Apr 25, 2012

My Neighbor Totoro

vol 1-3
by Hayao Miyazaki

This is another japanese comic that's read left-to-right, back-to-front. Honestly, I found it a bit more confusing to follow than Happy Happy Clover because there is very little dialog, so instead of following words I'm following pictures, and often my eyes would jump to a panel out of sequence. It's pretty obvious, even before I started looking at the copyright page, that this book is taken straight from an animated film. Often the pictures include awkward gestures, small figures against a large background that don't read well visually without the movement, one character in exactly the same position for several frames as the other one talked. I really felt like the books could have been condensed by being more selective with the image choices, but that's just me. That said, the story is wonderfully imaginative, and the landscape rendered beautifully. My favorites were the last two volumes, where the little girls explore the forest.

So, My Neighbor Totoro is about two girls who move with their father into an old farmhouse on the edge of a forest. In the first volume, they move in, explore the empty house, and the youngest daughter finds that little mischevous dust sprites are living in the house (the kid next door thinks it's haunted). An older woman nearby tells them how to get rid of the dust sprites. In volume two, Mei (the little girl) wanders into the forest and finds three strange creatures which she follows around. When she tells her family, her older sister doesn't believe her, but her father tells her they are forest spirits and she's blessed by seeing them. Then the older sister wants to see them, too. In the third volume, the girls are waiting at a bus stop in the rain for their dad to come home when the largest totoro comes and waits with them, but he gets on a bus shaped like a huge cat with many feet. Later they wake up at night, find the totoro outside, and join him near  small garden plot they planted with gathered acorns. The totoro leads them in a kind of dance gesturing upwards that magically makes the acorns grow into huge, impressive trees. There's more going on- scenes at school, encounters with the neighbor boy, but that's really the gist of it. I think the three volumes could easily have been made one book, though. Apparently there's a fourth volume, but my library doesn't have it. These books would probably appeal most to kids who have seen the film; if I'd know it I would have just watched the animation instead.

Here you can see some clips from the film.

Rating: 2/5 ........143 pages (each), 2004

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