot some day and we can watch it together again.