Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

My Neighbour Totoro


Starring (voice): Chika Sakamoto, Noriko Hidaka and Hitoshi Takagi
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: PG
Available 12 November 2012

In 1950's Japan Mr Kusakabe, a professor of anthropology, takes his two young girls Satsuki and Mei to live in the countryside whilst their mother is in the hospital. There they meet Granny, a kindly old woman who knows a lot of woodland lore, and her nephew Kanta. The house they move into is no ordinary dwelling as the girls find susu-atari, little puff ball soot creatures who are dwelling in the dark places in the house. Granny tells the girls that the little spirits are harmless, but the girls are in for a greater surprise, as in the camphor tree which stands in their garden Mei discovers a Totoro, which she takes for a troll but which is really a woodland spirit. Before the girls know what has happened they are off on adventures with their new friend Totoro...

Studio Ghibli have been bringing out their movies on Blu-ray for a while now and the next one to be released is My Neighbour Totoro (1988 - 1 hr, 26 min, 23 sec), directed by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, who has succeeded in crafting another slice of magical cinema with a heart at its centre.

Even when exploring their new surroundings Satsuki and Mei are melancholy as their mother remains in hospital, unwell and unable to enjoy the new house with them, even though oddly it turns out she only has a cold - they obviously take all forms of illness very seriously in Japan. Of course the mother’s plight is there to make the audience sympathise with the two girls and their loss without making the loss anything which would side-track the audience from the central fantasy.

The list of characters is small; just the girls, their mother and father, granny and her grandson and that's all you really need. Whilst there is much for adults to enjoy this, like most other Ghibli films, really should be a family experience.

The English dub is up there with the best of Ghibli’s previous output and is the same which appeared on the DVD a few years ago with Dakota Fanning providing the voice of Satsuki. Of course Dakota is that talented little girl from the recent War of the Worlds and Spielberg's Taken. Her younger sister, Elle Fanning, who at the age of only eight has already been in I am Sam, Taken and Daddy Day Care, plays Mei.

The rest of the cast is made up of Timothy Daly, who plays the professor. Daly had the lead role in Diner, but is most probably better known as the voice of Superman in the animated series. His on-screen wife, Mrs Kusakabe, is played by the very beautiful Pilipino actress Lea Salonga who, although mainly a theatrical actress and singer, also had previously provided the voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney's Aladdin and Fa Mulan in Mulan. Another from the Disney stable is Pat Carroll who provides the voice of granny; she had previously provided the voice of the sea witch in The Little Mermaid.

Oddly enough, the actor who has had the most experience gets the smallest role. If you've ever watched any animated show then at some point you would have heard the vocal talents of Frank Welker who plays the most excellent Totoro. Although, on one level the role of Totoro could be considered to be a small role, after all he does not exactly speak, the skill that Welker brings to his vocalisations imbues the wood spirit with real life, bringing out his playful non-threatening persona.

The new print has an aspect ratio of 16:9 with both a Japanese and English LPCM 2.0 audio track, English subtitles are also included. The picture benefits from a Blu-ray release for clarity and vibrant colours, however the extra definition does show up the grain inherent in the film stock.

One of the nice things about Ghibli releases are the abundance of extras on the disc, which kick off with the complete storyboards for the whole film, which play in conjunction with the finished film.

Creating My Neighbour Totoro (2 min, 58 sec) has the usually shy Hayao Miyazaki discussing the genesis of the film. This was a period when his interest was still routed in the Japanese countryside, before he branched out to encompass more European themes and environments. Creating the Characters (4 min, 23 sec) has his Miyazaki and his collaborator, producer Toshio Suzuki discussing how the characters came to be.

The Totoro Experience (1 min, 59 sec) takes a very quick look at the film’s success, though by this time I’m not sure why all these little pieces were not just edited together. Producers Perspective: Creating Ghibli (1 min, 23 sec) tells you how the studio's name came about and The Locations of Totoro (28 min, 48 sec) takes you around the actual locations which were reproduced for the film.

Scoring Miyazaki (7 min, 18 sec) takes a look at the work of Joe Hisaishi, who has scored all of Miazaki’s Ghibli films. Keeping on an audio theme Behind the Microphone (5 min, 40 sec) has the English dub score bigging up the film. There is also behind the scenes of the dub being created.

The disc finishes off with the textless opening and closing sequences, the original theatrical trailer and a bunch of trailers for other Ghibli films.

The evident grain aside, this is a Hayao Miyazaki film, a master in the field of anime and as per usual he has created a little slice of heaven for us all to enjoy.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£17.00 (
£17.99 (
£17.00 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.