I am a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s. Maybe not a superfan like some people I’ve met, but a fan. And though he’s made so many wonderful movies (Spirited Away, Ponyo, Howl’s Moving Castle–just to name a few) I always come back to My Neighbor Totoro.
It’s so gentle and sweet, with an undercurrent of sorrow that’s never fully explained, keeping the viewer as in the dark as the children, Satsuki and Mei, might be. It’s full of whimsy and strange creatures, and though it’s certainly the least plot-driven of Miyazaki’s movies (correct me if I am wrong here–though I believe I’ve seen them all, I don’t vividly remember every single one) it keeps me engaged all the way through. I even considered naming my daughter Mae, in something of an homage to the ornery little sister who discovers Totoro in the woods and then gets lost trying to bring corn to her mother in the hospital because she believes it will heal her.
Sometimes we need to believe in woodsprites and trolls (the translation for the Japanese word “totoro”). Sometimes we need magic. All of Miyazaki’s films contain some magical element, but this one does it in such a sweet way, without the need for cinematic crescendos, fighting dragons, shapeshifting antiheros, or the king of the sea (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo). If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do. Plus, once you’ve watched the movie, you’ll understand this amazing scene from Bob’s Burgers: