Think back to the hazy days of childhood, when anime giant Studio Ghibli and its beloved films “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke” didn’t yet exist. Think way back, to lovable giant puff-balls whose strange mix of cat- and owl-like features didn’t belie the general mysteriousness of their nature.
I speak, of course, of “My Neighbor Totoro,” one of the first of Hayao Miyazaki’s films to find its way across the pond. Written and directed by Miyazaki before he became anime’s hottest commodity, “Totoro” was not only a lovable chapter in a childhood memory, but also a damn good movie.
“Totoro” tells the endearing tale of two sisters, Mei and Satsuki, whose relocation with their father to a rural country house (ostensibly in order to be closer to their hospitalized mother) brings them into contact with a number of delightfully eerie spirits: tiny soot sprites, whose bouncy processions along the hallways of the old house can’t help but evoke a smile, and the indescribably larger Totoro, several furry-looking monsters who dwell in a giant tree in the forest that borders the house. The largest of these lovable Totoro befriends the girls, setting up a series of fantastic adventures that range from a trip on the mystical Catbus all the way to an aerial midnight flight, set aloft by an umbrella.
But what really made “Totoro” special was the relationship Miyazaki developed between the two sisters.
The film, under its splendid mask of fantasy and imagination, paints a tender portrait of family and childhood, teasing out the na’vet