During this blog’s inception, I was looking for anime to watch and review. Several of my peers and one of this blog’s readers recommended Studio Ghibli, specifically Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away.
That said, I’m not sure why I chose My Neighbor Totoro. The other two are on my list, and I’ll get to them eventually.
The movie opens with two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, and their father moving into their new house while their mother is in a hospital for an unspecified illness/condition. Some time later, Mei is wandering in the woods and stumbles upon a large, sleeping catlike forest spirit who calls himself “Totoro.” Later, Satsuki also meets the creature.
The story continues as Mei, through a string of heart-wrenching circumstances, decides to set out on her own to visit her mother. Just to clarify: Mei is five and the hospital is three hours away. After spending the entire evening searching for her presumed-dead sister, Mei goes in desperation to Totoro for help.
Spoiler for those who haven’t seen it yet: Totoro obliges, rallying the forest creatures together as one to reunite Satsuki and Mei.
The first thing I noticed about this movie, aside from the iconic cover art, is its title. The writers chose to call this movie “My Neighbor Totoro”. Not “My Friend Totoro” or “My Spirit Animal Totoro.” They chose “Neighbor.”
This led me to Luke 10:25-37. In summary, Jesus is teaching and is asked the question, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. He closes the story with, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?”
“The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’
“Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:37)
And Totoro does likewise. He sees a little girl looking for her lost sister, having abandoned all hope, and goes out of his way to help. And that is what makes Totoro more than just a big, grey, fluffy force of nature. It makes him a neighbor.