I started watching Hayao Miyazaki’s movies back in Summer 2014. The first three films I ended up seeing were Nausicaa, Laputa and Kiki’s Delivery Service, so I did go in chronological order, but for some reason I can’t remember right now I skipped Totoro. And that turned out to be a mistake, because Totoro was the first Ghibli film that really and truly grabbed me emotionally. It was the first movie that really made me understand why Miyazaki is so loved (as a director and screenwriter, though not necessarily as a person).
The magic of Tonari no Totoro is rooted in its, well, magic. Totoro itself is magical in the fantasy sense, but the film is also full of magic in the form of amazement and a sense of wonder on the part of Satsuki and Mei, the main characters. And unlike the other Miyazaki films I’d seen, Totoro made me yearn for the world it’s set in, and I could actually relate to the girls’ joy and sense of wonder.
But in addition to that, the movie also had some very down-to-earth elements. The aforementioned amazement and sense of wonder experienced by the girls during their adventures with Totoro were a way for them to cope with the fact that their mother was hospitalised with a long-term illness, and their father did not have enough time to be with them, especially during the days. All fantasy aside, I think this is something that many people can genuinely relate to, and this is why Totoro really managed to move me in a new way. It’s a great movie.