My Neighbor Totoro is a genuine children’s film, attuned to child psychology. Satsuki and Mei move and speak like children: they run and romp, giggle and yell. The sibling dynamic is sensitively rendered: Satsuki is eager to impress her parents but sometimes succumbs to silliness, while Mei is Satsuki’s shadow and echo (with an independent streak). But perhaps most uniquely, My Neighbor Totoro follows children’s goals and concerns. Its protagonists aren’t given a mission or a call to adventure—in the absence of a larger drama, they create their own, as children in stable environments do. They play.
Lauren Wilford on My Neighbor Totoro as true children’s cinema. This is a great piece full of excellent observations about children, boredom, realism, and beauty. We don’t let our kids watch many movies, but My Neighbor Totoro is one we do—and it totally enthralls them.