So much freaking fun that I wanted to burst into a fit of dancing happiness!
Written By: Hayao Miyazaki
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki
It has become hard to do reviews of Hayao Miyazaki films. How many superlatives can I toss upon the man? When I think I have run out of great things to say about him I watch Tonari No Totoro and he blows me away all over again. I don’t know how well I can break down the film without degenerating into giddy schoolboy mode, but I shall try.
The animated family film is a staple of the movie industry. There have been many great entries throughout the years, but it is without reservation that I place Tonari No Totoro at the top of the animated family film pile. In short and in incredibly simple fashion, it is a magically fun movie. The instant the opening credits roll across the screen I was taken by the whimsical nature of Tonari No Totoro and that feeling never abated. Tonari No Totoro is a pleasure to watch, it is an absolute joy. The main theme is that there is magical joy, fun and whimsy in the world. There are small moments that are nothing but fun and they are enchanting in their qualities.
The animation in Tonari No Totoro is perfect from the start, with rich textures and vibrant colors. There is a softness to the animation, it is this softness that allows the Totoro’s to be lovely from the get go. They are never scary, they are cute, cuddly and fun. But, they aren’t obnoxiously so, they merely exist, their cuteness naturally comes out, it isn’t shoved down the viewers eyes.
There are so many exhilarating little moments in Tonari No Totoro. Watching Mei and Satsuki explore the house is pure amusement. Satsuki walking across the floor on her knees, Mei repeating the final words of everything Satsuki says, their dual screaming to keep away their fears and so much more. Moment after moment in Tonari No Totoro brings a charged joy to the viewers heart.
Despite it’s main theme being that of pure joy in life, Miyazaki does find time to touch upon his favorite theme of oneness with nature. If you are kind to nature then nature will be kind to you. This is displayed in the awe inspiring tree growth scene and in how the girls go to the Totoro’s no questions asked and the Totoro’s help them with no questions in return.
The moments of sadness near the end of Tonari No Totoro work because they have been earned. The first two acts of the film have made you care about all the characters, both human and Totoro. Because we care about them the movie has earned the right to bring sadness into the picture. But, Tonari No Totoro doesn’t use conventional sadness. It isn’t a sadness or series of events that scare, rather it is a sadness and series of events that are about discovery in ones self and in how deep the relationship between Mei and Satsuki really is. This is also the part of the film when we really get to see the Catbus, and how can anyone be scared when the Catbus is on screen doing its thing?
The fantasy elements in Tonari No Totoro are handled brilliantly, seamlessly mixed into the story. They don’t come across as fantasy but as a normal part of the day. This is achieved by the jovial nature of the Totoro’s but also through the welcoming attitude the dad shows towards his daughters flights of fancy. Miyazaki paints a picture of wonderful fantasy, not scary fantasy, and we are enveloped in it from the start.
Everything I have written about till this point leads to the ending and I dare say a more uplifting ending you will never find. There are films that are downers when they finish, there are films that have happy endings and then there is Tonari No Totoro. The ending of this film isn’t just happy or uplifting it is inspirational and the type of ending that fills the viewer with the joy that cinema can provide.
I really don’t want to sound like a broken record, but pure joy is the heart of Tonari No Totoro. I have tried to bear out why I loved this movie with some detail, but all the detail in the world doesn’t change the fact that at its core Tonari No Totoro is about the bliss that can be achieved by watching a movie. Tonari No Totoro is rightfully pegged as one of the best anime films of all time and a masterpiece from Hayao Miyazaki. If you haven’t seen Tonari No Totoro then you should be angry with yourself. But, you should help to soothe that anger with the gaiety, pleasure, regalement, whatever word you want to use that is found in Tonari No Totoro, it is a film that every movie buff needs to see at least once.