Korean title: Iutchip Totoro
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Studio: Daewon DVD
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About This DVD
Totoro' on DVD at last! Hayao Miyazaki had been cradling the idea for this wonderful fantasy for a long time before he finally decided to write and direct it. Although it's set in the mid 1950's in Japan's rural area, the sceneries with lots of trees, of fields and meadows with colorful flowers bring a universal feeling of joy and harmony even to those who have never left the big cities or living in other countries. Another charm of the movie is of course it's heart warming tale of the two little sisters and their relationships with the land's mysterious creatures (including a 'Cat Bus!') whose plots aren't forced or condescending in any way, which makes the film such an enjoyable experience for kids and adults alike.
Totoro opens sometime in the 1950's in a small Japanese province, home to rice paddies and country roads. Down one of those country roads comes the moving truck of the Kusakabe family, consisting of two young girls, Mei and Satsuki, and their father, Tatsuo. They are moving to this part of Japan because the girls' mother, who suffers from an unnamed illness, has moved into a nearby hospital specializing in the treatment of the disease. The girls arrive at the house to find it haunted by "dust bunnies," little black fuzzballs who like to live in abandoned houses.
"Now kids, you should never stick your head out the window like this because you might be decapit--" Although the dust bunnies leave shortly thereafter, there are more forest creatures for the girls to meet -- namely, the totoros. A totoro (emphasis on the first syllable) is a forest spirit, invented by Miyazaki as a combination of several different animals. They come in all sizes, but the one we are most concerned with as viewers is O Totoro, or "Big Totoro." The girls encounter Totoro several times over the course of the film, and he acts as a sort of guardian to the girls while their mother begins to recuperate.
As movies go, Totoro is not a tightly-plotted adventure. The first half-hour has been described as "boring" by some of our less favorite movie critics (Siskel! Gene Siskel!), and granted, it's not riveting. But the payoff of sheer delight after those opening scenes would be worth sitting through twice the amount of the slower footage. We've found that a lot of critics perceive Totoro as "gooey" child fare, but we perceive those critics as jaded fatheads who don't remember what it's like to be a kid.
Totoro's most remarkable feature is its ability to put the viewer behind the eyes of these children. Throughout the movie the girls' mother is in the hospital, for reasons never explained. It seems safe to assume that she has tuberculosis (as was later explained by Miyazaki in an interview), but it is never stated in the movie itself. By not telling you what is wrong with her, the films forces you into the position of a young child who can't yet understand the complexities of medicine and disease. Why is mommy in the hospital? Mei and Satsuki don't really know, and neither do we, the viewers.
One of the other reasons for our love of Totoro is the quality of the aforementioned English dub. Every detail is perfect, down to the spontaneous bursts of laughter from Mei and her muffled protests through sobs later in the film. Problematic Japanese idioms are nicely glossed over, but important cultural details are not omitted. It is a model of quality translation and voice acting.
A final testament to My Neighbor Totoro's appeal is the fact that Chris has given copies as gifts on many different occasions, and to many different people adults and children. All of these recipients have responded with great enthusiasm about the movie after seeing it, and the parents of those children who own copies have remarked about their own reactions to the movie. My Neighbor Totoro is a gem of a film, and is probably only overshadowed by other Miyazaki films -- like Laputa, for its grand adventure, or Kiki's Delivery Service, for its charming story and heroine. Still, Totoro will inspire more viewers to buy stuffed toys.
|Audio Format:||DD 2.0 Surround|
|Video Format:||Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1|
|Subtitles:||English, Korean, Japanese|
|Special Features:||Disc 2: Multi Angle Conti Image, Trailers, Opening/Ending Credit, Promotion Films, Character, Synopsis, Crews, Photo Gallery, Coming Attractions (3), Interviews with Director|
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