Somehow I have missed this classic movie, only viewing it this year. A major error! A life without Totoro is not a life worth living.
What is fun about Miyazaki is his blending of old and new. Enigmatic but benign beings based upon traditional Japanese folklore are met with by traveling in a car across an unnamed countryside that is recognizably Japan. Trains, cars and yes, buses, are important plot points, carrying the characters to adventure. It reminds us of how fairy tales involving brave young woodcutters or valiant tailors were not originally exotic. Every European hamlet before the advent of steam had a woodcutter or two, and tailors were where you went when you wanted clothes that your wife or mother couldn’t make for you. And so a modern fairy tale necessarily involves modernity. Look at the image at the head of this post. Those girls are wearing ordinary 20th century childhood dresses, and the Catbus has standard bus windows, the kind that you can push out at the bottom in case of emergency.
Satsuki and her little sister Mei are our conduit into a glorious dreamy landscape pervaded with an everyday supernatural vibe. Gosh, the beauty of the animated Japanese landscape is riveting! There’s no plot in the Western sense of the word, but things happen and progress is made. This is the very best sort of children’s movie, delighting the very young while speaking to the adults in the audience. It’s one of the most popular animated films ever made, the foundation of Studio Ghibli, and Totoro is more recognizable worldwide than Mickey Mouse.
Don’t be like me. If you haven’t seen this movie, do it soon!