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March 7, 2011 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Film – My Neighbour Totoro

While many view children’s film as a form of pure entertainment, it would be foolish to underestimate its usefulness as a way to teach. Animated films often neglect the latter and descend into a cacophony of pop-culture references and fart jokes; however, the films of Hayao Miyazaki manage to maintain a masterful balance between enjoyment and education. An environmentalist and a feminist, Miyazaki’s films are certainly informed by his ideology but never seem didactic and still manage to be saturated with magic and wonder. His most successful film in this respect is certainly his 1988 masterpiece, My Neighbour Totoro.

The film portrays the friendship between two young girls and the eponymous magical monster that lives in the forest next to their house in rural Japan. Without conflict, villains or an intruding narrative, the film is an almost episodic series of scenes in which the girls learn, often through interaction with Totoro, respect for their environment. Environmentalism is articulated, not as a Fern Gully-esque zero sum game between mankind and nature, but as a mutually beneficial activity. The girls water vegetables and are able to reap the fruits of their labour. They give Totoro an umbrella, he gives them seeds.

They plant the seeds and are again rewarded for their efforts. The film’s value is not limited to its environmental message and it also encourages healthy relationships between children and parents. Shunning generic clichés, the girls’ father has no problem believing their tales of supernatural interaction and instead encourages the aforementioned activities.

This review shouldn’t make the movie seem like a preachy morality tale; rather, Totoro is probably the greatest animated film of all time and completely deserving of its place as a pop-culture behemoth in Japan. Miyazaki’s animation is as beautiful as ever, Joe Hisaishi’s score is pretty much perfect and the scenes between the girls and Totoro are some of the most magical ever animated. Suitable for young and old alike, My Neighbour Totoro is an incredibly sweet anime classic.

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