My Neighbor Totoro (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, December 03, 2002
What They Say
When their mother is hospitalized because of an unspecified illness, two young sisters spend a summer in the Japanese countryside with their father. The children's strange new environment turns out to be a natural wonderland filled with exotic real-life creatures and a trio of furry, woodland sprites who can only be seen by children.
Fox released their version of Totoro back in 1993 on VHS, and they finally get to release this Miyazaki classic on DVD here in the US. My Neighbor Totoro is a fun little romp for people of all ages.
For my primary listening session, since I didn?t have much of a choice, was the English language dub that was produced. Fox dubbed the Opening and Ending songs also, so there isn?t a trace of Japanese dialogue left. This is the dub produced by Troma Pictures by Carl Macek. The dialogue is clear, and the acting is quite good. While the sound track is recorded as stereo, I believe it?s really a mono track. I should also mention there is additional English dialogue added to some scenes that were originally silent.
Pan and Scan. This release is designed for kids, so I?m not all that surprised. The film print used to master the DVD though is in great shape. I didn?t perceive problems from the print. The encoding job is pretty good for the most part, but there is quite a bit of shimmering in the background shots. The picture can shake quite a bit also, though I?m not sure if this is the result of the Pan and Scan process, or the original print. There are some hard subs present through out the film also.
Fox released My Neighbor Totoro under its Family Feature line which is displayed on the top of the package. This is the artwork used on the VHS release with the strange art style used for the US release. The back features a small blurb from Roger Ebert praising Totoro. There?s a small description of the movie on the back, and the features listed on the DVD, which is basically nothing. Pan & Scan has never been a feature in my book. It also lists the audio as Dolby Surround, which it isn?t. The back also says the movie was released in 1993, which is when the Fox VHS came out, not the film. I found that insulting.
The main menu is static and features no audio. You can either play the movie, or head into scene selection. It uses the same art style as the cover. Barebones.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Set in rural Japan in the 1950?s, My Neightor Totoro is about two girls, Satsuki and her little sister, Mei after their father moves them to a new house. Their mother is in the hospital recovering from being ill. The girls explore their new house, and discover little creatures called soot sprites inhabiting the place. Mei gets pretty dirty having fun with them.
When Satsuki is off to school one day, Mei is left to play on her own. She discovers a small little creature dropping acorns. Mei follows the little critter to a giant camphor tree where she discovers a large version of the critter and she calls it Totoro based off a sound it makes. There are numerous creatures spread through out the film that Mei and Satsuki have adventures with.
Satsuki is going to school, and trying to balance the line between being a child and growing up with her mother in the hospital. With their mother in the hospital, she does try to act a bit more responsibly. But when a telegram comes one day from the doctor saying to call back immediately, she gets very upset. Satsuki finally can?t handle it all and she lashes out at Mei, who runs away trying to get to the hospital on her own.
After they discover Mei is gone, the entire town starts searching for her. Finally, Satsuki runs off to Totoro to enlist help in searching for Mei. This leads to one of the most beautiful sequences in anime ever as Satsuki rides the Cat Bus around the countryside looking for Mei. I?ve always loved the Cat Bus, and this sequence always captivates me every time.
There?s no real plot here in this film, but it doesn?t need one. The images and creatures in the series is what?s beautiful here. Totoro is a large cute huggable fur ball with the largest smile you?ve ever seen. Only children can see the mystical creatures here, and the adults put up with their fantasies.
I don?t see this film being released in its original form any time soon in region one, so unless you get the region two version (which I did) this is how you?ll have to enjoy it. The dub is really excellent, and the characters are captured very well. The whole family can enjoy this. It?s Ghibli, you really can?t go wrong with it.
Toshiba 3109 player, Toshiba 36? Cinema Series via component, Pioneer VSX-810S receiver via optical, Cerwin Vega front speakers, Pinnacle center and rears
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Other
Running time: 87
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: My Neighbor Totor