It had the worst opening of any Studio Ghibli movie ever,” says producer Toshio Suzuki, recalling Hayao Miyazaki’s breakout classic, My Neighbour Totoro.
In an era dominated by frenetic superhero Japanese animation, this warm, straightforward story – in which motherless moppets Satsuki and Mei discover genial wood-spirit Totoro – took time
finding its feet with audiences.
Markedly different from most plot-driven ’80s animated fare, it’s a film of deceptive simplicity. yet its gorgeously painterly visual details and deliberate pace perfectly recreate a child’s endless fascination with nature, or a new house.
Around this, Miyazaki plants realistic tensions about their hospitalised mother, giving the rural idyll a fear factor.
Resourceful Satsuki and stubborn Mei have characterisation as compelling as live-action cinema.
You even get a whiff of Ozu in the film’s close fascination with the everyday texture of their life, and a shot of Spielbergian suspense in the E.T.-style wait to reveal Totoro in his gargantuan glory.
But the blend of reality and fantasy is Miyazaki’s most extraordinary achievement.
This handsome Blu-ray transfer does full justice to the lush landscapes, careering Catbus and magical Totoro interludes (especially the moody contrasts and key-lighting at the famous bus-stop
A dig into the extras (Ghibli interview snippets mostly, but plentiful) reveals that everything from the red Kato earth to the film’s mother comes directly from Miyazaki’s own background, making
this probably his most personal film.