By on July 26th, 2013

My Neighbour Totoro

My Neighbour Totoro (1988/2005) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki – 27th July at QFT Belfast (You can find films like this at LOVEFiLM)

Who’s in it? Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning

What’s it about? Overflowing with an infectious sense of wonder brought to life by beautifully artful animation and grounded by warm, funny and thoughtful real-life observations, Japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Whisper of the Heart) – dubbed the Japanese Disney – indulges in the simple adventures of childhood as two young girls discover the spirit world in the forest around their father’s sleepy country cottage while their mother recuperates from an illness in hospital.

Look Who’s Talking: ‘…it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls… It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need.’ – Roger Ebert

Memorable Moments? The two young sisters Satsuki and Mei are taken on a magical mystery tour of king Totoro’s spirit kingdom full of weird and wonderful creatures somehow grounded pleasantly in the real world, chief among which is the furry, purring Cat Bus replete with whiskers, cat’s eye headlights and a cheshire cat-like grin.

Like that? Try this: In The Cat Returns (2002) a young girl is transported to the cat kingdom and compelled by the cat king to marry his son after she saves his life on a busy street with her Lacrosse stick. A similarly magical studio Ghibli production of unusual charm, wonderfully adept at fostering the enchantment of a healthy imagination by giving the audience precisely the last thing it expects. A must for cat lovers!

Trivia Pursuit: The story of two girls caught between childhood innocence and a frightening grown up world is inspired by Miyazaki’s own experience of his mother suffering from Tuberculosis when he was a child and the effect it had on him and his brother.

This article first appeared in The Belfast Telegraph July 26th 2013


  1. 1 Novroz
    August 16th, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I like your new style of reviewing.
    I really like Totoro, it’s been a while since I last watched it. I think a rewatch is in order 😉

    Ah too bad you watched the subdub one…I always enjoy movies in their real language.

  2. 2 Ronan Wright
    August 20th, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I wouldn’t mind watching it in Japanese with English subs but the dubbed versions of Ghibli films are always so good it makes little difference. The Passnotes posts are taken from my weekly column in a local newspaper, that’s why the format is like that. Glad you like it.

  3. 3 Novroz
    August 20th, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    I have trued watching princess mononoke in English because one of the dubbers was Gillian Anderson (I am The X Files die hard fan) but I still can’t do that…after less than half an hour, I changed back to Japanese. Original language is always the best for me.

    Wow…so cool! you have a column in a newspaper. Congrats :)

  4. 4 Ronan
    August 21st, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    That’s a pretty good excuse to re-watch all my Ghibli films (not that I really need one), to watch them as they were intended, in Japanese with English subs. Princess Monoke is actually my least favourite Ghibli film, although I now it’s one of the most popular. I never connected with it on a human level. That’s why I love My Neighbour Totoro and Whisper of the Heart because they are relatable.

    Thanks, it’s been nearly a year and a half now, it’s fun to do.

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