My neighbor totoro

Heh. Thanks Gav. Saying cartoons is where I am leaning myself.

I think I may have misremembered the pronunciation from the newspaper. Yours sounds more accurate.[/quote]

He’s right you know. It’s animation without the ‘tion’.

Was pretty interesting watching Grave of the Fireflies. Since I can quite easily get a bit teary-eyed at movies and such, and I had heard it made a lot of people cry, I expected to have at least some sort of reaction. Watched it through, and nothing. Sure, it was sad, but didn’t really affect me.
Then three weeks later, when I was at work, I started thinking about it, and bam, I’m almost sitting there sniffling.


Tim Elhajj wrote:
Gav wrote:
But I just say cartoons–it’s so much less pretentious

Heh. Thanks Gav. Saying cartoons is where I am leaning myself.

I think I may have misremembered the pronunciation from the newspaper. Yours sounds more accurate.

He’s right you know. It’s animation without the ‘tion’.


We call everything anime here, whether its Disney or Miyazaki.

The first modern anime, as far as I know (actually, I just read that it was the first anime with a plot, there was another show that premiered the year before), was Osama Tezuka’s Astroboy (The Mighty Atom), which premiered in 1963.
This has been your moment of geeketry.
Manga is older.

By about a few hundred years!




I’d have thought the same thing, but my kids (ages 6 & 3) really loved it, and friends at work say the same thing about their kids. It is kind of odd–it doesn’t have any really exciting parts, and in some ways it’s pretty alien to a modern kid’s life, but kids really seem to get into it.


Fair enough, but it’s a pretty short movie and never seemed to overstay its welcome to me. Even the “meandering” scenes don’t burn a lot of screentime and seem to arrive at their particular climaxes rather crisply. I am contrasting it to both Mononoke & Spirited Away, which for all their brilliance seem bloated to me.

But yes, there is a meandering feel to the movie, in the sense that it’s not at all plot-heavy. It’s more situational & observational.


I’d have thought the same thing, but my kids (ages 6 & 3) really loved it, and friends at work say the same thing about their kids. It is kind of odd–it doesn’t have any really exciting parts, and in some ways it’s pretty alien to a modern kid’s life, but kids really seem to get into it.


Miyazaki has, I think, an understanding of what “entertains” kids beyond flashes and bangs.

In some way the whole film is a rumination on the quieter moments of childhood. Those hours spent staring at the sun reflecting on a stream, or a drop of dew. A time before we’ve made all our decisions about what the mysteries of the world really mean…

Various thoughts:

First off, like most people, the Japanese import words as well as ideas. In this case, I’m pretty sure they swiped “anime” from the French term for animation, dessin anime (lit. “animated drawing”). As Kitsune points out, the Japanese use “anime” to refer to all animation - it’s Westerners who use it to refer specifically to Japanese animation. So somewhat perversely, when we in the U.S. use the word “anime,” we’re “importing” a French word via Japan to refer to Japanese `toons. Go, bastardized multiculturalism! ;)

Second, I believe Astro Boy, back in the `60s, was the first anime - certainly the first to be imported into the U.S. - but I’ll leave it to an even bigger anime geek than me to verify that. :) So anime’s been around a long while and bits of it have trickled into the U.S. since its very beginning. But I’d say in the U.S. it gradually grew in popularity from the mid-80s (largely thanks to Robotech) to the mid-90s, then suddenly “exploded” onto the mainstream with the likes of Dragonball and Sailor Moon. [Which both amuses and surprises an old-school anime nerd like me, who grew up being used to being an outcast. :P]

So for anyone just discovering anime - welcome to the club. Thanks for coming. :)

Next, when it comes to Totoro’s “meandering” narrative and how kids still love it: personally I think a lot of people gravely underestimate the ability of children - even very young ones - to pay attention to something “long” and “slow” like Totoro. If it’s good enough and really speaks to them, kids can and will pay rapt attention - and I think Miyazaki understands far better than most how to hold their attention. Which is to say: Miyazaki’s brilliant; and your kids are smarter than you know. ;)

I love Sailor Moon so much. It’s one of my biggest failings. I’ve watched the entire series.

I’m buying the Sailor Moon S quasi-box as soon as possible, and not only because it has the same director as Utena.
I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve seen of Sailor Moon, whether it has been in Swedish on television, English sub, or in one particular case, English dub and English sub.
Dub: “Want to grab a milkshake? I know a great place!” “Sure!”
Sub: “Let’s ride like this forever. I’m not going to let you go home tonight.” “Oh!”

Granted, it has extremely silly monsters, at times, but its popularity isn’t for naught, that I’ve seen.

Schoolgirls + Superpowers = Popular

On the topic of Totoro (and what I feels it truly does right):

I’ve found that there are feel-good movies, and then, far less common, there are movies that truly make me smile. I’ll finish the movie with a stupid grin on my face feeling, above all, content and happiness (Amelie did this). Totoro is one of these. If someone were to ask for something that truly captures the innocence of being a child, I’d say, without hesitation, this film.

Oh well, not wanting to ramble too much…
-AM Urbanek

It is also my favorite Miyazaki film. Spirited Away & Mononoke have larger scope and maybe more awe inspiring moments, but they also feel messier and less disciplined.

I agree almost completely. The scene in Totoro where the girls “dream” Totoro & Co. showing up to dance round the garden, the tree seedlings pop up and then just surge into a mammoth tree canopy–natural growth timelapsed years and years in a few seconds–is hands-down one of my personal favorite moments of awe-inspiring bits of film of all time. Outdoes any of the louder scenes in Miyazaki’s other films, in my opinion. (The “Stink Spirit” cleansing in Spirited Away–my second-favorite Miyazaki work–comes close, but falls short simply by dint of extreme heavy-handedness–well crafted heavy-handedness, but still.)

I’m looking forward to Disney someday finally releasing a legitimate Region 1 dvd of it, so I can cheerfully throw out the, er, less than strictly legitimate region-free Hong Kong Special version currently in my library.

First of all, it was a river god like Haku, not some sort of stink spirit.

Second, how on earth was that heavy-handed? They notice its a bicycle and all sorts of trash that’s stuck inside it and makes it dirty, the thing is grateful and leaves. Everyone celebrates the success. The end. Was there any speeches about enviromentalism? Any long and laborious histories of how he came to be treated that way? A torturous scene explaining how the bath house was necessary because humans treat nature shittily? Was there a long, moping scene as everyone realizes what progress has done? Nope. One detail that explains how he got that way and its left at that. It works as explaining why in the world gods would need a bath-house, how gods tend to forgot who they are (like “Haku”) and how it is Yuubaba gets their names without saying anything outloud at all. Its so brief and not focused upon I don’t know how in the world it could possibly be seen as heavy-handed.

Furthermore, I’ve never seen a point like that presented like taking a thorn out of a diety, which is highly original. It was all rather subtle compared to something like Captain Planet and was the only real part of the movie (well, there was the train ride, but that was a completely different point, just a bit related) that had anything to do with environmentalism. Its a welcome added piece of meaning and depth to a movie. Sure, its something we all know about, but in other movies and other pieces of work, the author takes moment to reflect on themes that we’ve all heard of before, the only reason I see to reject a brief environmental is because its a more modern theme, but its never going to go out of style or prove to be less meaningful. I don’t see anything in this specific treatment that is anything less than very skillful. If you just reject any reminders of this sort, well then I guess there’s nothing I can say. I guess than any additional subtext would be heavy-handed in that way of thinking. shrug

Personally, I think you’ve got it backwards. Totoro is messier and unfocused on purpose to meander to the limits of whimsy, Sen to Chihiro has its every scene planned to link to something else in a grand pattern. If Totoro is windswept grass, then the latter a tightly woven rug. Neither is a very unique plan for a movie, but bears Miyazaki’s distinct mark of gracefulness with fleeting themes.


It was heavy-handed. The analogy is obvious, though of course the intent was noble and impossible to argue with. The pulling-a-thorn-from-a-god is just a new spin on an old idea which is probably super-cheesy but it didn’t bother me any. Though of course the scene was great. Spirited Away was messier than Totoro, which is very simple, albeit rambling and unconventionally structured/paced. Spirited Away just had a whole bunch of stuff going on, a lot of it with hidden or not-so-hidden meaning and I personally felt it was trying a little too hard. I like both movies. But Totoro is way better.

1: The useage of quotes around a single term, when not indicating actual quotation or as in a dialogue, often indicate that the term is deliberately being used contrary to literal meaning.

2: Heavy-handedness and well-crafted are not necessarily opposite states–part of Miyazaki’s charm for me is that he’s one of the rare sorts who does heavy-handedness well. The meaning of the river spirit cleansing left absolutely no doubt as to what was going on. The bath house patrons and staff shrink back, want to turn away, want to turn their backs on it and hope that the problem goes away. But of course that never works–actually correcting the (or any) problem takes a leap (or dive) of courage, itself a form of cleansing and redemption.

All this is about as subtle as an ax coming down to split a log.

The well-crafted part comes from that the log was split in a single swing instead of several dozen inept blows sending woodchips hither and thither, so to speak.

Finally, I’m ranking individual scenes in two films I both really really like. I can’t fucking believe you’d mention Cap Planet in the same breath. It’s like being surprised someone likes lobster two iotas more than steak, and coming back with “But steak is better than dog shit!” True, but sublimely nonsensical.

Kitsune, if there was a grand plan behind Spirited Away, then maybe it depends on some cultural background that American viewers lack. I thought the story was loaded with arbitrary and confusing details that the screenplay failed to “plant” ahead of time and simply dropped into our laps at the moment the plot required them.

I also loved the stink spir – err, River God – scene, probably my favorite Miyazaki scene after maybe 3 or 4 in Totoro (seed-growing, bus-stop/rain, May takes nap on Totoro, kids explore house in beginning).

Totoro feels much “cleaner” and simpler to me than Spirited Away, but again, there may be a cultural context I’m just missing there. But for one thing it’s got hella fewer characters, which helps with the sense of simplicity for me. Spirited Away has more of a Dickensian feel. Which obviously isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But then “clean” and “simple” aren’t adjectives that spring to mind when I think of Dickens either.

I agree on your comparison of the tones of Totoro and Spirited Away, but what were some of the arbitrary and confusing things you mentioned? I thought Spirited Away was fairly straightforward.

Uh, the handsome boy turning into a dragon all of a sudden, the Grandma telling the little girl that all along she has been carrying some Valuable Token of the Gods or some such. I really don’t remember the specifics; I just remember going “huh?” an awful lot.

Again, I bet a lot of this stuff would make more sense to a Japanese audience. To me it seemed to come completely out of left field.

By contrast Totoro sets up all its story elements very quickly. The only new wrinkle added later on is the Catbus.

I just found it a much more clean & elegant bit of storytelling. Maybe if I watch Spirited Away a second time it will cohere better for me. (Not saying Spirited Away is by any means a bad movie, btw. The closest thing to a “bad” Miyazaki movie that I have seen is Kiki’s Delivery Service, and that is probably only because of the contrast in quality with his other films.)

FWIW “Castle in the Sky” is still my hands down favorite.


He too was a river god. But he died when people damned up the river or something like that. Chihiro remembers him because she almost drowned in the river one day and he saved her. That’s why she remembers his true name. After his life as a river, he went to work for Yuubaba, but like most people, she took his name in payment and he eventually forgot who he really was, much like Chihiro was about to turn into “only” Sen. He can turn into a dragon, because well…he’s a river god. shrugs

the Grandma telling the little girl that all along she has been carrying some Valuable Token of the Gods or some such. I really don’t remember the specifics; I just remember going “huh?” an awful lot.

Actually she got that, which is a hanko, a name seal, out of Haku (who’s name literally means “to spit out” --it also means white and what kind of dragon and close did he wear? Probably a Shinto dragon!–, do you remember that scene? Yuubaba keeps trying to steal things like that, because its in Zenibaba’s nature to have things that are true. Yuubaba can’t get it herself, because she’s supposed to be the opposite of Zenibaba, so she steals these things. She uses it to take people’s identities away. You’ll notice for instance that her humans and prostitutes that have worked for her for a long time don’t realize they are human anymore, saying that Sen smells like a human and being surprised at her. In anycase, Sen only carries two valuable things and the other one is given to her by Zenibaba that proves to her that it wasn’t a dream (the hair bow). So it didn’t really work out that way.

By the way they are both old ladies and witches, but neither of them are grandmas. :)


That is very interesting information. On the one hand it just contributes to something I found annoying: That everything in the film has some specific meaning or message you’re supposed to draw from it. On the other hand, it makes me appreciate how finely-crafted the symbolism is. If I didn’t like the film I guess I’d substitute ‘contrived’ for ‘finely-crafted’, but whatever.