Upon hearing the words ‘Studio Ghibli’ and ‘Blu-ray’ together there’s a fairly decent chance that they next words to follow are ‘Want’ and ‘now’. Hyperbole of this kind is usually the result of obsessive fandom, the clarion call of eager devotees of a film series line up to throw money at the creators for each new iteration of their favourite saga. With Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki this obsession is easy to understand. The films Miyazaki creates are beautiful, soaring dreams overflowing with heart and imagination. None more so than his fourth feature, and Ghibli’s second, My Neighbour Totoro.
Ostensibly the story of a professor and his young daughters as they move into a new house while the mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a crippling illness, Miyazaki’s magic begins almost at once with dust sprites discovered as the girls begin to explore the new house. As their exploration continues to the rest of the house and the gardens beyond they find another world and befriend the creatures they find. Totoro, pictured above and recently seen in a cameo role in Pixar’s Toy Story 3, is perhaps Ghibli’s greatest creation, certainly it is one of its most well-known. The narrative of the recovering mother, and the young girls’ understanding of death and the responsiblity of a good life is woven around the magical journeys into the forest, and it is easy to fall under its spell.
Miyazai’s tale of friendship and adventure has deep emotions and challenging discovery at its heart. Fear of the new, fear of loss are all at play here and yet there is a wonderful and enveloping reverie here. The film refuses to look down on a child’s limited experience and imagination, instead it meets it head on, concocting daydreams and whimsy effortlessly. Not only are you caught up from the first viewing you are compelled to return and are rewarded each time for doing so.
The new Blu-ray looks stunning. The moonlit illumination and the rain-soaked arrival of the Catbus are simply wonderful. Catching up with the high-definition Ghibli films is a genuine treat and are as desirable even if you have the DVDs already. There are certain films which are a joy to watch, films which never lose their magic and the detail and colour of the Blu-ray makes this the best way to enjoy your time with Totoro and friends over and over. I’ve shown this film to many people, most recently my two young boys, and each one, every single one of them is enraptured. Miyazaki’s work continues, and the art form is better off for this fact, but there’s nothing like looking beyond the obvious fare for the first time and, upon discovering Totoro, realising that no matter what age you are, no matter what your taste in film is, there are riches to be found when you look hard enough.