by Christopher Macdonald,

My Neighbor Totoro

FOX Home Video DVD

My Neighbor Totoro
Totoro is a forest spirit that little Mei, and later her older sister Satsuki, encounter in a giant camphor tree near their new home in the countryside. Although their father, a university professor, is with them when they move, their mother is in the hospital, recovering from an unnamed illness. When Mei hears that her mother's condition may be worsening, she resolves to visit her all by herself. When everyone realizes she's missing, only Totoro knows how to find her.
My Neighbor Totoro is an absolutely wonderful story, crafted by one of the best animation directors alive today. Those who are familiar with Miyazaki's other children's tales like Spirited Away and Kiki's Delivery Service already know that Miyazaki is capable of constructing stories that cross all boundaries, regardless of the age or culture of the viewer, Miyazaki's stories warm the heart and feed the mind; Totoro is no different.

Although essentially a movie for children, My Neighbour Totoro is so excellently crafted that any adult who has ever enjoyed a classic children's story will surely enjoy this feature.

My Neighbour Totoro takes us to a place where there is no evil. Like many of Miyazaki's movies, Totoro makes do without an antagonist whatsoever. Rather than being a movie about conflict, it is a story about a wonderful, magical episode in the lives of two young children. This sweet, simple and innocent tale is a wonderful exception in today's bleak world. Children will love the fun story, and adults will be enchanted by a simplicity that has probably escaped their day-to-day lives.

Simple is also an adequate way of describing the art and animation found in this feature, and once again, simple is best. The lack of realistic details enhances the film's feeling, as simple yet careful lines are blended with rich colors to provide an overall visual warmth that sets the mood perfectly for the story.

Unfortunately the DVD is nothing special. In fact, with the exception of standard DVD navigation (Main Menu, Trailers, Feature, Chapters), this DVD has nothing that a VHS release wouldn't have. There are no extras, none. There's only 1 language, English, and no subtitles, even for the hearing-impaired.

My Neighbour Totoro's English dub was supervised by Carl Macek for Troma studios, who originally released Totoro theatrically in North America. The combination of Carl Macek and Troma might cause many fans to cringe, but the fear is unwarranted. The English adaptation is faithful, the story was not altered in anyway, the translation is very close to the original, and with the exception of the opening and ending themes, the music is entirely unaltered.

Of course, all the faithfulness in the world isn't worth much if the actual quality of the English dub was sub-standard. Once again however, there is no need to fear, My Neighbor Totoro's English dub is extremely well produced. Lisa Michaelson, an otherwise unknown voice actress, is an excellent Satsuki and she is joined by a veteran Cheryl Chase who brings youthful exuberance to the young Mei. These two actresses are supported by an excellent cast and given superb direction, making the English dub of Totoro a truly worthy adaptation of one of the best children's movies of all times.

Unfortunately, Fox has done nothing to restore this film, with the source material dating back to 1988, and the English dub to 1993, there are some visible and audible glitches that mar the DVD. Fortunately, 14 years is not that long a time, and while the occasional spec does appear on the screen, the image and sound are for the most part... good enough.
Overall (dub) : A
Story : A+
Animation : B
Art : A-
Music : B+

+ A Masterpiece of Anime
Dub only, no special features, unrestored

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Production Info:
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki
Music: Joe Hisaishi
Original creator: Hayao Miyazaki
Character Design: Yoshiharu Satō
Art Director: Kazuo Oga
Animation Director: Yoshiharu Satō
Director of Photography: Hisao Shirai
Executive producer: Yasuyoshi Tokuma
Producer: Toru Hara

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My Neighbor Totoro (movie)

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