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My Neighbor Totoro

When talking about anime, the name of Hayao Miyazaki stands above the pack, perhaps only as an athlete can stand above their sport. Even those who know nothing of the depths of the genre may know of Miyazaki, especially after the glowing reception his recent film Spirited Away received. My Neighbor Totoro (or Tonari no Totoro), from 1988, was his breakthrough effort in the States, and it shows why he has been universally embraced and cherished. When young sisters Mei and Satsuki move with their father to a small village near a forest to be nearer to their ill mother, they find that their new home has little dust-bunny guests that are actually little spirits. It turns out that the village they live in has many enchanted guests — some of whom steal nuts. This leads Mei to follow one spirit into a tree, where she meets the giant, catlike Totoro. But when she tries to show her dad and sister, she can't find the way back in. Later, both Mei and Satsuki run into Totoro while they wait for their dad, and the two lend Totoro their umbrella as he waits for his bus, which is a giant cat with headlights for eyes. As the two girls grow accustomed to their new home, they befriend Totoro, and as they help him they are able to call on him during an emergency. If Totoro seems simple, it is — as are all great children's stories. But Miyazaki's films also have found an adult audience because of the purity and innocence of his efforts. Watching Totoro, it's evident Miyazaki tapped into something special, and with his animation he's done something transcendent. Though the plotting might seem obvious, there is a great poetry, joy, and genuine enthusiasm that seeps out of his filmmaking. It is literally heartwarming to watch Totoro, especially in the sea of recent mediocre output from the Mouse House. Every accolade that Miyazaki has received is well deserved, and it is no more evident than after watching this film. Fox's DVD presents My Neighbor Totoro in a full-frame (pan-and-scan) transfer with Dolby 2.0 stereo audio, in English. (A Region 3 release presents the film subtitled and in anamorphic widescreen.) Extras include bonus trailers. Keep-case.

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