Capsule Legacy

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Lovely pastoral animation and scenes, amazing character/creature design, unrelenting childlike whimsy, slight current of darkness. An absolutely amazing charmer.

Jun 2021 update:

I will cherish the memory of my 19-month old longingly shouting “Cat bus again! Cat bus again!” whenever the cat bus goes off screen.

Jan 2022 update:

All of us were tired and this was the only thing we could agree to watch. Our third time in about half a year.

My focus this time around: I love how fuzzy the border is between fantastical reality vs. dreams/imagination run wild in this movie. It really captures the refracted way kids experience reality.

Put another way: Do the Totoros unequivocally “exist” every time we see them? Or are they an imagined coping mechanism for two girls with a sick mom going through massive life changes?

There are just enough physical cues that they are “real” for that to be a clear fact of the movie, but just few enough that you can make the case that they are a shared figment of imagination. E.g: the final cat bus rescue could be a panicked fugue state for Mei and Satsuki; Totoro in the rain at the bus stop could be a stress delusion for Satsuki; etc.

Even the kids’ shared vision of the Totoros is somewhat explicable in this lens; if you’ve ever had close cousins or siblings, you might remember how vivid and detailed your shared pretend-time could be, as if you were both experiencing something “real” that was in each of your respective heads.

I don’t think the movie wants us to think that, but I also don’t think the movie shuts the door on that interpretation. Art, man.

Is It Good?

Exceptionally Good (7/8)

Note: This capsule review was originally published elsewhere. If I watch this movie again, I might expand this to a full-length review.

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