My Neighbour Totoro is the sort of film that's difficult to write about. It's good in a way that's hard to put into words. The normal sort of film review seems irrelevant. It makes you feel all fluffy inside, like you're asleep on the furry chest of a Totoro. Curled up in the middle of a giant tree. It's a classic Studio Ghibli animation about two girls' adventures with Totoro woodland spirits. Even for a children's film, it's remarkably colourful. There's none of the grotesque figures of Spirited Away, or the mean old witches of Howl's Moving Castle. No conflict. No threat. Just one of the happiest, sky blue things you'll ever see. The biggest Totoro may be a huge, growling beast, but the children just see him as a massive cuddly friend. As the character that made a cameo in Toy Story 3, he represents the fading childhood world. Only the children can see him, along with his mini counterparts, and only then if they're very lucky. In moments of darkness, in the dark and the rain, he turns up at a bus stop with a leaf on his head - comforting and mysterious. He protects the woods and makes them grow. This countryside is disappearing too, but there's a perfectly idyllic slice of it here. It highlights the quality of the animation. Rolling vistas and pastel skies, all watercolour greens and blues and reds. It's like watching a moving painting. The cat bus runs across it and bounces over electricity wires, grinning all the way. The adult world is here, with a father chin deep in paperwork and a mother recovering in hospital, but the acorn-chasing, soot-gremlin world of the children is always out front.
It's the sort of film I wish I saw when I was six. It looks like something I remember seeing all those years ago, even though I know I never did. If you have children, watch Miyazaki films with them. They may not thank you right away, but they'll remember them for a long time. Because where some films want to scare you, and others want to make you laugh, My Neighbour Totoro just wants to make you go a bit soft.