A Scribbly on Ghibli: MY FIRST GHIBLI

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Everyone (and I do mean everyone, except for like hermits and rock people) has seen or at least semi-recognizes My Neighbor Totoro and its titular creature. Totoro is the company’s official mascot, appearing at the beginning of literally every Ghibli movie and is available in literally any form of merchandise you could possibly think of. My Neighbor Totoro has solidified itself as an animated classic and has a cult following akin…well nothing else that I can think of. My Neighbor Totoro is the face of Ghibli and is one of the best animated movies of all time… Now all that being said…it’s also just a tiny bit boring.



Okay so I know that’s a bit of a claim to make talking about one of the greatest animated films of all time but it’s kind of true. While yes, the design of the scenery is gorgeous and yes, the characters are unique, cute, and (mostly) fun, and again yes, the story is creative and pretty unique…. it’s just ultimately a whole lot of nothing. The girls move into a new house in the country because their mother is sick in the hospital, they become friends with the “keeper of the forest”, the four-year-old is a brat and the older sister takes care of her, the end. I mean there is some adventure; watching the way the spirit and human worlds interact with each other is done in such a light-hearted capricious way you can’t help but smile; but Totoro is the whole show. In a movie that is only eighty-six minutes long, it takes twenty-six for the titular character to show up and the scenes between his appearances just seem to have the tendency to drag on.


The best parts of the movie, directly involve the forest spirits; without them we’re left with scenes of Mei being a terrible toddler and her sister Satsuki taking on the maternal role for her absent mother. I never actually noticed how bad Mei was until I watched it this go round; she was rude, she cried if she didn’t get her way, she followed Satsuki around everywhere she went and whenever she wasn’t supposed to go she never listened. The last part of the movie revolves around Mei running away after being told her mother had to stay at the hospital; their community ends up dragging a lake looking for her and she nearly gave her elder neighbor a heart attack. Then there’s Satsuki, the older sister who cooks and cleans and takes care of her sister, always trying to be brave and be strong. Eventually she ends up breaking down into tears because of repressed fears about her mother’s mortality. So yeah, we end up navigating between scenes like these and scenes filled with the innocence and light-heartedness of childhood and nature.


So as we end the movie singing the name of our favorite giant sleepy forest spirit, we’re left with delightful feelings of relief for the Kusakabe family. My Neighbor Totoro is and will always be an animated classic that I do plan to one-day share with my own future terrible toddlers. And soon everyone will be singing about “my neighbor to to ro totoro to to ro totoro”.

Tags: , , ,

About the Author

Sierra Beeler is a junior English major at UNC Charlotte. An aspiring screenwriter, she hopes to one day entertain the masses with a book series turned television show she hopes will “put J.K Rowling to shame.” When not working on one of her many uncompleted projects, Sierra enjoys watching Hulu and crying over fictional characters.