Saturday, December 14, 2013

FROM THE ASHES: Segment # 14


   Now we're really talkin nostalgia! As beloved as Winnie the Pooh, and well known as Mickey Mouse, is Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro (1988). Once again magnificently scored by Joe Hisaishi, comes a heartwarming tale of childhood summers, and mystical forest spirits. Doesn't sound like it would add up at first, but indeed it does. With so many other grand adventures carrying massive sociological, ethical, philosophical and moralistic themes, it was just the right time to cozy up to a simplistic fairytale; the kind that explores the adventure in everyday moments. And that's exactly what this film does. With a vibrant color palette, and a soft and charming tone, an exemplary tale of every day, or "slice of life" unfolds. Totoro became so popular with international audiences, that he in fact has a cultural impact in media. With nods to the character ranging from the pages of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Brief Lives, to Toy Story 3, one can't deny influence. Another powerhouse film, Totoro added to the wave of anime in the 1980s expanding the viewership of western audiences.

   The story here is timeless. With the countryside settings and lush landscapes, the environment doesn't feel dated; rather, it represents a peaceful idealism of relaxation. That alone appeals to audiences everywhere; for we often want to escape from our hectic lives and just hear the quiet. While there are some plot lines, they are extremely muted; almost background noise, really. The main story is one that feels as if it could go on forever, for how does one put parameters on imagination and a youthful heart? While there is quite a lot of fantastical whimsy spread throughout the film, the focus is always the children and their everyday discoveries. Weather the moment calls for chasing a tiny forest spirit, flying through the night sky with Totoro, watering flowers, cooking dinner, or enjoying a sunset, all activities are met with a sense of genuine love of life. To be sure, the hardships in life sometimes breach ones euphoria, but that doesn't mean they should not be faced with grace. A simple story that manages to also be not that simple, My Neighbor Totoro definitely warms the heart. It makes us all recall carefree days, no matter our age. A beautiful message brought beautifully to the screen, this film is a must see. Exquisite animation as always from Studio Ghibli, and a fantastic English cast brought together by Disney, the overall production is quality. I prefer the English cast here because while the Japanese actors are fine, some of the performances just felt a bit off to me. To each their own. Anyways, if you want a happy reminder of youthful days gone by, nothing is more nostalgic and heartwarming then this lovely story of my Neighbour Totoro. *sings along to the Totoro song* Enjoy!

From The Ashes, V.~

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