MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO  (Tonari no Totoro)

Region 2 (UK) Edition  -  Reviewed by Andy Davidson

Director:  Hayao Miyazaki

Starring the voices of:  Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Pat Carroll 

THE FILM

Two young girls, Satusiki and Mae, are moving to a new home with their father. Their mother has been ill so, the family has decided to move to a new home in the country so that she can recuperate when she comes out of hospital.

Compared to the cramped conditions of urban Tokyo, their new home is a bewildering spectacle and the girls head off to explore their new surroundings. On one such expedition, Satsuki spots a small white creature scurrying through the undergrowth. She gives chase and after a breathtaking pursuit emerges in a clearing where she discovers Totoro, an enormous woodland creature, resting under the camphor tree near their home.

And so begins Miyazakiís masterpiece. My Neighbour Totoro is, first and foremost, a childrenís film. It explores a simple story Ė two girls discovering their new home and the creatures (human and otherwise) around it and awakening after a period of sadness and confusion. While their motherís illness is not discussed at any length, the viewer gets the impression that she was very seriously ill and that Totoro and his lovable friends are a form of therapy.

But thatís all too psychoanalytical for a film such as this. My Neighbour Totoro is about that magical time when children are filled with innocence and wonder. Where mysterious creatures lurk unseen and the unknown is not a threat but something to be explored with joyful abandon.

My Neighbour Totoro manages to convey those feelings of innocence and wonder without ever becoming cheesy or misty-eyed. Itís a simple film which conveys its message without ever becoming preachy. Itís no mystery why Totoro himself has become the emblem of Studio Ghibli; the creature is the epitome of everything the studio stands for.

THE DVD

Like the majority of Optimumís Studio Ghibli collection, My Neighbour Totoro is presented as a single disc release, along with a selection of extras taken from the filmís various releases worldwide.

Picture
My Neighbour Totoro is presented in the filmís original 1.84:1 aspect ratio, with anamorphic enhancement. It's windowboxed, allowing the full picture to fit on most screens. This allows for the edge area cropped off in the overscan on most domestic sets. The picture itself, while generally good, is variable in places. Some of the menus are quite blurred and the film itself, while adequate, does look slightly dark with visible dirt and edge enhancement in places.

Sound
There are two soundtracks available. As well as the original Japanese 2.0 soundtrack, there is a 2.0 English dub starring sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning. Both tracks are presented at 224kbps. English subtitles are also available, along with subtitles for the hard of hearing.

BONUS FEATURES

Alternate Angle Storyboards

The best extra on all of Optimumís Studio Ghibli releases has been the inclusion of the original storyboards for the film, viewable as an alternative angle option. The beautifully simple artwork is a joy to watch and gives a unique insight into the animation process behind these films.

Original Trailers

The three original Japanese trailers for My Neighbour Totoro are included, along with English subtitles. Somewhat annoyingly, the subtitles cannot be switched off. The picture quality of the trailers themselves is variable, with the first of the three looking like itís been compressed to within an inch of its life.

Textless Opening & Closing Credits

Optimum have included the opening and closing sequences for the film minus credits. The opener is a nice little animation featuring dancing Totoros but the closing sequence is of more value in that it continues the story past the end of the film. So, if you want to know what happens to Mae and Satsuki when the music starts, watch on.

Howlís Moving Castle trailer

Howlís Moving Castle is released on DVD the same day as My Neighbour Totoro. The US trailer for the film, complete with implausibly gruff voice is included here.

Studio Ghibli Collection trailer

Once again, the trailer for the complete set of Ghibli releases planned by Optimum is included. The trailers appear to have been sourced from a lower quality medium so donít quite look their best, but the contents are more than worth a viewing.

SUMMARY

My Neighbour Totoro is not only one of the best Ghibli films, itís one of the best films for children ever made. What this release lacks in technical quality it more than makes up for in the quality of the film itself. Essential viewing for families everywhere.


Note: The disc's sleeve uses the Anglicised spelling of the film's title, My Neighbour Totoro. The menus and the print itself use the American version, My Neighbor Totoro.

Related reviews:

The Studio Ghibli Collection

Laputa - Castle in the Sky

Kiki's Delivery Service

My Neighbour Totoro

Pom Poko

Porco Rosso

DVD reviewed: March 2006

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