My Neighbor Totoro is a good teaching tool

Average: 5 (1 vote)



This is a film that even college students can watch with enjoyment. There are many teachable moments: there is an aesthetic beauty to the backgrounds and use of sound that is different from Disney animation, but the question is, in what way? The use of silence or only music (no talking) is very Japanese and students can be asked why this is so effective. Images and ideas of Shinto abound in the movie, making it a study of contemporary Japanese ideas about the relationship between humans and nature. Language arts teachers can ask students to talk about the story line (typical for a Hayao Miyazaki film) where young children, particularly girls, find themselves growing up through a series of challenging experiences. Science/environmental studies teachers can use segments from this film along with other Japanese animated films to discuss the strong messages about environmental destruction that underly many of these films. Princess Mononoke, Pompoko, and numerous other anime deal directly with this issue. Finally, for younger children, the interactions between children in the film, the food served, the way the children sleep, etc. are all teachable moments about another culture (although this story is set many years ago, not long after WWII). One caveat is that there is a scene where the father baths with the girls in the family ofuro (bath). This is a good teachable moment, because Japanese consider it completely natural to bath together as a family. However, teachers in this country will have to consider their audience before showing this scene.