My Neighbor Totoro

Author
Synopsis
"Critically acclaimed as one of the most delightful and charming family films ever, My Neighbor Totoro is a stunning animated treat full of magical adventure from Hayao Miyazaki. Follow the adventures of Satsuki and her four-year-old sister Mei when they move into a new home in the countryside. To their delight, they discover that their new neighbor is a mysterious forest spirit called Totoro, who can be seen only through the eyes of a child. Totoro introduces them to extraordinary characters — including a cat that doubles as a bus! — and takes them on an incredible journey. Full of wonder and heart, this spectacular 2-disc set features the voice talents of Dakota Fanning and Elle Fanning." (text taken from Amazon)
Year Released
2006
Running Time
86 min
Publisher
Walt Disney Home Entertainment
ISBN Number
0788834037
URL
Chronology
Region
Subject
Rating
5
Average: 4.6 (16 votes)

Reviews

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Kayla Thoma ESL teacher

Field of Interest/Specialty: Early Childhood
Posted On: 01/10/2020
5

My Neighbor Totoro is about two girls who move into a country home with their father. Their mother sick and stays in a hospital. The girls are adventurous and find fun anywhere. They are very respectful to their elders. They meet forest spirits that take them on adventures. There is a scene where the girls bath are taking a bath with their father. (The Maori also do this in New Zealand.) This is not uncommon in Japan but may need to be edited for the US.
I teach ESL to high school, middle school, and elementary school. I found the movie very enjoyable, and I would show it to any grade level. We can compare different cultures and how daily chores differ. We can also use it to talk about different religions and how they might play into the daily life of certain countries.

My Neighbor Totoro Review

Field of Interest/Specialty: ESL
Posted On: 12/03/2019
4

Karen Kozuch
K-6 Elementary and Middle School ELL (English Language Learners)
Social, Instructional language, ELA, Social Studies, Science, Math
Gateway School District
After viewing this film twice with three of my own children, boys ages 12, 14, and 17, I found that the anime style and the slower pace were refreshing and beneficial to understanding the culture of Japan. Although I heard comments like, "This scene goes on forever" when Mei is interacting with Totoro and the other wood spirits, overall, my sons were entertained and found relationships to their own childhood as with the "Magic School Bus" cat and the "bay blades" that help Totoro give the children an exciting ride. Although this might seem like a movie made for young children, I think it would be most appropriate for third grade and up. The themes of family loyalty, fear of loss of a close family member, friendship, life change, and growing up make it ideal for older children and even adults. As several reviewers have mentioned, I would hesitate to show the scene with the father and daughters bathing simply because it would be difficult to explain given our own cultural taboos.
In addition to the universal themes that I would emphasize for discussion on the commonality of human nature in both ELA and Social Studies, I would use this film for its beautiful depiction of the Japanese traditional Shinto beliefs or connection with the spirituality of nature. Besides the obvious discussion of wood spirits and the importance of the human relationship with the trees when the father mentions that he chose this place because he knows their mother would love the especially old tree, there are many instances of the family communing with nature. The dancing around the grove of trees and their immediate tremendous growth, albeit imaginary, is striking as well as the time spent playing flutes in the trees and harvesting the vegetables in Granny's garden. In regard to health, both physical and psychological, the discussion about the tremendous health benefits of eating those vegetables grown by Granny with tender loving care leads to a major plot development when Mei tries to get to the hospital to save her mother's life with the corn she picked herself. Even the architecture of the traditional Japanese home is very much one with nature and the soot sprites are understood to be "friendly" ghosts that unite them with their environment. Totoro and his companions are the ultimate connection to our biological and spiritual worlds and well-accepted by the father despite his inability to see them. As we decorated our own house this weekend for the Christmas season by bringing the out-of-doors inside with Christmas trees and other greenery, I felt a connection with the girls and their forest friends that many of my students would understand.
I would also use this film to point out cultural similarities and differences in the hospital scenes, the school room scenes, and chores done together as a family and as a given part of their daily lives. The hard work of the father in his study, the one room school house depicting a teacher who is given high respect, the emphasis on the Kanji penmanship, and the method of discipline when the book is placed on the boy's head are all interesting aspects given that the movie was made in 2006. Also, the acceptance of young Mei by the teacher and the other students demonstrates a culture of loving community during hard times. Although Satsuki is slightly embarrassed and asks Mei to be quieter, she was obviously concerned enough to run out and greet her and invite her in to the school when it became clear that was the only solution. The immense love shown between all members of this family make it perfect for the unit we are studying right now on what makes a family and whether your community and the world can be you family. Although I do not have any students from Japan at this time, my students always appreciate the study and acceptance of other cultures as validation that our differences are just as enriching to study as our similarities with our family, the human race.

Pokemon Meets Alice in Wonderland

Field of Interest/Specialty: Visual Arts
Posted On: 11/22/2019
4

A Japanese family moves to the countryside so that they can live near the hospital in which the mother is being treated for a mysterious illness. The young daughters encounter and develop a friendship with several fantastic creatures residing in the neighborhood. This movie was fun and entertaining overall, however a bit slow moving by contemporary standards. It is distinctly Japanese, and one can absolutely become immersed in the world view of the characters. I would also recommend care showing to students in the classroom due to the scene of the father bathing with the daughters. This scene could easily become misinterpreted and result in many uncomfortable conversations.

My Neighbor, Totoro

Field of Interest/Specialty: First grade teacher
Posted On: 01/06/2019
4

Reviewed by Janessa Noel, First Grade Teacher, Conner Street Elementary
The film was the first Anime type of film that I have viewed. While the story was interesting, I found it was lagging just a bit, particularly for younger audiences. I watched this with my 4 year old daughter, and while she was interested, about halfway in, she began to lose interest and eventually walked away. The story action was not enough to maintain her focus. As a first grade teacher, I feel that this movie may be a nice way to introduce some aspects of Japanese culture- the father reminds the girls to take their shoes off, the oldest daughter packs lunches for everyone, the "Granny" plays an important role in taking care of the home and the youngest girl, Mei. There are also many instances of the use of kanji, as well as a scene from a Japanese classroom in the film that could be used to compare and contrast.
While I have not yet used this video in my classroom, I see ways that elements of the movie could be used to accompany lessons in the classrooms. For example, Totoro is a fictional character, that shows elements of fantasy, along with the cat-bus and the "soot sprites". These characters show many characteristics of fiction or fantasy tales. The movie mentions plants frequently and shows the importance of ecology with the Japanese culture. I think that this movie would be a great way to show plant life in other countries as well as a way to introduce seeds and sprouts, as acorns are mentioned frequently throughout the movie.
The main reason I gave this film 4 stars is because I would hesitate to show the movie in my class, or at least the scene where the father bathes with the daughters and Satsuki's backside is shown. As much as I could try to explain the cultural differences, I feel that I would certainly have to fast forward to skip that scene all together to avoid first grade snickers and laughs, and upset parents calling.
Overall a good movie with a great introduction to Japanese culture and animation.

My Neighbor Totoro

Field of Interest/Specialty: Kindergarten
Posted On: 01/07/2018
5

My Neighbor Totoro is a Japanese film wriiten and directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghigli. It is a very imaginative story about two little girls. Satsuki and her four year old sister Mei move to the country with their Father while their Mother is sick in the hospital.
While playing in the yard one afternoon while her sister is at school, Mei sees the forest spirits and follows them back to the forest and finds her neighbor, Totoro. He is a forest spirit who takes the two girls on many vivid imaginative adventures and teaches them that things will work out as they should.
Totoro can only be seen through the eyes of a child. They travel to different places in a cat that acts like a bus. The cat helps Satsuki find Mei when she runs off to go to the hospital to see her mother and give her some corn because she thinks her mother is going to die. The cat takes the girls to the hospital and places the corn on the window sill of her room.
I feel that this movie would be good for all elementary students with some explanation about the Japanese culture. I have a concern for kindergarten students with the scene where the girls take a bath with their Father. That is a custom in Japan, but not here in the United States.
I would use this in religion to teach about the importance of family, in social studies to teach about the Japanese lifestyle, in health to teach about feelings and in reading to teach about fantasy stories.

A children's tale that adults will love as well

Field of Interest/Specialty: The Arts
Posted On: 01/05/2018
5

The story follows two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to a dilapidated country house with their father. The sisters find the house haunted by "soot spirits" who scamper from crack to crack and abandon the home at the sound of laughter. The forest surrounding their new home is populated by an assortment of mystical creatures called Totoros. Mei befriends the eldest O Totoro, king of the forest, after she chases a fuzzy, ghost like critter into the king's lair under a giant camphor tree. O Totoro is huge with a frightful roar, but prefers snoozing to causing harm. Magical adventures ensue. The forest creates a diversion for the sisters as they face the uncertainties of the real world.
The film reflects the strong values of Asian culture - respect for parents, family and community as well as reverence for animal spirits and the earth. There is a strong ecological theme throughout the movie. Satsuki and Mei's affection for each other is clear and their father has an accepting attitude towards his daughters imagination. The animation is not complex. Simple watercolor backgrounds of rural area remain static. Characters are rendered in the Japanese anime style with large round eyes, disproportioned bodies, and sometimes cavernous mouths.
I loved the film though it left me feeling a bit melancholy as it portrays the finite innocence of childhood and human mortality. The movie is touching but not saccharine in it's sweetness. I would recommend this movie for all age groups as well as adults. My Neighbor Totoro would be a good starting point for an art lesson on anime or animation for older students.

My Neighbor, Totoro

Field of Interest/Specialty: Language Arts/Social Studies
Posted On: 12/05/2017
5

Rebecca Banko
Grades 6-8
Language Arts and Social Studies
Queen of Angels Catholic School
Hayao Miyazaki’s childhood tale, My Neighbor Totoro, is about a family moving to new village outside of Tokyo. His storytelling skills are revealed as he combines fantasy and reality in a way that blends culture with universal themes.
The two young daughters of a university professor befriend Totoro, an ancient spirit animal. The spirit animal can only be seen through the eyes of a child. That is revealed as part of the story when the girls’ father and another family friend (Granny) remember fondly their encounters with Totoro when they were children.
The girls are facing adversity. Their mother is in a hospital many miles away. They must try to cope without a mother’s guidance in a new town with new people in a small village. The girls are open to the challenge hanging onto the hope of their mother’s homecoming. They connect with Granny, a wise woman of the village who oversees the girls.
Totoro is the friend they need to give them strength to endure this difficult time. Totoro appears as a playmate and a protector. He is a fantastical character that the oldest daughter turns to when shards of doubt and despair enter her mind. Totoro helps the eldest daughter, Satsuki, find her little sister, Mei when Mei runs away to the hospital on her own. The spirit animal seems to be a natural friendship that is allowed to flourish almost as a surrogate parent to the girls.
This movie is suitable for student viewing in grades two and up. I think that those students can best separate fantasy from reality. Totoro is not a pet, but an imaginary creature. I would use this movie to discuss writer’s purpose asking students: Why does Miyazaki choose to use a spirit animal, not a nanny or a friend as the new character that the girls meet? This would prompt a discussion of Japanese culture and how spirit animals are often used in Japanese literature. My middle school students enjoyed the movie and were surprised that it is a part of the Disney family of films.

My Neighbor Totoro

Field of Interest/Specialty: Visual Arts
Posted On: 11/17/2017
5

My Neighbor Totoro is a film that delves into fantasy and the innocent world of children, while still portraying slight external conflict and, more importantly, valuable life lessons. Conflict present in the film is situational, such as illness of a family member and the troubles associated with caring for younger siblings. Watching this quiet, friendly film you will be surprised by the lack of villains and fight scenes present within the narrative. Good vs. evil is not present in this story, however overcoming feelings of fear for the strange or unknown is a reoccurring theme. This film addresses many important themes, but the most prevalent concept is innocence. Miyazaki asks viewers to remember the sense of adventure and unconditional love they had as young children. You will also see the portrayal of humanity’s relationship with nature, where wood spirits have restorative powers that are helpful and positive.
Miyazaki portrays the story of two young girls, Mei and Satsuki who learn to love their strange new home and their spirited troll neighbors. Mei is the brave, stubborn younger sister of Satsuki. She rushes into situations based on what her heart tells her rather than listening to her head. She trusts and loves her strange new friends immediately. It takes Satsuki longer to warm up to her new home and neighbors, as she has more responsibilities and wishes to protect her younger sister. She bares the weight of her mother’s illness and fears losing her, causing conflict with her sister. She develops throughout the film and experiences some trouble in balancing her responsibilities with her love of adventure and fantasy.
This film is appropriate for many age groups, and I would recommend it in the classroom setting for elementary through college. During one early scene, Mei, Satsuki and their father are seen sharing a bath in the piping hot ofuro tub, which can lead to a discussion about cultural differences in Japan. Also applicable in the classroom, the character development and simple narrative could become a wonderful discussion piece in an ELA setting. As an elementary art teacher, this film would make a great piece to introduce anime into the classroom. The animations are fairly simple and are created in a quiet style that juxtapose scenes of stillness and movement. One of my favorites scenes occurs after Totoro dances and raises the acorns into a gigantic, twisted tree. The excitement and upward movement of the tree is a stunning moment of success and growth. After the intense, exciting moment, the characters enjoy their successful efforts with moments of peace and serenity.

My Neighbor Totoro: an introduction to Anime

Field of Interest/Specialty: Art
Posted On: 11/10/2017
4

My Neighbor Totoro, is an excellent starting point for anime. I have seen parts of anime films before but never all the way through. I think there were some clear themes of Anime present with the ideas of fantastical characters such as Totoro, whom only little Mei can see in the beginning. The cat bus and little black dust spirits were fascinating. There is a sense of duty for the children and need to care of each other and the home while sick mother is away. Visually appealing and while the target audience seems to be "G" rated, I found it entertaining. I watched with my 8 year old son, who didn't want to see it, but raved to his 11 year old brother about it. I have been apprehensive to try anime in the classroom, because I had seen films that I felt were not appropriate for a middle school classroom. I think this film would be a great way to discuss Japanese beliefs, anime themes, and keep the attention of my middle school audience.

A Great Introduction to Anime

Field of Interest/Specialty: Civilization/Political Science
Posted On: 01/01/2017
4

This was a great film and served as my introduction to Anime. I found the film to be quite enjoyable. I was able to pick out many of the recurring themes of Anime within this film and it reinforced what I learned at a recent lecture about Anime. I watched this film with my children who are 5, 7, and 8 years old. They all enjoyed watching this with me. At the same time, I do believe that older children would be engaged by this film. "Totoro" could be used in any class setting either in parts or as it is intended.