Tonari no Totoro (The Totoro Next Door) is one of the most beloved animated films to Japanese and to animation fans around the world. Totoro is perhaps the best-known masterpiece of creator and director Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is considered to be one of Japan's, and indeed one of the world's, greatest practicing animators and directors. Released in 1988, Totoro was the third animated motion picture to be directed by Miyazaki, and it went on to win Japan's Film of the Year award and to become acclaimed worldwide.
Totoro is a special film that no one can resist enjoying. It deals with two little girls, Mei and her older sister Satsuki, who move out to the Japanese countryside with their father after their mother becomes ill and has to be hospitalized. There, they explore the wonderful nature around them, and eventually they happen upon a very special neighbor indeed! What makes Totoro so enjoyable is that it is seen through the eyes of young children, full of wonder and adventure, and it reminds us of the vast and imaginative world that we have all given up. It also gives a rare glimpse into the wonders and beauty of living in the pure, unpolluted, uncongested countryside -- a thing that is quickly becoming a memory across Asia.
Totoro is a great film because it touches upon Japan's old culture and respect for nature. Totoro is a spirit of the forest and wind. In Japanese these spirits are called Kami. The Japanese believed spirits resided in special trees, rocks, mountains and streams, etc., and they treated nature with much awe and respect. Here though, the spirit Totoro is depicted as a big furry and lovable friend that anyone will love ( I want a Totoro too!!), and the film's ecological and cultural messages are presented in such a relatable manner. In fact, after the film was released, many people in Japan initiated a green movement, and children even stood in front of big trees to prevent them from being cut down! Totoro is now well known to Americans as well because it was released in English across theatres nationwide only last year. Siskel and Ebert gave it a heartwarming two thumbs up. I give it two Thumbs and two Toes up! I know you will all enjoy this dear animated favorite.