Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

My Neighbor Totoro: An Instantly Watchable Animated Masterpiece

From the legendary Studio Ghibli, creators of Spirited Away and Ponyo, and Academy Award-winning director Hayao Miyazaki, comes a classic tale of magic and adventure for the whole family. When Satsuki and her sister Mei move with their father to a new home in the countryside, they find country life is not as simple as it seems. They soon discover that the house and nearby woods are full of strange and delightful creatures, including a gigantic but gentle forest spirit called Totoro, who can only be seen by children. Totoro and his friends introduce the girls to a series of adventures, including a ride aboard the extraordinary Cat Bus, in this all-ages animated masterpiece featuring the voices of Tim Daly, Lea Salonga, and real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning, in one of their earliest roles. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “My Neighbor Totoro remains an instantly watchable animated masterpiece that holds new surprises from every time I watch it.” Eden T. adds, “My Neighbor Totoro is an amazing movie. In 1988, when this movie came out, anime was not that popular. My Neighbor Totoro set off a craze for anime in the U.S. that has not stopped yet.”  Calista B. wraps it up with, “. It has been 30 years since this film first came out and it still holds up as the beautiful and charming film it is famous for being.” See their full reviews below.

My Neighbor Totoro
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Even after 25 years, My Neighbor Totoro remains an instantly watchable animated masterpiece that holds new surprises from every time I watch it.

Satsuki and Mei are sisters who move to the Japanese countryside with their father. The children are fascinated with the quirks of their new house, as well as the vast nature around it. Satsuki goes to school and Mei begins to explore a fantastical world beneath a large tree in the backyard. She meets three little creatures and names one of them Totoro. Mei tells her sister about the adventure, but Satsuki does not believe her. During the next few days, the sisters discover more and more about their neighborhood and adjust to their new way of life.

My Neighbor Totoro effortlessly crafts and develops so many different poignant stories. It is a coming-of-age tale, as well as a story about how we deal with change and one about the bond between two siblings. Totoro, his little pals, and the world they inhabit add a whole other layer to an already complete narrative. The magical elements intertwine with Satsuki and Mei’s story. They bring light to the siblings, during a scary and dark time in their life. The elements of magic add some levity to less joyful parts of the film, giving just as much closure to the audience as to the characters.

The film never reveals too much about Totoro and a lot about him remains a mystery even after the credits roll. He is so adorably drawn and never feels threatening. He has no dialogue, excluding a few grunts here and there, but is still one of my favorite things about this film. He brings a kind of magic that resonates with you every time he is on screen.

The lesson of My Neighbor Totoro is to never lose faith in what you believe in. Mei’s belief in the magic of Totoro never falters and for that, Totoro helps her and Satsuki not just because they are kind souls, but also because they both learn to believe in his magic.

I give My Neighbor Totoro an age rating of 4 to 18. It appeals to all ages and has practically nothing objectionable for young audiences. I think adults will marvel at the spellbinding animation and wonderful story. I give My Neighbor Totoro 5 out of 5 stars and you need to see this special re-release if you haven’t already fallen in love with this film. It’s available now on DVD.

My Neighbor Totoro
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

In 1988, Studio Ghibli released their third motion picture, My Neighbor Totoro. This film is often the first one you think of when you think of Studio Ghibli or director Hayao Miyazaki. The title character, Totoro is even on the Studio Ghibli logo. It has been 30 years since this film first came out and it still holds up as the beautiful and charming film it is famous for being.

The story is about two sisters named Satski and Mei, voiced by the Fanning sisters, who move to an old house in the countryside with their dad. After moving in, they become friends with a forest spirit they call Totoro.

Of course, I like to talk about animation first and it is just beautiful. Not surprising since, the animation in Studio Ghibli films is always incredible. The backgrounds are just amazing to look at and the forest looks gorgeous. The movement is very fluid and fast; and the characters are so expressive. I love everything about this animation!

The characters are wonderful too. The focus is mostly on the two leads, Satski and Mei. The two of them are very fun, sweet characters who feel like real children. That’s always important to me – that kids in films act like real kids. I also have to mention Totoro himself is such an adorable creature. I found myself wishing he was real, so you could cuddle him. He’s just so fluffy!

Also, the music in this film is just phenomenal. It’s so beautiful and whimsical. There is one particular scene where I actually teared up a little, because the combination of the music and the animation is just so pretty. I also listened to some of the music after watching the film and added it to my playlist. Studio Ghibli always has such wonderful music to back up their films.

My one complaint, that isn’t even that big, is that it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a conflict in the plot. What I mean is, it lacks real struggle. There is a slight conflict because the mom is in the hospital, but the film doesn’t treat that like it is a big problem. It’s just something there. But even with that, the movie is just so cute, I really didn’t bother me.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. The film is available now on DVD so be sure to check it out.

My Neighbor Totoro
By Eden T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

The anime movie My Neighbor Totoro is cute and funny, yet somehow still realistic. Even though some parts are sad, that adds to the plot and makes the story even better. It starts with two sisters, four-year-old Mei and 12-year-old Satsuki. When Mei runs off and meets a large, mischievous forest spirit named Totoro, their lives are changed forever.

My Neighbor Totoro is directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Every scene is hand-drawn, unlike modern CGI movies. The rural setting and characters just feel real. In one scene, Mei trips and falls instead of running on. This gives a sense of reality, instead of edited perfection.

The story starts when Mei, Satsuki and their father move to a new house while their mother is in the hospital.  They soon discover that their house is inhabited by forest spirits, such as the soot gremlins. Nearby, Totoro lives in a huge camphor tree and a magical, eight-legged cat bus is a normal mode of transportation for them.

After Satsuki and Mei get into an argument, Mei runs away. This part is so heartbreaking! With the help of Totoro, you’ll see. The ending is a surprise you’ll enjoy!

Hayao Miyazaki has directed other enjoyable anime movies, such as Kiki’s Delivery Service and Spirited Away. Recently, Hayao Miyazaki came out of retirement. I, for one, cannot wait to see another Miyazaki directed film!

My Neighbor Totoro is cute, funny and realistic. However, I feel that something is missing. Totoro sounds like the main character, but he is on the screen for only a few scenes. Therefore, the movie somehow seems incomplete. The fact that I want more from it only proves how captivating it is.

My Neighbor Totoro is an amazing movie. In 1988, when this movie came out, anime was not that popular. My Neighbor Totoro set off a craze for anime in the U.S. that has not stopped yet. The special features on this DVD unravel the magic by describing how the characters are created, the real life inspiration for the movie’s unique locations and more. I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 8 to 12. You can view this on DVD or Blu-Ray and both are available now. If you enjoy anime, cute and quirky characters, or just a realistic movie, check this out!




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