My Neighbor Totoro...a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap.
My Neighbor Totoro has become one of the most beloved of all family films without ever having been much promoted or advertised. It's a perennial best seller on video. On the Internet Movie Database, it's voted the fifth best family film of all time, right behind Toy Story 2 and ahead of Shrek. The new Anime Encyclopedia calls it the best Japanese animated film ever made. Whenever I watch it, I smile, and smile, and smile.
This is one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki whose films are above all visually enchanting, using a watercolor look for the backgrounds and working within the distinctive Japanese anime tradition of characters with big round eyes and mouths that can be as small as a dot or as big as a cavern. They also have an unforced realism in the way they notice details; early in the movie for example, the children look at a little waterfall near their home, and there on the bottom, unremarked, is a bottle someone threw into the stream.
It is rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls (I speak of their personalities, not their appearance). It is awe-inspiring in the scenes involving the totoro, and enchanting in the scenes with the Cat Bus. It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself.