“Hey, let’s go! Hey, let’s go! I’m happy as can be…“

Welcome to the wonderful world of Hayao Miyazaki, world-renowned Japanese Animation Director and creator of award-winning animated films such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Kiki’s Delivery Service.

My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), undoubtedly has brought Miyazaki well-deserved global recognition and international acclaim. It truly is one of those films that adults and children alike, can, will and do fall in love with year after year after year. The essence of childhood, the freedom to express it and it’s uninhibited lust for adventure, are quintessential characteristics which have contributed to the success of it’s broader appeal here. There is no doubt that this story has fast become a a classic amongst children, and Totoro himself an iconic figure to so many.

Immediately, we’re introduced to the Kusakabe family. Little Mei and her older sister Satsuki, together with their father, are beginning their new life in the countryside whilst eagerly waiting the return of their sick, hospitalised mother. This particular issue drives many of the deep-seated feelings of fear, loneliness, love, friendship and adventure within the story, and it is here that Miyazaki delicately addresses the girls’ plight. He approaches these issues with the utmost care and sensitivity which makes this film so emotive, appealing and identifiable to all.

Miyazaki’s love of nature is also evident throughout this film as we’re delightfully presented with endless beautiful and exuberant images of Totoro’s lush forest, the huge, towering Camphor tree and quietly unimposing, soothing glimpses of rural village life in Japan. The exquisitely painted background artwork featured here is second to none and is also characteristic of Studio Ghibli’s other animated classics too.

As Mei and Satsuki settle into their new home, they soon encounter the secrets of the forest and are mesmerised by the mystical occupants within it. The relationship and bonds formed with one particular creature, known simply as Totoro (the keeper of the forest), dominates the heart of this sweet tale. Many other bizarre looking, but oh-so-cute creatures feature here too, and any adult watching this will be hard pressed to not feel a kick of nostalgia and a flashback to their youth as Miyazaki’s endless imagination whisks us away in a flurry of feel-good frolicking fun.

Along with the stunning visuals in My Neighbour Totoro, the same respect and admiration should be awarded to the enchanting music which accompanies this moving piece. There is one re-occurring theme song which is somewhat reminiscent of  the song “Summer Holiday”, but it’s upbeat and joyful presence only adds to the innocence and vulnerability that this film evokes amongst the viewer.

So… sit back, relax and allow your imagination to run wild whilst Totoro and his friends take you on the adventure of a lifetime! (Oh, and next time you think you see a little black soot gremlin appear and vanish instantaneously into a crack or into the pitch black, don’t, whatever you do, forget to bellow out, “come out, come out, wherever you are!”. You just might catch one.

“…..Let’s go walking, you and me. Ready, set, let’s go!!”

Every now and then HeyUGuys feel the need to shine a light on some of the films we have loved and feel are under appreciated. The is the first in our new Must-See Movies series, so do check back for more gems.