Most of Ghibli’s works are for all ages, but there’s always one demographic that stands out for each movie, often related to the ages of the protagonists: Kiki’s Delivery-Service, for example, is for middle-schoolers, Princess Mononoke and Ocean Waves are for high-schoolers, while Only Yesterday is for the adults. My Neighbour Totoro completes this picture by being aimed at little children, and really, it’s one of Ghibli’s finest productions.
Even if you’re not a chid of ten years old, you’ll love the nostalgic feeling that this movie creates. A lot of screen-time is spent on the two main characters (two sisters of about four and ten years old), just playing with each other and having fun, just like all children are supposed to. A major theme also is children’s fantasies, and I’m sure that everyone would have loved to meet the strange creatures portrayed in this movie when they were young.
The reason why I like My Neighbour Totoro so much is that out of all the Ghibli-movies I’ve seen, this one’s the most perfectly paced so far. Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s delivery-service and Nausicaa, for example, were great in their own ways, but their climaxes were rushed; Takahata’s movies went on for too long and Spirited Away’s second half didn’t live up to the first one, but not with My Neighbour Totoro! The first half of the movie builds the characters and setting up perfectly, and once we got to know them, the second half kicks in and the fun begins as Totoro himself comes in action. The climax itself doesn’t feel forced at all, and yet I couldn’t help but shed a tear at what happened, and the movie ends at just the right time.
But yeah, My Neighbour Totoro shares the same flaw as Kiki’s Delivery-service: the pacing may feel perfect, but I feel that there’s so much more potential left in the concept. It’s a shame that only a movie of an hour and a half could be made out of it, and this movie could have easily been extended to a 13-episode television-series, there are so many characters that could have been fleshed out and delved into. But then again, one of the charms of this movie is how it’s so simple, yet effective.
Obviously, if you expected an action-movie like Mononoke or Laputa then you should stay away from this movie. My Neighbour Totoro feels much more like the non-Miyazaki-movies of Studio Ghibli, but with a perfect integration between the realistic and the fantasy-elements. As usual, the graphics and music are excellent, but you wouldn’t expect any different from a Hayao Miyazaki-movie. Anyway, with this, I’ve seen nearly all of the major Ghibli’s movies. There’s only one of them left, and I’ve got some high expectations of it.