Anime Blu-ray Review: My Neighbor Totoro 30th Anniversary Edition

My Neighbor Totoro Collector’s Edition includes a Blu-ray Disc of the film, the CD soundtrack, and a booklet.

My Neighbor Totoro 30th Anniversary Edition
English Publisher: GKIDS
Format: Blu-ray
Release Date: December 11, 2018

After Disney lost the rights to the Studio Ghibli films, GKIDS acquired the rights and began releasing the films theatrically and on home video. The review is for the 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of My Neighbor Totoro.

My Neighbor Totoro is set in the 1950’s and opens with a Tokyo university professor and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, moving into an old house in rural Japan. The girls’ mother is staying in the hospital due to illness, so the rest of the family moved to be closer to her. When the family arrives at the house, the girls discover it’s inhabited by soot sprites, which represent the girls’ apprehension of moving into a new house. After the girls become comfortable and are able to laugh with their father in their new home, the soot sprites leave.

One day, while Satsuki is at school, Mei plays outside and sees a white creature with two rabbit-like ears. When this white creature joins up with another creature, Mei follows them through a briar patch into the hollow of a large tree. Mei meets and befriends an even bigger version of the creatures, which she refers to as “Totoro” from how she interprets a series of roars. Later, Satsuki meets Totoro while the girls wait for their father at the bus stop in the rain. It’s at this point where they encounter the Catbus for the first time.

One day, after believing her mother’s condition has worsened, Mei heads out on foot to the hospital. Satsuki launches a frantic search and ends up enlisting the help of Totoro and the Catbus.

My Neighbor Totoro is a sweet story, and Miyazaki created compelling child characters for this film. Satsuki is having to grow up a little quicker than she might have otherwise, since she’s trying to take her mother’s place and help take care of Mei. Kanta’s grandmother, Nanny, does her best to help the family out, but Satsuki still has to take on some of her mother’s roles. Kanta is a boy that’s Satsuki’s age, and he seems to have a crush on her. His interactions with Satsuki are rather amusing, with my favorite one being when he offers Satsuki and Mei his umbrella when they get caught in the middle of a rainstorm.

Even with what’s going on within their family, both the girls are still able to find ways to enjoy life and do some of the things that kids do. Being able to meet Totoro and the Catbus also helps the girls during this trying time for their family. I appreciate how well Miyazaki was able to capture the wonder of childhood with the characters and the story of this film.

With each viewing I have of My Neighbor Totoro, I still believe that the look of the animation is perfect to accompany the story of the film. The fantastical creatures like Totoro and the Catbus are very endearing, and Mei is simply cute.

On the Blu-ray Disc in this release, there are a total of 10 bonus features included. The first is the “Feature-Length Storyboards,” which is the entire film, but in storyboard form. I really don’t understand the point of this feature, since it’s really only going to appeal to cinephiles. This feature was also included on Disney’s original DVD release of My Neighbor Totoro. Next is the roughly five-and-a-half-minute “Behind The Microphone” documentary about the recording of the English dub, which also comes directly from Disney’s original DVD release of My Neighbor Totoro. The “Textless Credits,” which were also on Disney’s original release of My Neighbor Totoro, is included here. Unfortunately, the only version of the textless version for the credits is for the English dub. The Disney release also included the original Japanese theatrical trailer for My Neighbor Totoro, but the GKIDS release includes two Japanese theatrical trailers for My Neighbor Totoro (with one of them playing up that it was part of a double bill with Grave of the Fireflies).

The remaining six features are all exclusive to this GKIDS release. Most of these are within the three-to-five minute range, and cover such topics as creating My Neighbor Totoro, creating the characters of the film, the “Totoro” experience, Toshio Suzuki talking about creating Studio Ghibli, and Joe Hiashi talking about scoring My Neighbor Totoro. The most interesting of the new bonus features was “The Locations of My Neighbor Totoro.” This runs for almost half an hour and is an excerpt from a Japanese television special about the locations of Miyazaki’s films. An actress, who I believe was one of the Japanese voice actresses for the film, goes through the Sayama Hills with a storyboard trying to find the locations that Miyazaki based the locations in the film on. One of my favorite discoveries in this feature was to learn that the statue and shrine Satsuki and Mei use for shelter when they’re caught in the rainstorm is for a protector of children. To me, having this knowledge makes that scene a little more powerful. The actress also visits Totoro’s Forest and Totoro’s House. It was amazing to see just how well Miyazaki captured the area with the animation in the film.

The 30th Anniversary Edition comes with a CD that includes the music for the film, which was composed by Joe Hisaishi. A vocalist named Azumi Inoue is given credit for three songs on the CD, but she actually appears on the five of the songs. Believe it not, her vocal credit was omitted from the opening theme song. I can’t believe that GKIDS failed to credit her for the opening theme, since her voice is so prevalent on it. When you listen to the CD, many of the pieces are instantly recognizable to listeners who have watched My Neighbor Totoro. These pieces have a rather whimsical feel to them, which works when you think about the fact that this is a film that features both child protagonists and fantastical creatures. I have to admit that one of my favorite pieces on the disc is the theme for the CatBus. Whenever I watch a Miyazaki film, I find the music to be just as much of a character as the actual characters in the story.

This 30th Anniversary Edition also comes with a 40-page book that includes pictures from the film, as well as essays written by various people (including Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, film critic A.O. Scott, author Lauren Wilford, and film critic Roger Ebert). I thought this booklet was a nice addition for this release.

I’m very happy with this release for My Neighbor Totoro. Unfortunately, as of this writing, it is becoming harder to find. If, for some reason, you come across a new copy of this release and you are a fan of My Neighbor Totoro and its soundtrack, I would highly suggest picking it up right away, since it’s unclear at this point just how much longer it will be until new copies of this release become hard to come by.

Additional reviews of Studio Ghibli films:

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