My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking picture

Not very plot driven

Movie Info

Movie Name:  My Neighbor Totoro

Studio:  Toho

Genre(s):  Animated/Drama/Family

Release Date(s):  April 16, 1988

MPAA Rating:  G


What the hell is this thing climbing on me?!

In Japan in 1958, a professor takes his daughter Satsuki and Mei to live in the countryside so they can be closer to their mother’s hospital.  In their new home, Mei’s follows a small creature into the forest where she sees another small creature.  The creature leads Mei to a giant tree where she discovers Totoro…a forest spirit.  Totoro provides a nice distraction for Mei and Satsuki, but when Mei and Satsuki’s mother’s condition takes a turn for the worst, Satsuki must seek out Totoro to help her find Mei.

Directed by famed anime director Hayao Miyazaki, My Neighbor Totoro (or Tonari no Totoro) is considered one of the greatest anime films of all time and followed his 1986 film Castle in the Sky.  Originally released in 1988 in Japan, My Neighbor Totoro made it to the United States as My Friend Totoro in 1993.  When copyright issues came up, My Neighbor Totoro was finally released again in 2006 by Disney with a new vocal cast provided by Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, and Tim Daly playing the family.


Just the Totoros…chillin’

The story really is pretty minimal, but it is a nice unspoken film. While Totoro’s existence is never proven or disproven, I’d like to think Totoro does not exist and that Mai creates him in her mind to cope with her mother’s sickness and Satsuki while older still wants to believe.  With two children with good imaginations and alone in a new (and sometimes scary) home, they bring Totoro to life in their minds and inspired by adults who still want to believe in fairies and spirits.  The alternate version that there is an actual Totoro that grown-ups cannot see is too easy (plus that is pretty weird that the father just lets his daughters go off at night with a forest spirit).


All aboard the Cat Bus!

I love Miyazaki’s style and films, but I have a bit of a harder time getting into this one than Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away.  The reason probably is that there isn’t much of a plot.  It is more of a whimsical film than a driven film.  It also would have been nice to see Mei and Satsuki have a few more adventures with Totoro before the conclusion of the film.

My Neighbor Totoro has become kind of an icon (though producers originally feared it would be a failure).  Miyazaki uses Totoro for his company’s mascot and Totoro (and the catchy little Totoro theme music have made appearances in other films).  The story had a bit of a sequel made in 2003 with Mei and the Kitten Bus, but it was only thirteen minutes long and never officially released in the U.S.  If you’ve never seen My Neighbor Totoro you should check them out…just don’t expect a bigger plot like some of Miyazaki’s other films.  Miyazaki followed My Neighbor Totoro with Kiki’s Delivery Service in 1989.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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