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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

My Neighbor Totoro: Review

When I was five years old I saw the first movie in my life, My Neighbor Totoro. It was produced in 1988 by Hayao Miyazaki. I was going to see Spirited Away, which was also made by Miyazaki, but at the time I thought that film was going to be scary. Especially when I saw that Chihiro's parents and all the spirits were going to come out. I might not have seen a Miyazaki film at all except someone suggested to my parents that I should watch Totoro. After watching Totoro I watched all of the movies made by the Anime master, Hayao Miyazaki and I love them all! All of the movies have deep meanings and a beautiful style. Since Totoro was the first one I loved it's become my favorite.

Miyazaki's Totoro is a movie full of imagination. The story describes two sisters who with their father move into an old country village. The fatehr is a professor of archeology. He had to take the responsibility of taking care of the two sisters while their mother is sick in the hospital. The older sister's sensibility is cognitive of her younger sister's innocence, but both of them have lively personalities and a strong curiousity abut everything n nature. When they explore the enchanting rural environment thye meet the patron saint of the forest - Totoro; a fanciful creature with magical abilities. One day the younger sister, Mei is alone, her sister is at school, and her father at work, while the mother is still in the hospital. So, she plays alone in the backyard. Full of adventurous spirit, she finds and tracks the smaller sprites all the way to the forest, and finds the biggest Totoro taking a nap. Without fear, she lays on his tummy and falls asleep. It was her innocents that has called out the patron saint of the forest.

When the older sister Satsuki first meets Totoro it is in the rainy night. Their father has worked too late and missed the bus, so Satsuki carrying Mei, persists under the bus stop and waits for their father to return. Although Mei often brings trouble to her older sister, Satsuki does not complain about taking care of her. I really like the moment of Satsuki carrying Mei, holding an umbrella and waiting for their father. It reminds me when I was little on rainy nights when my mom brought me to my father's company, bringing him an umbrella and waiting for him to go home together. I can feel the love and care from Satsuki, just like the love from my mother and I.

While they are waiting the big Totoro appears with a mini leaf that can only cover part of his head. He stands next to the sisters and waits with them. It is Satsuki's filial piety that calls out the patron saint of the forest, who likewise shows his respect by quietly standing guard over the girls. From that point on, the two sisters get to know more about the magical Totoros, and explore the fantastic nature of them. For example, one night Totoro comes for the seeds that can't grow. When he appears the seeds start to grow and become huge trees. The same night they play flutes together in the trees. However, the next day the sisters wake up and the trees have disappeared, but the seeds have magically budded. "It was a dream, but not a dream." This scene really makes me feel the power of dreams. The idea that kids have great imaginations about everything in their lives engages my own imagination. I imagine that Totoros are real and I can see them when I am in the forests. Kids have the coolest dreams of their lives, just like the two sisters who believe there is something magical happening in the house and it actually happens.

From the old poor house they moved into in the beginning, and their mother staying in the hospital for a really long time, we know they are not rich. But the two sisters do not even feel they are poor, because they still think and act positive. And their positive mood actually impacts the audience. Although they are poor, they still enjoy their lives and all the things they have. They just want more and more money instead of the love of family, and the simple goal of their lives. I remember my favorite characters in the movie were two smaller totoros. The medium one looked just like the biggest one just a different size, and the smallest one was really special. Sometimes we see it as a white color, but sometimes we could see though it. Sometimes it disappeared while Mei tracked it. I love the scene where Mei tracks them in the backyard, while the two small totoros are running the seeds they carry and drop everywhere. It is really cute and funny. When I was little I always thought one day I could get on the cat bus. In the movie when they go into the bus I can almost feel the softness of the cat body and how fast it moves to find their father.

I've seen the movie many times since the first time I watched it. I've watched it more than fifteen times. The last time I watched it I realized that in different stages of my life I have had different levels of understanding of the movie. When I was five I felt the totoros were really cute. When I was ten years old, I started to realize some purposes that the director was trying to tell. Now when I watch the movie, I know the messages and implications of what I'm watching. I really think this is a movie that all kids need to watch before they grow up. Especially during the age of Mei. She was around five years old and her older sister might be around fifteen, or even older. After five years old some kids start to realize the reality of Totoro. They know they won't appear in real life. But for those kids who are still young, they still believe one day they can have a similar adventure as the two sisters.

When we grow up we know the story is not real but we still enjoy the happiness and love from the movie. The movie reminds us of our childhoods. When we were little we used to think and act like them. It wasn't stupid, it was the best memory in our lives. As we become mature, we begin to live without imagination and the spirit of exploring new things. I've always wondered if I could go to the similar place as the sisters and experience the same things as them what would I do? Can I really find the totoros? Can I ride the cat bus? Can I ask the totoros for help when I need them? I really want to make that happen in my life.

Watching Miyazkai's movies taught me a lot in knowledge and morals that are meaningful in my life. Sometimes the movies don't have a happy ending but it doesn't mean they are sad stories they just didn't follow what we expected to happen. Through those movie plots, I've learned that things might not smoothly happen as what we want but in the end we will receive some surprises and something that is also good. In My Neighbor Totoro I've learned that sometimes it's best to be like a kid. Thinking and acting like a kid can make my life have more surprises and magical. And the other thing that I have learned is that family is a really important part of our lives.

Families support us and love us unconditionally. Although sometimes we have arguments and different ideas, after all the arguments we still love each other and accept other's mistakes. Just like those two sisters, they had an awful argument, but later on Satsuki realizes that her sister got lost. The only thing she found was Mei's shoe. She was shocked and worried if Mei was getting into trouble or even danger. When she finally found Mei she got really mad at her but we know it was because she really cares about her sister. If she didn't really care she would not get mad or worried about her. Since I am the only child in my family, sometimes I think if I had a sister to grow up with my life would be different.

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