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My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese animated fantasy film released in 1988. It is the story of a professor’s two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, and their association with the wood spirits they come to know as they move into a new house by the countryside. The story is set in postwar rural Japan and has won many awards in the year it was released. It won the Anime Grand Prix prize, the Mainichi Film Award and the best film award at the Kinema Junpo Award in 1988. The film also had an honorary special award at the Blue Ribbon Awards in the same year.

My Neighbor Totoro was first dubbed and released in the United States in 1993 and then later on DVD in 2002. Walt Disney re-released the movie in 2006 with another dub cast and this version of the movie was released in Australia and in the United Kingdom as well. Totoro, the movie’s main character has become a cultural icon in the course of the years. The movie itself has taken a place in the hearts around the world; it was ranked as number 1 in the list of greatest animated movies compiled by TimeOut. Many other major magazines and papers like the Empire magazine have honored the movie with high ranks in their lists. The character, Totoro made multiple cameo appearances in a number of video games and is appreciated as one of the most popular characters in Japanese animation.

Professor Tatsuo Kusakabe and his two daughters move into an old house, in 1958, to be closer to the girls' mother, Yasuko, who was admitted to a hospital there and recovering from a long-term illness. The girls, Satsuki and Mei explore their new home in the crumbling farm with a bliss and sense of adventure only little ones can summon. The girls soon find that the house is occupied by small animated dust lie forms called Susuwatari. The Susuwatari are small, dark house spirits. They are seen when moving from the light to dark places. As the girls and their father become comfortable in the house and laugh with each other we see that the soot spirits leave the house and are carried away in the wind. This indicates that they go away in search of another empty house to occupy- that is their natural environment.

The younger daughter, Mei, sees two rabbit-like ears in the grass one day and follows these ears to the basement of the house. There she meets two little spirits who guide her through some shrubs into the hollow trunk of a huge camphor tree. There Mei meets a larger spirit who looks like the little ones and befriends it. The spirit identifies itself with a sort of roar which the young girl interprets as the name of the spirit, Totoro. Mei falls asleep on the large Totoro and forgets to go home. Her sister searches everywhere for her and finally finds her in a clearing in the dense shrubs. Mei tells Satsuki about Totoro but is unable to show her family the camphor tree or the large spirit Totoro despite many attempts.

The professor comforts his daughter by telling her that what she saw must have been the keeper of the forest. He tells her that Totoro will reveal itself if the need arises.

One night, as it rains down heavily, the girls wait anxiously for their father to arrive on the bus. When he doesn’t come on the usual bus the girls get worried. Mei falls asleep eventually on her sister’s back and this is when Totoro appears for the first time in front of Satsuki and allows her to see him. Satsuki notices that Totoro only has a leaf that he is holding above his head as he stands in the heavy rain. She offers him, the umbrella that she and her sister had taken along with them for their father. Totoro is excited and happy that he is now sheltered from the rain and the sound of the raindrops falling on the umbrella enthralls him. Totoro feels happy and obliged to Satsuki. In return for her kindness, he gives her a bundle of seeds and nuts to take home. Soon a huge cat, shaped like a bus, stops in front of them and Totoro leaves on this bus, taking the umbrella with him. After a while, the Professor’s bus arrives too and the girls go home with him.

Mei and Satsuki plant the seeds and a few days later they are woken up in the middle of the night to find Totoro and two of his little fellow workers busy in a ceremonial dance around the place where the girls had planted the seeds and nuts. The girls join them and dance to their fill, the seeds sprout immediately and they grow at an immensely fast and turn into an enormous tree. The next morning the girls find that the tree isn’t there but the seeds that they had planted was now sprouting. The events of the night before seem like a dream to them.

The girls are struck with bad news when they find out that their mother, Yasuko would not be able to come home to them as she was suddenly held back at the hospital with some complications in her treatment. Satsuki is disappointed and worried, but she passes the news to her little sister who doesn’t accept the news well too. The sisters argue and Satsuki yells at her little sister and stomps away. Mei then walks to the hospital hoping to take some fresh corn to their mother.

When Satsuki realizes that her little sister is missing she calls for the neighbors to help her. After futile attempts to find her Satsuki desperately returns to the camphor tree and implores for Totoro’s help. Totoro is delighted to be of any help to the girls and immediately summons the Cat bus to find Mei. The bus carries Satsuki to where Mei is. Having rescued the little girl, the bus hurries Satsuki and Mei over to their mother, at the hospital. The girls sit on the branches of a tree outside the hospital and overhear their parents talking to each other. They realize that their mother has been kept longer at the hospital because of a minor cold, but she was doing well otherwise. Relieved, they secretly keep the corn they brought along on the windowsill of the hospital room and go back home on the Cat bus.

Soon Satsuki and Mei’s mother returns home in health and the girls happily play with the other children in the neighborhood as Totoro and his little companions watch from far away.

My Neighbor Totoro is one of the best movies e to watch as a family. It rekindles the magic of our childhood and gifts the viewers with a joy that must not be forgotten. Mei and Satsuki will take a place in our heart with the role of the protective older sister, and the adventurous little four-year-old who sees magic in every little thing.

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