My crazed obsession Totoro

Steven has been watching My 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.

14 thoughts on “My crazed obsession Totoro”

  1. I had almost exactly the same feeling, though I liked your point in your TMW that the story of the girls is really just beginning, and so an “ending” wouldn’t quite be appropriate. If anything, the movie was one long beginning.

    My daghters obsession though is probably best explained by the fact that the characters are so magical. Mai especially was like the distillation of childhood, and Dai-Totoro had a kind of majesty that was more accessible in cartoon form than the real-life majesty of lions at the zoo. Of course, she was only 2 years old; so who knows what was going through her head? 🙂 I really need to rewatch it with her now that she’s four.

    I do remember being amused at just how absorbed the Dad was in his work. It struck me as pretty unusual, but then I wondered – is’t that maybe admirable in at least one respect, that (quite unlike me) he has confidence enough that his daughters can explore their world without even the slightest supervision.

    I wonder if the dad knew of the totoro… why did he choose that house?

  2. Steven said it wasn’t finished!
    Oh, how could he say that? Their mom came home with a baby brother for them!
    You have to watch the credits to see.
    I didn’t see it until I was a grownup, but it is still like toddler crack for me.
    If I have a bad day at work I watch Totoro.
    It is like chicken soup for me.
    It captures and distills a sort of childhood essence, the worry about their Mom, the surprise and excitement of the new house, the magical friend…

  3. Steven says: I found that while trying to figure out what Papa is saying in My Neighbor Totoro when he talks about the soot balls. It sounds to me like makkurokurosuke. I got makkuro meaning “pitch black”, but the rest is a bit strange. Kuro suke as “darkness helpers”?

    I think it translates as “soot sprites”. They are in Spirited Away too, but I don’t know if anyone names them. I’ll have to rewatch.

    I hope you don’t mind, Aziz-habiibi, it is like chizu has comments. 😉

  4. I’m aware that the dub and subtitles translated the term as “soot sprites” but often those translations take serious liberties.

    For instance, there was a line in an episode of DBZ I just watched. It’s at the beginning of the “World Tournament” saga just after Vegita has totaled the punch machine. Gohan says something that they translated as “Can’t take him anywhere.” A funny line.

    But what he actually said was “Shou ga nai, ne?” Which means “What can you do, eh?” or “No help for it, eh?”

    Actually, what I’ve been discovering is that the English translator(s) of DBZ have gone up on their lines quite a lot, and the English (sub or dub) is a lot more witty than the original Japanese in a lot of ways.

    Translators often have to make serious changes in order to deal with figures of speech that don’t translate literally, or cultural references, or topical jokes, or puns. Translation is not literal and cannot be. (For dubs, they have the additional problem of trying to match the animated mouth movements.)

    That’s why sometimes I find myself trying to identify the actual Japanese; it’s because I have a suspicion that the translators have taken serious liberties in the translation and I want to know what the original actually said. This is such a case. The word was translated as “soot sprits” but I don’t think that’s what the word/phrase actually meant, or at least not literally.)

    And I know it happens in the Miyazaki films. One of his films was titled “Spirited Away” in English, but the Japanese name is Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi which means “Sen and the mysterious disappearance of Chihiro”.

    Meanwhile, I just went through the closing credits again looking for the baby, and I think you’re imagining things. I think our host is closer to right: Mom was suffering from tuberculosis and was staying at a sanitarium while being treated, probably in order to minimize the risk of infecting the kids. There is a baby which appears a couple of times in the credits but no particular reason to believe that it’s theirs, especially since Mom isn’t holding anything in her arms when she gets out of the taxi.

  5. huh! there is the baby, then he is an obvious toddler in another frame watching the girls play.
    I’m gonna screen capture it and prove it to you.

    but…like we discussed before…miyazaki films are like making cloud pictures…they are informed by your experiences.

    like you think the Laputa gardian robots are inhuman…but i loved them…miyazaki did too.
    One stands guard in the courtyard of the museum. You are a mecha bigot, Steven.

    i know the dubs are sometimes different–and i usually can’t stand dubs, but the miyazaki dubs are better quality, usually, and devoted to keeping the meaning.

    and also…i will compare the vhs and the dvd of totoro…perhaps they are different.

    AND…as for Naussica…you and i were watching different films, i think. 😉
    i have more to say on that.

  6. totoro trivia–
    the middle sized totoro is chu-totoro (i don’t remember where i read that), and in Innosensu, one of the boat-floats in the parade has a totoro on it, i think. i’ll get a screen capture later.
    Have a happy day!

  7. hmmm…i can’t find my vhs.
    but anyways, you can’t see if mom has a baby or is preggers, the taxi door is in the way.
    in the credit pictures Mei is seen holding the baby’s hand, and feeding the baby.
    it looks like Mei taking care of the baby, like her big sister took care of her.
    and if he is not their baby, why is he in there?

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