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An animated film (see anime) taking place in 1950s Japan about a young girl and her family who move from the city to the countryside. She meets a woodland creature called Totoro. Produced by Studio Ghibli, directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Can be succinctly described as touching, fantastic and a masterpiece of Japanese animation.

There are three things about this movie that strike me as unique.

The first is that the movie isn't about Totoro. The movie is about the two girls, Satsuki and Mei, and revolves around them moving into a new house and going to a new school and being deathly afraid that their mother is going to die. Totoro just shows up every now and then.

The second thing is that the fanciful characters in this movie are not fully anthropomorphized. Both Totoro and the Catbus have huge mouths filled with teeth, and look as if they could bite the girls' heads off at a moment's notice. And so we are forced to judge them by what they actually do, instead of (in the Disney manner) what they look like.

The third thing is how understanding all the grownups seem. The clearest example of this is when the father and Satsuki find Mei, asleep near the base of the great tree. When Mei awakens and tells them about Totoro, the father diplomatically says, "You must have met the Spirit of the Forest." In an American movie, the father would have either accused the child of lying or been horribly patronizing.

These are the three main reasons why I found My Neighbor Totoro to be so charming, and such a refreshing breath of air.

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December 3, 2002: Fox Home video releases My Neighbor Totoro on DVD. It's the english dub, no japanese, no subtitles in pan and scan only with no extras, basically a transfer of the VHS release.

Character Synopsis

O (Big) Totoro, Chu (Mid-size) Totoro and Chibi(Mini) Totoro, forest gods. The guardians of the camphor tree and the Tsukamori forest.

Kusakabe Mei, age 4, the younger sister. Chases Chibi-Totoro to discover Totoro's secret lair.

Kusakabe Satsuki, 10, the older sister. During her mother's absence, bears the responsibility for raising Mei and cooking the family's meals.

Kusakabe Tatsuo, father. University professor, he's got an open mind and encourages the girls to pursue their "imaginary friends".

Kusakabe Yasuko, mother. She is in the Shichikokuyama sanitarium, recovering from tuberculosis. Mei, Satsuki and their father visit her regularly.

Kanta, 11, the neighbor. Torn between his attraction to Satsuki and his fear of cooties, he flips between annoying and helpful.

Granny, the elderly neighbor. Grandmother to Kanta, she helps out the Kusakabes when Father is away.

Catbus, bio-conveyance. The means of transportation for Totoros.

Susuwatari, Fluffy balls of soot, AKA Makkuro Kurosuke. Little dustbunnies that inhabit unoccupied houses, making dust here and there. After being evicted from the Kusakabe household, moved to the Aburaya bath house and got jobs in Kamajii's boiler room (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi)

Other Trivia

The movie is set in the town of Tokorozawa, Saitama prefecture (Tokoro... Totoro...) where director Hayao Miyazaki lives.

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Sampo (The Stroll)
Sung by Inoue Azumi
Lyrics by Nakagawa Rieko
Music by Joe Hisaishi

Arukou arukou
watashi wa genki
Aruku no daisuki
don-don ikou

Hey, let's go, hey, let's go
I'm happy as can be
Let's go walkin', you and me
Ready, set
Come on, let's go
Sakamichi Tonneru kusappara
Ippon bashi ni dekoboko jari michi
Kumo no su kugutte kudari michi
Over the hill, through the tunnel, across the field.
We'll run across the bridge
And down the bumpy gravel road
Right beneath the spider's web, Ready, set, let's go!

Mitsubachi ga bun-bun hana batake
Hinata ni tokage hebi wa hirune
Batta ga tonde magari michi

A honeybee buzzes in a field of flowers,
A lizard in the sunshine, a snake takes a midday nap,
A grasshopper leaps, along the curving path.

Kitsune mo tanuki mo de te oide
Tanken-shiyou hayashi no oku made
Tomodachi takusan ureshii na
Tomodachi takusan ureshii na

Foxes and badgers, come out,
Let's go exploring deep into the woods.
Look at all my many friends, ready, set, let's go
Look at all my many friends, ready, set, let's go!

Audited for E2 Copyright Changes. Deemed fair use under Lyrics and poetry rules 1 and 2: Cited work is under 250 words.

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