30 for 30: My Neighbor Totoro

Richard Petro

twitter @ThePetroProject

October 29th, 2019


     Of all the films to choose of a director's, this one was easily the hardest to make. I've been a massive fan of Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata and Studio Ghibli. Like most people might have, I stumbled upon Ghibli through the works of Miyazaki, and had devoured most of his filmography by the time I had a chance to explore Takahata and the others.
     I had found myself easily connecting to Miyazaki's works in ways that I didn't expect or may not have with many things before. I mulled over what to put here for ages, bouncing through the majority of his films before narrowing it down to Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke. Then I wasn't sure about those. But then I was. Then my heart tugged all over the place about those. Needless to say, it was not an easy choice. In the end I decided to go with My Neighbor Totoro, as it was the first film of his that I had seen, and the one responsible for me coming across the rest of the beautiful work of Ghibli.

     I sat down to write about the film, the thoughts in my head fully formed, and yet I ended up not knowing exactly what to write, or how. I could easily write about the adorable main characters and their sibling relationship, the character work, the wonderful location and background design, the smile-inducing work on the fantastical inhabiting the world, or even the great way it mixes the real with whimsy.
     The more and more I thought about what to write, and tried repeatedly, it became apparent that I had to do what I knew from the very beginning. The best way for me to describe My Nieghbor Totoro is to take the cheater's way out and tell you to watch the film, or any of the others I listed above. They are meant to be experienced, to let the world and charm take over you during the course of the runtime.

     The first time I saw it, My Neighbor Totoro had quite the impact on me. I don't think I can really explain it, it just made me feel good inside. It was sweet and calming, and like other Miyazaki films would later such as Kiki's and Mononoke, it made me have a new kind of appreciation for all things around me, and I feel ended up having a hand in shaping me into the kind of person I've become. It's still one of the greatest animated films of all time, filled wth endless beauty and great scenes (not to mention the endless suplly of excellent shot), and wonderfully captures the childhood at its heart. My Neighbor Totoro is the kind of movie that I can feel jealous if you haven't seen it before, because you'll get to experience it for the first time.