Isao Takahata passed away in April. His obituary at the Guardian reminds us of his seminal role in founding Studio Ghibli:
Takahata returned to feature directing with Chie the Brat (1981) and an adaptation of Kenji Miyazawa’s Gauche the Cellist (1982), while working as a producer on Miyazaki’s breakthrough animated version of his own manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984).
The film’s huge success led to the establishment of Studio Ghibli, the name, due to Miyazaki’s love of aviation, taken from an Italian second world war plane, with Takahata producing Miyazaki’s first work for the new enterprise, Castle in the Sky (1986).
Of course, his masterpiece was the partly autobiographical (!!!) Grave of the Fireflies, which was released as a double feature with Totoro, a sentence that still amazes me when I type it out. TOR recently had a must-read historical look at the intertwined history of Totoro and Fireflies, and the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster effect combining them must have had on audiences. Bonus, it intriduces a great theory that I am instantly adopting as headcanon:
So about that Camphor tree…In Grave, Seita lies to Setsuko about their mother’s death for a while, hoping to give her the news in a gentle way. She finds out anyway, and he tries to soften the blow by lying again, this time telling her that their mother is buried beneath a lovely Camphor tree, and that they’ll visit her after the war. (In reality, their mother’s ashes are in a box that Seita carries with him, and seems to lose, before the film ends.) Guess what kind of tree Totoro lives in? Yeah, it’s a Camphor. And Totoro just happens to be accompanied by a middle-sized Totoro, and a small Totoro. And the small Totoro just happens to be the one that attracts Mei’s attention in the first place.
So I’ve just decided that the Grave of the Fireflies characters were all reincarnated as Totoros. Big Totoro is Mother, the Middle Totoro, always the caretaker, forever collecting acorns for Baby, is clearly Seita, and Baby Totoro is Setsuko—the one who first befriends a little girl who’s the same age she was when she died.
And if I’ve just ruined My Neighbor Totoro for you I’m sorry, but how much better is Grave of the Fireflies now? If you watch the movie believing that they all get to be Totoros in the end, you might just get through it.
I picked up the new deluxe edition of Totoro, to replace our mysteriously-vanished copy. I haven’t actually watched it yet (maybe tonight) but I already know I am going to miss the english voices of my old Fox version, especially Satsuki.
My 8yr-old, who I think deserves to inherit the Fledgling Otaku label, noticed something both highly hilarious and deeply troubling on the cover of the disc box. It’s readily apparent on the cover scans on Amazon. See if you can find it.
I can’t stop staring at it, now. Yikes. Please, let there be better attention to detail inside the box than outside! we’ll find out tonight. Somehow I am not really confident about Dakota Fanning here.
I snagged this title off of Netflix for Daughter Otaku, though Baby Otaku has been rather entranced by it as well. In a nutshell, this is your standard Studio Ghibli – girl protagonist, who must learn to belkieve in herself, as she faces supernatural threats with the help of a heroic mentor. Directed by Hiroyuki Morita rather than Miyazaki himself, it’s not on the level of Totoro, but it’s close, in that it makes you smile while you watch it, and leaves you feeling unreasonably happy after it’s over. In fact the spirit of this film is probably epitomized by the catchy ending theme, which some enterprising otaku has put to video with scenes from the movie on YouTube:
My daughter is rewinding the ending theme as we speak, repeatedly, trying to memorize the lyrics. In Japanese. (This is the same child who, as a toddler, overdosed on Totoro. Let it not be said that Studio Ghibli are not masters of their craft).
Highly recommended. If you like Totoro, you will appreciate this. It’s not an equal, but it is a peer.
I got a little bored with Sayonara Zetsubu Sensei, so I watched the first episode of Denmo Coil, and was wowed. I love it. It’s like a wierd mix of Totoro, Serial Experiments Lain, and Haibane Renmei. What a fun show! The OP was also particularly good. I can see this one holding my interest.
And I need to get me one of these phones when they come out:
Steven has been watchingMy Neighbor Totoro, and comments, “I watched it twice, and I’m still not sure what story it was telling. I’m not even sure there was a story. In fact, I’m not even sure there needed to be one.”
Try watching it 50 times!
True story – when I first saw Totoro, my daughter was about two years old. I actually picked the movie up in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart. I brought it home thinking she’d like it.
She became a Totoro addict. There is something in this movie that is like crack for little kids. I don’t just mean she wanted to watch it often; I mean she wanted to watch it eight times a day. In succession. Back to back.
After dealing with tantrum after tantrum I finally had enough and sent the damn disc to my parents’ house a thousand miles away across four state lines. As far as my daughter knew, we “lost” it. Somehow we weaned her off Totoro.. though my sister, evil incarnate that she is, suddenly “found” the disc and sent it back.
I hope that it won’t be toddler crack like last time – especially since my daughter is now four and maybe if her reaction to the film is non-insane, I can actually enjoy it myself. I am quite keen to see whether the 4-year old in the film matches up to the four year old on the sofa. When we were watching Sugar, she was kind of indifferent to the Kannnon character who was also her age, but as Steven mentions, in Totoro the four year old actually acts four years old. So, it will be quite interesting indeed to see whether my daughter recognizes a kindred spirit or not.