My Neighbour Totoro (1998)

The invisible friend | 88 minutes

Movie Info


My Neighbour Totoro is a unique hand-crafted animated fantasy by the director Hayao Miyazaki. He had three films under his belt before this, and brand new animation studio, Miyazaki was pretty sure with his ideas and turned his effort to an ample personal story of the two young daughters (Satsuki and Mei) of a professor and their interactions with friendly wood spirits in post-war rural Japan. An outright delicate theme of the childhood wonders, or appeals of a ghost story, no bad characters, and no clashes, nothing scary and all little beyond the woods. Hitherto, it’s a pleasure watching Totoro’ again, not only bolsters the art of film-making and repute as Miyazaki’s most cheerful and incisive feat to date, but as perhaps one of greatest animated feature films ever made.

In the last three decades, Miyazaki, and his company Studio Ghibli, have been behind some of the coolest chefs-d’oeuvre that animated film have ever seen. Miyazaki’s whole body of work offers original vistas of ingenious wonder and beauty, images of staggering power, splendid and congenial characters, wholesome moral themes, and startling sly humour. He is the sort of artist whose work doesn’t just entertain audiences, but wins enthusiasts. His film will continue to exhilarate audience, especially the anime buffs worldwide and seed generations of his awe-inspiring anime directors to come. For those who haven’t yet discovered him, Miyazaki is a taste well worth acquiring.

His influence is strikingly remarkable. His story telling approach and vision remains unique. The world he creates, seething post-apocalyptic jungle world of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind; the love story in the WWII backdrop of The Wind rises; the strange 19th-century science fiction of Laputa of Castle in the Sky, the likeable master thief of The Castle of Cagliostro; the anthropomorphic pig as the world’s greatest pilots and a free-spirited bounty hunter in Porco Rosso; the magical young witch in Kiki’s Delivery Service; the surreal spirit world of Spirited Away, are as curious, charming and are captivating of those emotional distinction of Miyazaki’s works

Totoro takes us to 1958 Japan. The van driving Kusakabe family, the University  professor Tatsuo Kusakabe and his two school going daughters, Satsuki and Mei (the younger kid in the family), through the Japanese farmland to move into an old house closer to the hospital where their mother Yasuko is recovering from a long-term illness. As soon as they arrive in the old house, they catch a glimpse of little black critters that run from sight the moment they are spotted. The girls’ father tells them they must be soot gremlins (susuwatari). The young girls later meet a neighbour boy’s grandmother, who becomes their guardian when their father is in Tokyo teaching at the university. The girls as usual in their natural exploration behind the susuwatari, the guardian tell them that have now drifted away to find another empty spot in their natural habitat.

One day while Satsuki is at school, Mei is playing outside sees two white, rabbit-like ears in the grass and follows through the woods that lead her into the hollow of a large camphor tree. Inside she sees a giant-sized version of the same kind of spirit making a loud noise, as Mei interprets as ‘Totoro’, as she falls asleep atop the large Totoro. Moment later her sister Satsuki goes in search of her sister, finds her sleeping in the jungle woods, upon her waking, finds Totoro nowhere around and is disappointed to show the Totoro’s tree to her sis and dad. Her father eases her saying that Totoro will appear soon as he is the keeper of the forest.

One rainy night, the girls are waiting for their father’s bus and become worried as he does not arrive in his usual time. They wait along and in due course Mei falls asleep on Satsuki’s back and Totoro appears beside them, allowing Satsuki to see him for the first time. He has a leaf on his head for protection against the rain, so Satsuki offers him the umbrella she had taken along for her father. Totoro is overjoyed at both the shelter and the sounds made upon it by falling raindrops. In return, he gives her a bundle of nuts and seeds. A bus-shaped giant cat halts at the stop, and Totoro boards it, taking the umbrella. Shortly after, their father’s bus arrives

The girls plant the Totoro’s seeds and some days later in the midnight, they wake up to find Totoro and his two miniature friends engaged in ritual dance around the planted nuts and seeds. The girls join in, whereupon the seeds sprout, and then grow and combine into an enormous tree. Totoro takes his colleagues and the girls for a ride on a magical flying top. In the morning, the tree is gone, but the seeds have indeed sprouted. The girls find out that a planned visit by their mother Yasuko has to be suspended because of a setback in her treatment. Satsuki, disappointed and worried, tells Mei the bad news, and Mei takes it with the pinch and feels upset, that leads into an argument between the two sisters, ending in Satsuki screaming at her sis as Mei runs off to bring fresh corn to her mother. Satsuki prompts her neighbours and in desperation leads her to the camphor tree for Totoro’s help.

Totoro is delighted to assist her and summons the catbus, which carries her to the dwelling to find the lost Mei. At her rescue, catbus then paddles Mei and Satsuki over the countryside to see their mother in the hospital. The two girls perch in a tree outside of the hospital, overhearing a conversation between their parents and discover mother is healthy and stay extended due to the minor cold. They secretly leave the ear of corn on the windowsill, as their parents find it. Catbus leaves the girls home and departs away from the face of the girl’s sight

This movie is only 88 minutes long and Totoro doesn’t show up until about half an hour into it, besides the third of the film is spent building up the character just being two girls, their parents and neighbour. The soot spirits are enchanting and are fairly into the natural habitat. Totoro is just about in those four sequences, though the influence and impetus is felt throughout the movie. The two girls represent the interwoven roots growing side by side and their unconditional love for their mother, and father is mark of a matured man and seems to know that Totoro’, be surreal or real or for that matter their imagination is primary for the children and their credence produce the poise and morale to survive in the gritty world. The title credits in the end with Mei and Satsuki’s mother returns home, and the sisters play with other children, with Totoro and his friends as invisible spectators.

My Neighbour Totoro is an inquisitive film bids a very modest celebration, the spirits of childhood joy in the nature and its backwoods, wandering in those growing up ages through fields, meadows, hills, exploring the flora and fauna, in search of our own and blessed in those summaries of the wild imagination, truthful of dreams, of one little piece of living is ever lost in the future is the day we live our childhood behind……………

Film Crew

  • Written & Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
  • Produced by Toru Hara
  • Cast: Chika Sakamoto; Noriko Hidaka & Hitoshi Takagi
  • Music by Joe Hisaishi
  • Cinematography: Hisao Shirai
  • Edited by Takeshi Seyama
  • Production company: Studio Ghibli
  • Distributed by Toho
  • Release dates: April 16, 1988
  • Running time of 88 minutes
  • Country: Japan
  • Language: Japanese

Trailers & Videos


My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - Official Trailer

The invisible friend

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