jacob ceris gandy’s review published on Letterboxd:
this might be a long one
I vaguely remember watching this when I was young, but I was so young that I honestly had no idea what to expect apart from the titular forest spirit bear. That and going from Miyazaki’s first two outings, both phenomenal action/adventures, to Takahata’s somehow unbearably realistic and occasionally surreal ‘Grave of the Fireflies’. Then to This. Is a very strict tonal change.
I heard that they’ve occasionally screened ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ alongside Totoro as a double bill. After the first 5 minutes I was sure that would’ve been a terrible idea but, by the end, the tone shift seems to actually be more complimentary exactly because of how stark the contrast is.
If Lupita and Naussica are very powerful in how simple they are, with masterfully directed action sequences, combined with heartwarming, human characters.
Then Totoro is even less working to accomplish even more.
Very little happens in Totoro. A family of archetypes buy a house, the kids explore and meet forest spirits and other such creatures only the kids can see, the mum is in hospital, there’s a false flag climax where the sister runs away because the mum might be even more ill but it turns out she’s fine and then that’s it. There is basically no conflict in Totoro.
this is amazing.
I will admit here and now, I love love love films where there is minimal conflict (Happy as Lazzaro anyone?) and I also love fairytales, how simple they are, how flat the characters are, and yet they stay with us for the longest time.
Totoro is a minimalist fairytale. The lead characters are children (very well written children who act in a stupidly emotionally accurate way), they interact with forest spirits who the adults use to teach morals/ explain the world with, there’s so much storytelling occurring through action and setting, and there’s a constant atmosphere of feeling like you’re learning and growing.
Watching Totoro is embracing, that for 90 minutes, there are no problems in the world.
Oh and MY GOD THOSE BACKGROUNDS. Why can’t real life look like paintings fuck
Sometimes, I think it can be good to have fairy tales like that, it’s an escape into something you can only really have for a good 10 years or so, then you’re in secondary school, maybe sixth form, then university, work. Then maybe you’ll read Grimm’s to your children, or maybe you’ll be lazy and just watch a cat bus solve all your problems.
I don’t know i’m not at that stage of adult life yet.