Fellow, parents, if you haven’t watched the movie My Neighbor Totoro from Studio Ghibli with your kids yet, its time to pop some popcorn, snuggle under a warm blanket, and give this one a go!
My Neighbor Totoro is an anime style movie about a small family in rural Japan. The main characters are sisters. Two little girls named Satsuki and Mei.
While coping with their mother being in the hospital, and moving to a new place, the girls befriend a forest spirit they call Totoro.
What Studio Ghibli does well, in all their movies, is to make a film that children will genuinely enjoy. A film that will make them both belly laugh and feel invested in the story. And, at the very same time, create something that is so serene and so beautiful that parents can enjoy watching it too.
Totoro is more than a story, it is overflowing with allegory that highlights some of life’s most important lessons.
Here are my favorite:
- When you’re scared, being silly sometimes helps! Whether its yelling at bedbugs or laughing at a storm, Satsuki, Mei, and their father, find ways to lighten the mood when things get dark.
- Have an adventure-go play outside. One of the most beautiful parts of this movie are the scenes of rural Japan: rolling meadows, lush forests. The girls play outside a lot, exploring their new surroundings. They show just how fun it can be to get in the dirt and crawl around!
- Its okay to ask for help. The family’s neighbors create a warm sense of community, where everyone is there for each other. Wouldn’t it be great if every place was like that?
- Its also okay to cry. Satsuki, as the older sister, is so brave throughout the film, helping her family and keeping a positive attitude about her mother’s illness. But after a scare at the hospital, she breaks down and sobs in the arms of her neighbor Nanny. You can feel the dam break as all the pent up emotion comes flooding out. Its a beautiful display of strength.
- Let your imagination run wild! When the girls claim to see Totoro, their dad plays right along. He gives them space to create and imagine. Even joining in the exploration! Whether Totoro is real or not, their dad is there to be a part of their world with them.
- Kindness is always the answer. Umbrellas=little random acts of kindness. The characters all sharing their umbrellas show kids that kindness is a great way to make new friends!
- Be curious. If Mei hadn’t followed the small Totoro, they would have never had their amazing adventure! To be clear, wondering into the woods alone should be discouraged. However, the curious nature of a child should always be nurtured!
- Family are the people who are there for you. The character of Nanny, an older woman who helps take care of the girls, starts off as a little scary to young Mei. But over time, this woman becomes a part of their family. Someone they could go to for help and support and who genuinely cared when they really needed that motherly figure in their life. If you have friends like this, you are very blessed!
- Love is in the little things. Making breakfast for your family… waiting at a bus stop… an ear of corn. Its the little things that add up that make people feel loved.
- When someone is sad, and you don’t know what to say, just being present in the moment is enough. Totoro has no lines. Yet, he was a source of comfort and strength to the sisters while going through a tough time. He was a good friend, without even saying a word. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a friend is sit down beside them and share a branch.
Before you go looking for a dubbed version, we watched Totoro for the first time with our 6 year old with subtitles. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but we generally prefer subtitles when watching foreign films, so we thought we’d give it a shot.
My husband did the dad’s voice, I did Satsuki and Nanny, and my daughter did Mei. It was actually really fun, we laughed a lot, and it was great reading practice too!
Enjoy your next family movie night!
“Everybody, try laughing. Then whatever scares you will go away!”-My Neighbor Totoro