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[ a parent's guide to anime ]

[ rated g ] My Neighbor Totoro

A Parent's Guide to Anime
Rated: G
Suitable for Family Viewing

Review by Bryan Pfaffenberger

A beautiful, life-affirming film that is suitable for the entire family. There is brief, totally innocent nudity as the family bathes together; this could provide the basis for a family discussion of feelings about nudity and about differences between Japanese and U.S. culture.

Review by Julia Pfaffenberger

A note to parents: this is the movie you should show your children when they ask to see some anime. It's impossible for anyone not to fall in love with it instantly. In 1988, Totoro was domestically released in the U.S. and has been rated G.

Review by Charles Peklenk

This is perhaps the most accessible movie by director Hayao Miyazaki. It has been dubbed into English (rather well) by Fox Video and is available in the USA on DVD and VHS.

[ 32kb ]

This is a simple and surprisingly engaging movie. A family in Japan moves to the country, and while older daughter Satsuki goes to school, little Mei meets an unusual neighbor: a big, furry forest creature, essentially one of the local spirits, who makes his home in a mighty camphor tree. When the girls find out that their mommy can't make it home from the hospital to see the new house yet (she is probably recovering from tuberculosis), Mei panics and runs off. The rest of the story deals with her disappearance.

Some parts of the movie seem to drag on, emphasizing the quiet of the country, but the art lover or animation fan will drink in the beautiful, realistic scenery. Some have accused the movie of being too saccharine, but it isn't too bad. Miyazaki does have a very idealistic streak in him, but the realism of the characters far outweighs it.

Totoro is an exceptional movie for all ages - and unlike Barney, adults and tots can definitely enjoy it together. In fact, parents should watch it with their children at least once, and point out some of the strange features of Japanese country life - the kids who stay at school to clean up, the roadside shrines, and the shared bathtubs. This is the movie to see if you want to see realistic scenes of children who aren't superheroes or princesses, but instead innocent and wonderful (and sometimes trying) in the way that children are. Families who enjoy Totoro should consider Kiki's Delivery Service also.

There is no action in this movie; it may be boring for kids who thrive on constant motion. There is one typical Japanese family bathtub scene with brief nudity, cautiously rendered. It also shows typical Japanese worship of forest spirits - the family bows to the tree and thanks the totoro spirits.

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