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My Neighbor Totoro(1988)
Two young girls, Mei and Satsuki, move into a new home that is close to the hospital that their mother is in. In their yard is an extremely large tree which is home to three Totoros, gods of the forest. Soon after, news from the hospital comes up that their mother can't come home as promised, so Mei (the younger daughter) runs away from home to visit her mom. Satsuki then needs to turn to Totoro for help in finding her sister.
For more about My Neighbor Totoro and the My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray release, see My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 20, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring: Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Sumi Shimamoto, Toshiyuki Amagasa, Tanie Kitabayashi
» See full cast & crew
My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray Review
Let's go walking, you and me...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 20, 2013
My Neighbor Totoro is easily the most humble of Hayao Miyazaki's fantasy films, and yet arguably his most magical. In capturing the simple, indelible awe and imagination of childhood with such fancy and familiarity, the famed Studio Ghibli co-founder exhumes something most adults have long considered dead and buried: the innate, once-unsullied belief that anything, perhaps even everything, is possible. And he doesn't rely on supernatural beasties or wondrous worlds to do it. Oh, there are creatures -- dust-strewn house sprites, a lumbering totoro and its diminutive counterparts, a grinning Cheshire Cat-bus -- and hints of places unknown and worlds unexplored. But such things aren't the source of My Neighbor Totoro's magic. That would be little Satsuki and littler Mei; their wide eyes, dumbstruck wonder, weightless laughter, wistful vulnerability and unrealized but deep-seated fear that, at any moment, the cruel ruler of the real world will come knocking, demand payment for their glimpses into the unseen, and rob them of their ailing mother.
Japan, 1958. Two young girls, Satsuki (Noriko Hidaka, Dakota Fanning) and Mei (Chika Sakamoto, Elle Fanning), move cross-country with their father, Tatsuo (Shigesato Itoi, Tim Daly), into an old house near the hospital where their mother (Sumi Shimamoto, Lea Salonga) is being held for observation. Soon, the two sisters discover a secret: a trio of totoro. One small, one a bit bigger, and one that towers over the girls. The creatures are friendly and adventurous, without a care in the world or an enemy to be had, and the largest of the three (Hitoshi Takagi, Frank Welker) takes a particular liking to Satsuki, who offers the furry beast a gift in the form of an umbrella during a rainstorm. That single gesture remains the beating heart of one of Studio Ghibli's most iconic scenes, and still stands as one of the most memorable and touching exchanges in any Miyazaki film to date. But when Mei suddenly goes missing and Satsuki grows desperate to find her sister, will her newfound friends be able to help her? And what of the girls' mother? What will become of her?
My Neighbor Totoro couldn't tell a more harmless story. There's no antagonist -- save childhood fear -- and no climactic conflict. It's two little girls behaving like little girls, trying to make sense of things like little girls, making the best of a difficult situation like little girls, and hoping beyond hope that their dear mother won't take a turn for the worse, just like little girls would. The only difference is that these perfectly ordinary little girls encounter a perfectly extraordinary band of supernatural creatures, even though neither the totoro or the Cheshire Cat offer much in the way of real companionship. Each animal offers good-natured amusement and lend a helping hand when called upon, nothing more. Gentle and jovial, they provide solace from reality, a distraction from Satsuki and Mei's anxiety, and they do so without expectation of anything in return. Part of the largest totoro's joy at receiving the umbrella meant for Tatsuo is practical (the plip plop sound of the rain, shelter that surpasses a leaf) and part is a wonder all its own; that a young child has given it something it wouldn't otherwise have, something meant for her father, and did so without cowering from the beast. Are the children being drawn to the genteel creature, or is it being drawn to them?
It isn't difficult to pick apart My Neighbor Totoro -- answers about the monsters never come (not that the girls are asking), the plot is as threadbare as it could possibly be, Satsuki's time at school is underdeveloped, and the film ends much too abruptly, on too slight a note, and with too many crucial happenings relegated to the end credits artwork -- but those with too critical an eye will miss the point entirely. Miyazaki isn't interested in weaving a grand tale, a sweeping epic or even a fully realized fantasy. Fantastical elements are at play, but merely encourage the story to inch along. The totoro are the stuff of childhood daydreams; docile expressions, harmless claws, toothy yawns, cozy roars and all. It's Satsuki and Mei that propel the story along. Their love for their mother that lends the film its drama. Their relationship with their father (and whatever else crosses their path) that infuses Totoro with warmth, bygone nostalgia, and the uncanny feeling of coming home, being wrapped in an old, comfortable blanket, and snuggling up next to mom or dad to listen to a bedtime story.
My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray, Video Quality
Miyazaki has denied Disney's requests to tinker with the original look of his oldest animated films, insisting instead that each presentation retain its quaint watercolor palette and film-like contrast. No color tweaking, contrast boosting or drastic renovation a la Cinderella and its ilk; just the film, as it was, as it should be, carefully remastered, lovingly transfered, and simply and proficiently presented. Like Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind, My Neighbor Totoro's 1080p/AVC-encoded 1.85:1 video presentation is refreshingly faithful to its source and celebrates Miyazaki's every intention. And, like Nausicaš, Totoro will unfortunately be the target of some misguided criticism from those who prefer the eye-popping hues and dramatic revisionism Disney has used to bring many of its catalog classics into the 21st century. But to alter the genteel, storybook aesthetic of a film like My Neighbor Totoro would be to alter the very fabric of the film. Colors are light but lovely, contrast is consistent and wholly satisfying, and black levels don't disappoint, purposefully diluted though they sometimes are. Detail is also terrific, with clean line art, stable color fills, refined background-brushstroke textures, and a faint veneer of preserved grain. Scratches and print damage have been repaired or removed without any noticeable side effects, and significant artifacting, banding and aliasing are nowhere to be found. A few instances of minor ringing aside, almost all of which are negligible, I doubt My Neighbor Tototo could look much better than it does here.
My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray, Audio Quality
I have to say, I think I would have really enjoyed a lossless 5.1 track while watching My Neighbor Totoro. Not if it meant the absence of the faithful Japanese and English-language DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes Disney does deliver, mind you -- the best of both worlds would be ideal -- but only if it were an option; one that allowed the listener to be even further immersed in Satsuki and Mei's tiny adventure. Still, as faithful stereo tracks go, there isn't much to be disappointed with. Voices are clear, intelligible and neatly prioritized in the soundscape. Effects are given plenty of room to graze without overcrowding. And Joe Hisaishi's music is a real treat, regardless of whether or not it's limited to two channels. Yes, I would have loved to hear an LFE-bolstered totoro roar, and yes, the film's dense forests could have been a 360-degree delight. But it's hard to complain when it's clear plenty of tender, loving care has gone into the lossless presentation of original audio elements as charming as these.
My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
My Neighbor Totoro isn't Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli's best, but I'd argue it's easily one of their most enduring. Of all the wondrous Ghibli productions I've absorbed over the decades, Totoro is the one that's most endeared itself to me. And while its shortcomings have become more and more apparent as the years have passed, it continues to speak to me as much now as it ever has. More so now that I have a child of my own. Miyazaki, better than any animation filmmaker before or since, distills the universal essence of childhood into wholly convincing young characters and the magic of the imagination into utterly charming stories, no matter how small or simple those stories may be. Fortunately, Disney's Blu-ray release is a terrific one, thanks to an excellent video presentation, solid DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix and a nice selection of special features, new and old, many of which are presented in high definition. Miyazaki, better than any animation filmmaker before or since, continually distills the universal essence of childhood into wholly convincing young characters and the magic of the imagination into utterly charming stories, no matter how small or simple those stories may be. My Neighbor Totoro stands as indisputable proof.
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My Neighbor Totoro Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: May 21-28 - May 19, 2013
For the week of May 21st, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is bringing Side Effects to Blu-ray. Steven Soderbergh has claimed that this feature will be his last theatrical venture - he shot his Liberace docudrama, Behind the Candelabra, for HBO - and if the ...
• Exclusive Giveaway: My Neighbor Totoro & Howl's Moving Castle - May 15, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Walt Disney Home Entertainment are offering five members the opportunity to win a Studio Ghibli prize pack that includes My Neighbor Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle. Both Hayao Miyazaki animated classics arrive on Blu-ray on May 21st.
• Upcoming Studio Ghibli Blu-rays Detailed - February 24, 2013
Walt Disney Home Entertainment and Studio Ghibli have officially detailed the Blu-ray releases of My Neighbor Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle. Both Hayao Miyazaki animated classics are available for pre-order and arrive on May 21st.
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