photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ive been on a bit of a HAYAO MIYAZAKI kick as of late and recently rewatched the 2004 DISNEY re-dubbed version of the classic JAPANESE animated fantasy film MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (STUDIO GHIBLI, 1988). the film centers around two young girls who relocate into an old countryside house with their father in order to stay closer to a hospital where their ailing mother is convalescing.
what draws me to this film again and again is how much of the narrative is propelled by a sense of intense interiority on behalf of the psychological state of the two young girls, SATSUKI and MEI. contrary to AMERICAN animated films, the pacing is very slow and prodding which only spurs further attention to these young girls and their experiences with sprites and ultimately TOTORO and his cadre of friends. these small sprites known in the film as the SUSUWATARI are a part of the natural world and can only be seen by children. this invention feels very much deep rooted in JAPANESE CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS SENSIBILITIES surrounding SHINTOISM and BUDDHISM where connection to the ENVIRONMENT and one's place in the NATURAL ORDER and its cycles is of paramount importance. it is a source of STRENGTH and NOURISHMENT and is the basis for the psychic vitality of a COMMUNITY.
i also cant help as a westerner watching this film and not somehow project this notion that such fantastical journeys with animistic entities are stand-ins for a deprived maternal presence. the girls very much miss their mother and are confronted with adult concepts like INFIRMITY and DEATH in a very tangible, almost existential manner. its fascinating to think of this animated film as a celebrated product for children given its thematic bent, but then JAPAN is a very different culture that doesnt attempt to shield some cold, sober realities from the next generation such as in the UNITED STATES. the very concept of ADOLESCENCE is very much an invention of THE WEST so its compelling to consider the interplay of such an idea within a traditional JAPANESE setting.
i cant praise this film enough. much like everything MIYAZAKI and STUDIO GHIBLI touch, it is very much worth checking out.