animated movie My Neighbor Totoro © Studio Ghibli

Reviews for My Neighbor Totoro

3.88 stars / 13 ratings
JTurner's avatar
Fledgling Reviewer
Reviews: 9

JTurner's Review

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posted: Dec 31, 2009
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What more can be said about MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO? Get this movie. Immediately. Without a doubt one of the best animated features ever made, Japan or otherwise, TOTORO is an outstanding original creation from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli

It's about two sisters -- Satsuki and spunky little Mei -- moving with their somewhat scatterbrained but loving father to a new home in the Japanese countryside. But the place isn't just deserted; wonders galore lie within their household. Tiny, fuzzy black balls of soot ("Soot Gremlins") scatter every nook and cranny of the walls, frightened away only by laughter. A tall, luscious camphor tree towers above the other trees in the back yard. And, lastly, the Totoros themselves, absolutely adorable little creatures who look like a cross between a raccoon, rabbit, owl, and guinea pig (a personal bias here, since I used to own one who reminds me so much of the Totoros here), live in this very forest, carrying acorns, making huge trees grow at night, and playing ocarinas on the branches of the trees. There is even one really BIG Totoro who sleeps under the tree, so cuddlesome and gentle that you'll swear that he's the equivalent of your pet. Of course, he doesn't just allow Mei to snuggle on his chest. He lets out thunderous roars, shake the ground by jumping with full force, grins as wide as a Cheshire cat (albeit with warmth and generosity), helps others when they're in trouble, and gives acorns wrapped in bamboo leaves in return for gifts.

The story isn't all hearts and flowers, however. An emotionally charged subplot involving the sisters' ailing mother (shades of Miyazaki's personal life here) gives TOTORO a dramatic edge. This is particularly evident in the third act, when the girls receive a distressing telegram about their mother. Both Satsuki and Mei are extremely traumatized by this as any real child would be if such a situation occurred in their lifetime. What follows is a tearjerking sequence that builds to a truly happy ending. This mixture of real-life situations, emotions, and magical discoveries found in your nearest back yard make TOTORO feel authentic (even with its fantasy elements). One cannot help but find this quality in any of Miyazaki's films, this one included.

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO was not a box office success in either Japan or America, but the film has won over millions of children around the world as well as animation buffs for its gorgeous animation style; the backgrounds are lavishly detailed and imagination is galore in much of the sequences. (It was KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE that would catapult Miyazaki's animation company, Studio Ghibli, into box office success status.)

The movie was originally dubbed into English by Carl Macek and his infamous company, Streamline Pictures in 1993. Believe it or not, this was one of the "best" dubs they've ever produced. As Disney has acquired the rights for Ghibli's movies, though, it was inevitable that they would produce their own version. This has infuriated many, but as someone who fell in love with TOTORO with the Mecak version, I have to say that this new Disney production is entertaining in its own right. The script is a fresh new translation from the original Japanese (clarifying the origin of Totoro's name), and remains faithful to the meaning of Miyazaki's screenplay, despite a few line changes here and there (nothing major, though).

At first, I was a little worried about hearing Dakota and Elle Fanning as Satsuki and Mei, but both ended up captivating me from the start; personally, I think it was great for Disney to cast two actual sisters to play the young girls--it helps their chemistry come alive. The other actors, including a warm, understated Tim Daly, and delightful Lea Salonga provide similarly top quality work. My favorite performances? Pat Carroll, displaying maternal charm and whimsy as Granny (not sounding anything like her most-famous role, Ursula from THE LITTLE MERMAID), and Frank Welker, who does outstanding vocal foley for both Totoro and the Cat Bus.

The OP and ED songs retain the same lyrics, but are sung by someone else (Sonya Isaacs), which may please some and annoy others. (The new OP is a little bit off-color and gung-ho at times; the ED is fairly well handled.) I'm sure that there will be many who will draw comparisons between the two dubs to the very bitter end, but I think it's great to have more than one adaptation of a beloved story, especially when done by folks who obviously love Miyazaki's works.

Either way, however, MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO is far from just another kid's story. With a little bit of luck, grown-ups (and those who consider themselves too "sophisticated" for cartoons) will enjoy it too.

Nausicaa's avatar
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Reviews: 15

Nausicaa's Review

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posted: Mar 09, 2007
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My Neighbor Tototro is (i think) for young children though the ANIMATION is fantastic and children will be enthused by the 'totoros' (i.e. giant furry things) Very awesome. I really enjoyed seeing it. I love all ghibli films, i also recommend: Nausicaa of the valley of the winds. It is my fav. film (NAUSICAA THAT IS!!!!!!)

Juuchan17's avatar
World Class Animation Critic
Reviews: 157

Juuchan17's Review

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posted: Mar 15, 2006
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Yes, there are totoros . . . and if there's one good Miyazaki film that any animation fan should see, My Neighbor Totoro is it.

I have seen both versions of the dub (the Fox dub and the recently released Disney dub), and I will say that both English versions each have their own pros and cons.

Fox Dub: The voices are perfect for the roles. Sure, Mei's high voice got annoying at times, but it suited her personality and character. The other characters were okay too, and I wouldn't change a thing.

Disney re-dub: Ah, great casting yet again. The Fanning sisters (Dakota Fanning as Satsuki and her younger sister as Mei) were perfectly cute as the lead girls, but it seemed almost the same as the original dub . . . Mei was still annoying, and it seemed like she was trying to imitate the original Fox dub at times. Still, very well done, just like Disney's other Studio Ghibli releases.

I have yet to watch the original Japanese version, but the dub is fine for me. I'm surprised that this is such a short film (with a running time of a little bit over an hour), and yet it shows so much . . . but the story is perfectly-timed. The emotion, the magic, the animation! *sigh* Dazzling!

What else is there to say? It's a heart-warming tale of childhood innocence, life, and magic. It's so beautifully told and animated . . . MUST-SEE!

four stars!

Inkwolf's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 202

Inkwolf's Review

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posted: May 14, 2005
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In this film, Miyazaki shows his genius in capturing the spirit of childhood, with its joys and terrors, its helplessness and determination, and above all its fantasy.

Does a plot even matter, when someone can so thoroughly make you feel what it's like to be a child again?

athena's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 218

athena's Review

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posted: May 11, 2005
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I admit it has been some time since I have seen this film and although I consider myself a Miyazaki fan, this one never really did it for me. I would even go so far as to say that it is my least favourite film of his films.

Now, I freely admit, this may have simply been a case where a film about childhood and all the magic of childhood just didn't connect with the cynical adult that I was when I saw it. The adult in me just had too many questions--who is Totoro? Where did the Catbus come from? Why is the youngest little girl so irritating??

Still, if I was looking for wholesome entertainment for young children, I think this would be one of the first films I'd reach for. Assuming that they too could get past the lack of glitz and Miyazaki's take-his-time pacing, it would probably be something that they would connect with much more than I ever could.

lupercal's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 517

lupercal's Review

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posted: Oct 20, 2004
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(revised feb 2010)

How do you tell a Miyazaki film from a Disney film? If it's got a little girl in it, an ugly old woman, and people fly, it's probably Miyazaki.

I've seen all of Miyazaki's movies now, nearly all of them have rated 3.5 stars. I feel he improved slightly with each movie from Laputa through to Spirited Away. This one makes 3.5, whereas Kiki gets a solid 3.75, and Porco Rosso is close enough to 4.00 (meanwhile the real 4 stars to come out of Ghibli were 'Whisper of the Heart' and 'Only Yesterday' - neither directed by Miyazaki.

If 'Nausicaa' seems a bit like a stab in the direction of 'Princess Mononoke', 'My Neighbor Tototoro' definately feels like a dress rehearsal for 'Spirited Away'. The similarities are mumerous. Each film starts with a (jerkily animated on twos) car trip to a rural location (this is weird. A lot of the character animation seems to be done on ones. What does he have against cars?), where a little girl subsequently drifts off from her parents and gets involved in with a lot of weird mythological or bizarre creatures. The major difference is the magic is a lot more benign in 'Totoro'. Where bits of 'Spirited Away' seem like an acid trip, this is more like a fantastical daydream, and there is rarely any sense of threat or danger.

It's a fairly slow moving movie, filled with sumptuously drawn backgrounds as usual. Unlike a lot of Miyazaki's films (which he basically makes up as he goes along) the plot doesn't start to fray at the edges at the end of this one - perhaps because it's one of his shortest films.

The sense of childhood wonder is very real and quite delightful, even if, I must say, there was a point, about 15 minutes in, where I very nearly switched off, because I just wanted Mei to STOP YELLING AND SCREAMING AND GIGGLING AND BEING SO $&^$@& ANNOYING.

But I got over it.

I don't know what it is with Miyazaki's films. All of them are good, most of them are very good, but nearly all of them just fall short of blowing me completely away. This is another one.

8 out of 10.

(this review is of the subtitled version)

Jareth's avatar
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Reviews: 2

Jareth's Review

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posted: Mar 08, 2004
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I absolutly love this mvie! You can feel the emotion of the characters and somehow relate to them. This ih definatly a movie for those young and youg at heart. Wow that sounds sappy, but I'm serious!

Tonkuro's avatar
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Reviews: 6

Tonkuro's Review

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posted: Oct 20, 2003
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Time to deliver that phrase: 'Miyazaki's done it again!'

Yes he has. Every work he comes out with is breathtaking, whether tinted with fantasy or completely realistic, everything that comes from him seems to be good. This is one of the best, though. Just enough fantasy and realism to balance it out.

A small family moves to the japanese countryside, the two children have adventures, and deal with their sick mom. Simple plot? So what?! It's great! Character development, the situations, the timing, everything.

Totoro especially. He's this big, cute bear/raccoon/mousy thing. That grin. That fluffiness. He's probably the greatest character in the movie, honestly, along with the cat bus. ^^

Along with the fantasy comes the realistic issues of the movie. The mother of the family is sick, and toward the end one of the children go missing, causing panic in the small neighborhood. It's not overdone though, and it's really another thing that makes the movie so good.

Anywho, go get this movie, now. And watch it. Don't stop till you fall asleep in your chair, then watch it some more!

Toonboy's avatar
KF Animation Editor
Reviews: 319

Toonboy's Review

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posted: Oct 20, 2003
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My favorite anime of all time. I absolutely adore this movie. It is a delightful movie that everybody should see. It is filled with colorful characters that speak to your heart. It is a movie of absolute innocence. Nobody is deliberately put in danger. Not a drop of blood is spilled. Nobody leads messed up lives. However from deep beneath this movie's quiet gentleness, a surprising level of emotion creeps up on you, and you'll never see it coming until it's too late. And this is a good thing. By the end of the movie, I wasn't expecting to be reduced to near tears. However in many instances these are tears of happiness, stemming from a feeling of elation over watching a true masterpiece unfolding. But there are many good moments of sadness. This is a movie about a family, as normal a family as any, with all the emotional trappings, both good and bad. However don't go thinking that this movie has both feet grounded in realism. My Neighbor Totoro is a magical movie. Its animation recalls the graceful beauty of old school Disney. The characters are expressive and adorable and they speak to kids without talking down to them or burying them in cliches. True to Miyazaki form, My Neighbor Totoro is weird and whimsical yet lacks the silly hyperactivness found in many modern Disney movies. Music plays an important part in the movie but nobody bursts into song. The opening song is charming and adorable, as is the closing song. The rest of the music are instrumentals that are beautifully done and match the movie's gentle innocence.

Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid? When you could talk to imaginary friends only you could see and gaze up at the stars in wide-eyed wonder because they were magic? My Neighbor Totoro lets you revisit that. It takes your imagination and soars with it. It's charming, lovable, and funny and mixes the realistic with the wildly imaginative without having both clash with each other. It wins you with its giddy, lighthearted attitude and its wonderful, cliche free characters instead of hipness and pop culture references. By the end of the movie, you feel like a kid again, and your heart is soaring with the main characters and their lovable friends the Totoros. And don't be surprised if you cry a little because you've experienced something beautiful.