My Neighbor Totoro, a childhood favorite of mine, is a grand story that is also a simple story. Sometimes a simple story, one with only mild supernatural goings’ on, is a blessing. Totoro is a cute creature that shows up randomly to two young sisters who are moving into the country with their father so that they can be closer to their mother who is quite ill. A coming of age movie is always something that I can appreciate, and while one might think it for children, anime is something that people of all ages can enjoy.
Satsuki and Mei, in 1958 Japan, are two sisters who are (like most siblings) in love and hate with one another do what most children in their position would do, which is to explore their new surroundings with abandon. The house, big and spacious and seemingly haunted with dust motes, is ripe for adventure as are the grounds that surround it. Grounds that are coated with thick bushes that are planted just so there is a path beneath them (just got to love natural pathways after all!). While their father, who works at home, and Satsuki (the older sister) is at school, Mei is left alone to explore the house and grounds and she almost immediately comes across a mysterious presence that looks like a cross between a rabbit and a bear (and boy are they huggable!).
This is a coming of age story, as previously mentioned, with hints of the supernatural, but the main story is all about Mei and Satsuki coming to terms with one another and strengthening their relationship as sisters.
The animation is beautiful, the score enchanting, and the characters interesting. My Neighbor Totoro is one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best movies (In my humble opinion of course, after all Kiki’s Delivery Service is also one of my all-time favorites!), and the mythology is deep (while not jammed down our throats). The power of a simple story is that it allows us to fill in the gaps, of which there aren’t many. A simple story allows us to sit back and relax and simply enjoy the show!
But even a simple story has drama within it, and the drama picks up very near the end so that we can see the importance of family and the strength that those bonds can have. Loyalty is another concept, and that it sometimes will come out of the most unexpected of places. This is why I adore a simple story, for me more things stick out in my mind.