My Neighbor Totoro -

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Mania Grade: A

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Optimum Asia
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 86
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: My Neighbor Totor

My Neighbor Totoro

By Bryan Morton     March 30, 2006
Release Date: March 27, 2006

My Neighbor Totoro
© Optimum Asia

What They Say
While their mother recovers from an illness, Satsuki and her little sister Mei get away from it all in an idyllic rural retreat. Far from the bustle of the city, they discover a mysterious place of spirits and magic, and the friendship of the Totoro woodland creatures.

Conceived as a family film devoid of conflict and suffused with the joy of country living, My Neighbour Totoro is a masterpiece for the whole family. It unites the unique vision of Hayao Miyazaki with a feel-good tale of childlike wonder and true originality.

A universal classic for all generations, My Neighbour Totoro shows anime's famous Studio Ghibli at its very best, and is an elegy to two ever-fading miracles: the fairytale world of childhood and the disappearing countryside.

The Review!
Optimum Asia's Ghibli Collection continues, with one of the earlier Miyazaki movies.

Audio is provided in both Japanese and English 2.0 stereo. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. With Totoro being heavily dialogue-based and with very little that could be described as "action", the audio is for the most part rooted to the centre channel with very little use of direction " although to be honest, this isn't really a movie that needs much in the way of audio magic. The soundtrack itself is very clear, with no apparent problems.

Totoro was first released to cinemas in 1988, making it 18 years old now, but from the quality of the video on this release you wouldn't know it. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect and enhanced for anamorphic playback, the picture for the most part looks wonderful, with good, bright colours and plenty of visible detail. There are some signs of age by way of occasional scratches, but nothing that's hugely obvious.

One of the disc extras is provided as an alternate angle to the main feature " this may be a problem for some, as certain DVD players will place a permanent logo on-screen whenever an alternate angle is present. In this case, that'll be for the whole movie, but this is really an issue with DVD player software and shouldn't be held against the release.

No packaging was provided with our review copy.

The main menu uses a scene of Mei and Satsuki hanging over the bridge near their new home, taken from an early scene in the movie, with the opening theme playing in the background. Sub-menus are provided for scene select, setup and extras. With no transition animations, the menus are simple & quick to use.

The main extra with this release is provided as an alternate angle to the main feature " the full movie in storyboard mode, which lets you compare the final version of the movie against how it was planned at an earlier stage. In addition, there are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, along with a selection of the original Japanese trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
With their mother in hospital, it's not the easiest of times for young girls Satsuki and Mei, and in an attempt to get away from it all they've moved with their father to a new home in the country. It's an old wreck of a house, but the kids' sense of adventure at being somewhere new, and the opportunities for exploring that the countryside offers, quickly make up for the house's failings.

It's not long, though, before the kids realise there's something unusual about the place. Kenta, a young boy who lives nearby, believes the house is haunted, and when Mei encounters a strange creature that disappears and reappears as she follows it, it appears he may be right. The creature tries to throw Mei off its tail, but Mei's determined to find out what it is and keeps close behind it. She eventually follows it to a lair deep inside a tree, where she finds what seems to be the creature's big brother - a sleepy big furball that she names Totoro. Mei and Satsuki eventually form a friendship with the strange creature, whose magical powers make their lives far from ordinary.

You would think that Totoro would be the star of the show, given the name of the movie, but it's 40 minutes into the movie before he first appears " and longer again before he does anything other than sleep. The real focus of the film is on Satsuki and Mei, the changes in their lives brought on by their move to the country, and their fears for their mother that flow from the time she's spending in hospital. In that respect, this is a real slice-of-life piece with very little in the way of noticeable plot " things happen, you get that warm, fuzzy feeling from them, and the movie moves on to the next event.

Childhood is meant to be a magical time, but while Mei's a typical little girl who just wants to play, the absence of her mother has put more than a little pressure onto Satsuki, who's trying her best to fill the role. Totoro and the other creatures around him, who seem to be visible only to the girls, help to bring that sense of fun back to her and to the audience. There are some great short scenes with Totoro " his reaction to being given an umbrella and discovering it'll stop raindrops from hitting him, or doing his dance to help the kids' acorns sprout. Add in other characters like the magical catbus (complete with Cheshire-cat grin), and you just fall in love with what you're seeing on screen.

If I were to have to pick a failing, it would be that the pacing is maybe a little on the slow side, while Mei's tendency to SHOUT EVERYTHING does begin to grate a little, but these are really minor problems that most people wouldn't even notice. Totoro just does a really good job of capturing the feel of childhood in a kinder, gentler time.

In Summary:
My Neighbour Totoro seems to cover all the bases that the ideal family movie should, with healthy doses of fun and magic to keep the kids happy. The appeal extends to the adults, too - if Totoro's antics don't bring a smile to your face you may be clinically dead. It doesn't set out to do anything earth-shattering, it just leaves you with a feeling that you've seen life as it should be " and that's reason alone to make sure you don't miss this.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Original Japanese Trailers,Complete Storyboards,Textless Opening & Closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.


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