The theme around the Information Store display this week is Manga and Anime! There are a wide range of books about how to draw in a manga style, the history of manga and loads of manga books and films. Among them is the critically acclaimed anime film My Neighbour Totoro made by Hayao Miyazaki in 1988. A common theme amongst anime films by Miyazaki is the fantastical and his films often involve strange, mysterious creatures of myth. Totoro is no exception to this, he has the ears of a rabbit, staring eyes and a great round body which resembles a penguin.
The story is simply that a father and his two young daughters Satsuki and Mei move to a new house to be closer to their mother who is recovering from a long illness in hospital. One day, while playing the garden, Mei sees two ears sticking up from the grass, she follows them to a large mystical creature who identifies himself as Totoro, living in the hollow of a camphor tree. She falls asleep on Totoro and when she wakes up again he has gone. She tries to explain her discovery to her father and sister, and to comfort young Mei, her father tells her he is the ‘Keeper of the Forest’ and will make himself known to her when he is ready. As Mei and Satsuki wait for their fathers bus one stormy night, they become worried when it doesn’t arrive. Totoro appears to both of the girls with only a leaf sheltering him from the rain. Satsuki, seeing him for the first time, offers him her umbrella. In return, he gives the girls a bundle of nuts and seeds and disappears on a bus shaped like a cat – I told you Miyazaki was good at creating fantastical creatures! Shortly after the cat bus slinks away, their fathers bus arrives.
The girls plant the seeds and Totoro and his companions appear to be doing a ceremonial dance around them, the seeds start to sprout. A few days later, a planned visit to their mother in hospital gets cancelled, angry and upset, Mei walks to hospital herself to bring her mother some fresh corn. Satsuki, thinking Mei has disappeared runs to the camphor tree and pleads with Totoro to help her find her sister who takes her on the cat bus to Mei who is sitting on a bench. The two return home and learn that their mother is fine and will be coming home to them soon. The film ends as the two girls, Totoro and his two companions play in the garden.
The animation of My Neighbour Totoro is what brings this innocent and simple story to life as the mystical creatures are filled with life and the film swirls in beautiful colours, emotions and images that make it all the more fantastical. It’s a beautiful masterpiece which addresses the innocence and grace of childhood perfectly, igniting a flame in the coldest hearts and whisking you away for 83 minutes of pure escapism.
I have found, however, that anime is not to everyone’s taste. It’s a very different type of animation that us Westerners are used to, the drawings and expression are very unique, the use of colour and emotion is important and very defining to its style. To put it simply, it’s a million miles away from Disney and Pixar animation!
Highly praised by critics and audiences world wide, My Neighbour Totoro is the perfect introduction to anime, and the reigning king of anime Hayao Miyazaki. Keep an eye out for other Studio Ghibli films like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky, Howls Moving Castleand The Cat Returns – all of which are available to borrow! For free!
Further Reading in the Information Store
MANGA: Learn to Drawby Jeannie Lee – BOOK ZONE – 741.2 LEE
The Rough Guide to Mangaby Jason Jadao – BOOK ZONE – 741.5 JAD
Manga Mania: VILLAINS by Christopher Hart – BOOK ZONE – 741.5 HAR