My Neighbor Totoro - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Japan
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan
  • MSRP: •4700
  • 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

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My Neighbor Totoro
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan


What They Say
Totoro' on DVD at last! Hayao Miyazaki had been cradling the idea for this wonderful fantasy for a long time before he finally decided to write and direct it. Although it's set in the mid 1950's in Japan's rural area, the sceneries with lots of trees, of fields and meadows with colorful flowers bring a universal feeling of joy and harmony even to those who have never left the big cities or living in other countries. Another charm of the movie is of course it's heart warming tale of the two little sisters and their relationships with the land's mysterious creatures (including a 'Cat Bus!') whose plots aren't forced or condescending in any way, which makes the film such an enjoyable experience for kids and adults alike. It's a 2-disc set with loads of special features, including a storyboard-to-film comparison for the entire film.

The Review!
After having been used to watching the American VHS release of My Neighbor Totoro, watching the cleaned up letterboxed DVD version was like seeing it for the first time all over again.

The Apple DVD player (at least the 2.7 version; 3.0 came out last week with OS X.1) tends to have problems with interlacing, I think. Very often when things move, there is a slight ghost image of horizontal lines. This is especially notable with some anime discs. Not so with this disc, fortunately. I was especially looking for it during the scenes where the soot sprites were rushing around, but the video remained crystal clear throughout. The movie is clean and clear, with outlines in crisp focus. Colors were vibrant, with no noticable rainbows or bleeding. There was only one instance (that I saw) of some DVD artifacting, in one shot looking up the stairs towards the dark attic.

As for the audio, it was also problem free. I listened to the original Japanese soundtrack, and there were no drop-outs, distortions, or any other problems that I could hear. The English soundtrack is the old Streamline dub, and, arguments about dub quality aside, the sound itself was very good in the bits that I sampled.

The extras disc occasionally had the ghosting problem, but not very often, and only in the movie angle of the storyboard section.

The menus are static (just images and options), and pretty simple, which is a big plus if you don't know how to read Japanese. They are easy to get around in (once you figure out what's what), and access time is very quick.

Packaging:

Tonari no Totoro comes in a white Amaray case, with a second tray hinged to the inside of the spine (like the "Gladiator" case). The front is in the style to be used for all of the "Ghibli ga ippai" releases, with a picture of Mei, Satsuki, and the Totoros fishing from a tree branch. The back has Mei and Satsuki waving goodbye to the Catbus, with a short blurb at the top and the standard Japanese comprehensive chart of technical features along the bottom.

The movie disc has a picture of Satsuki, Mei, and O-Totoro at the bus stop, and the extras disc has the girls and O-Totoro napping on a tree branch.

Content:

My Neighbor Totoro is a bit slower paced than most anime, and some of my friends did not like it for that reason. I, however, enjoyed it all the more. It was one of the first anime I had seen that didn't feature large explosions. Watching it on DVD, especially one done well, was, as I have said, like seeing it for the first time.

It was also a treat to see Totoro with the original Japanese soundtrack. Watching with the English subtitles turned on, one immediately notices that the subs are basically a dubtitle track (which is understandable, I suppose). Although the dub is fairly accurate (as far as I can tell given my very limited Japanese skills), especially considering the film's age and who did the dubbing, there are still some interesting additions, changes, and deletions in the dub track.

My Neighbor Totoro is the story of two young girls, Satsuki and Mei, who with their father are moving to a new house to be closer to their mother, who is in the hospital with TB. Once they've settled in, the girls find themselves under the protection of the spirits of the forest. After a couple of adventures with the Totoros, real life intrudes when Satsuki and Mei's mother takes a turn for the worse....

Much like in Princess Mononoke, the forest scenes are beautifully done, with much variation in shading, light, and shadow, vividly capturing their natural beauty. Miyazaki's affection for the Japanese countryside shows through every frame of the film.
The voice acting is also top notch. The VAs on both tracks were very much in character, especially the ones voicing Mei. Both the English and the Japanese tracks sounded very much like how five-year-olds sound in real life, especially in the scene where Mei and Satsuki were arguing after receiving the telegram from the hospital.

The high-quality transfer and the inclusion of the English soundtrack and subtitles would have made me buy this title on their own. However, the Extras disc really made this purchase worthwile. (That, and the freebies that the store threw in, too!) The first thing on the extras disc is the storyboards to the entire film, shown with the actual movie soundtrack. The finished footage can be seen using the angle button.

Next are a few commercials/trailers for what is probably one of the oddest double feature pairings ever -- My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies. These are immediately followed by what looks like a behind-the scenes featurette using footage shot back when the movie was released. There was bits of a press conference which had a banner with the names "Tonari no Totoro" and "Hotaru no Haka" prominently displayed. There were also what looked like intervews with production staff. (My very limited Japanese ability utterly failed me here.) Next is the credit-free opening and ending sequences, which were neat, but not really essential, as the credits don't really hide any of the animation.

Next is a real treat, a special featurette on the new Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo. The building incorporates design elements and decorations from just about all of the Ghibli films, including a giant plush Catbus! I've already informed my friends in Tokyo that the next time I visit, they have to take me there.

Finally, there are some trailers for the "Ghibli ga Ippai" video series, for the upcoming DVD release of two pre-Ghibli Miyazaki efforts, "Panda Kopanda" and "Meitantei Houmuzu", and for the Mononoke Hime DVD.

If you are a fan of My Neighbor Totoro, then I can't recommend this DVD highly enough. A wonderful story, beautiful animation, and an almost perfect digital transfer all add up to a sure-fire winner to add to anyone's DVD collection.

Features
Japanese Language (Dolby Digital 2.0),English Language (Mono 2.0),English Subtitles (Dubtitles),Japanese Subtitles,Three theatrical trailers,Making of featurete (15 mins),Storyboard to Film comparison,Textless Opening and Ending animation,"Mitaka No Mori Ghibli Museum" clip (20 mins),Ghibli Collection Trailer,Panda Kopanda DVD Trailer,Mononoke Hime DVD Trailer,Great Detective Holmes DVD Trailer

Review Equipment
iBook, Apple DVD Player 2.7, Apple AV cable, Panasonic 36" Stereo TV

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