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Everyone, it’s summer! It is time to go to the beach or simply outside the city. Time for fresh, juicy fruit. In Japan, this is also the time for fireworks and an incredibly humid heat! So, let’s imagine for a while that we are all back to our childhoods. If we were in Japan, this would be the perfect school-less season to explore the world. This is just what Satsuki and Mei did in Tonari no Totoro (My neighbor Totoro). This film by the genius Hayao Miyazaki takes us to the ordinary countryside where everything is magical and possible if we are young and innocent enough… and have a mysterious allie by our side.
Although the film was out in 1988 and deals with a family a few years after the Second World War, Tonari no Totoro has become a timeless classic. At first sight, it can be a little bit too plain and simple, or even confusing (especially if you are an adult). Nevertheless, if you give it a chance, you will fall in love with its characters. Because that is what mainly drives the charm in here, the fuzzy and warm personalities we meet throughout the film. Let’s go on a brief journey to re-encounter these top 10 warmest My Neighbor Totoro characters!
Warning: Remember that there will be Totoros and spoilers all around the way. You have been warned!
As we have two female leads, we need a tomboy in the film to balance things out, don’t you think the same? Besides that, boys of a tender age who meet girls who are new in town will not act, well… very natural, right? Actually, it might look like Kanta does not like our protagonists at first. Oh, the awkwardness! And the rudeness too...
Well everyone, let’s take a careful look behind this. We will notice that Kanta has his warm moments. His granny is helping the girls’ family, so he sometimes brings stuff to the house, lends Satsuki an umbrella and helps to search for Mei when she disappears. In short words, give Kanta a little bit of time to adjust. He is warm in the end ?
Next, we have Kanta’s grandmother, nicknamed Granny. This adorable old lady can not be perceived as tall nor slender. But her figure looks---how do we say?---Comforting. Granny has the perfect height to have a conversation with the children of the movie (towering menacing adults, go away!). Plus, have we mentioned that she is always smiling?
Since the Kusakabe family moves to their new home in the countryside, Granny has been a constant source of kindness and reassurance. With the girls’ mother away at the hospital, someone has to make sure a warm adult female presence is at the house, right? Granny also gets extra points in our Top Ten for sharing her cooking. Remember guys, sharing is caring ?
Mrs. Kusakabe appears on the film just a few times, so we can not say much about her. She is Satsuki and Mei’s mother, hospitalized due to an unknown illness (although some speculate it is pneumonia). Thus, Yasuko only appears with a hospital gown and her hair done in a ponytail. Her looks are not particularly remarkable, but we can seethat she is warm in her few interactions with her family.
We should also really mention that Yasuko’s presence and warmth is felt throughout all the film. The rest of the Kusakabe family talks constantly about her, and Satsuki is shown writing letters to her mother. Let’s also not forget that, when the girls think Yasuko’s condition worsened, the climax of the film is provoked. All in all, Yasuko fills her role as a warm mother well.
One of the great moments of the film comes when Satsuki and Mei come inside their new home for the first time. Pay attention, because this is their first encounter with magical beings. Our girls freak out when they notice weird movements coming from thick, black specks of soot. They also have big, round, white, eyes.
The Susuwatari (Sootballs) basically live in abandoned homes, but they are harmless. Well, perhaps they would look offensive to you if you are extra clean, but believe us. The Susuwatari are harmless and kind of a warm welcome for the girls, who calm down quickly and start exploring their new home. Meanwhile, the fuzzy, warm Susuwatari keep blinking and moving ?
It is time to introduce the head of the Kusakabe family. Tatsuo is a University professor who, in order to be closer to his sick wife, moves the family to the countryside. From this detail alone, we can infer he is warm. But just wait to see the beautiful scenes where Tatsuo takes care of his daughters. Family gatherings at the Kusakabes are simple but full of joy!
Tatsuo also wins points at parenting and warmth for his attitude when Mei informs him that a giant beast called Totoro lives in the forest. He just answers that he might be a guardian spirit. Notice how he does not demean his daughters remarks. For being a warm and positive balance in the absence of his wife, Tatsuo deserves a post in our Top Ten.
Riding a bus to get anywhere in the countryside is so mainstream… That is why the Nekobus (Catbus) stands out. Imagine being able to ride a furry transport which mews. This goes one step beyond Alice in Wonderland and its Cheshire cat!
Besides being a transport that obviously would be warm when the low temperatures strike, the Nekobus is quick and will take you anywhere you need to in a moment. Satsuki and Mei get into the furry transport vehicle to see their mother at the hospital, afterall. With its big smile and comfy structure, we cannot help but think that the Nekobus should be the warm transport of the future. But enough with the support characters. We are going to advance now to the protagonists...
Meet the oldest Kusakabe sister! Tall, thin and with short hair, it is said that Satsuki resembles her mother Yasuko. So, if we go with the lines of good upbringing, she should be kind and warm, right? Well, the reality is not far from that.
Satsuki, as a good eldest sister in the absence of their mother, takes care of the house and family as best as she can. She especially looks after her sister Mei, thus their relationship is the most featured in the film. But this does not mean she is a full adult, Satsuki is still a child! So, when Mei talks to her about Totoro, she immediately believes her and wishes to meet him soon. For being open minded and adventurous with a good portion of maturity, Satsuki has a high spot in our Top Ten.
3. Chuu Totoro and Ko Totoro
The good thing about Totoro is that he is not the only magical inhabitant of the forest. There are many other types of furry creatures of different sizes and colors. Among the Totoros, we have the Chuu Totoro (Middle sized Totoro), which looks basically as the biggest Totoro but is smaller and blue colored. He is seen in the film carrying a sack, probably of acorns (their food) or seeds.
The other particularly interesting Totoro variance is the Ko Totoro (Small Totoro), which keeps the basic shape of the other Totoros but is much smaller, without arms and white. Mei’s first encounter with the Totoros is due to a Ko Totoro hiding on the bottom part of their new house. She chases him and, in the best Alice in Wonderland style, ends up entering the world of the warm critters. The presence of the Totoros during the movie marks especially tender moments with the girls, for example when they are all playing music (with conches?) sitting on the top of the trees. If that is not warm, what can possibly be?
Mei is the other protagonist of My neighbor Totoro. As a four year old, she is just starting to discover the world. As a tiny, slightly chubby and wide eyed girl, Mei is friendly and loves to have fun. She can also be stubborn sometimes and her emotions can flood pretty quickly, like when the sisters thought their mother was not feeling well. That is why Mei, in the best impulsive fashion of her short age, ran away trying to get to the hospital by herself.
Our first encounters with the magical creatures of the forest are seen through Mei’s eyes. We can see here that she gets along very well with them. Mei is simply delighted with the biggest Totoro, so they quickly become friends. If there is one human character that embodies warmth in the film, that character has to be Mei.
So, we are finally here. The ultimate warm character in Tonari no Totoro is none other than Totoro himself! Much of it is due to his looks, we have to admit that is hard to resist a giant furry ball with mouse/rabbit features. Plus, he has round eyes and a small mouth that can transform in the biggest grin ever when he is happy.
But well, what would it be of any characters looks without the right attitude to match them? Totoro at first just tolerates Mei’s presence, but they quickly become friends and is seen frequently on the girls’ whereabouts. He helps Satsuki and Mei to cultivate some seeds and is key when Mei goes lost. In sum, Totoro is one of those silent characters who shows and does not tell how truly warm he is!
Tonari no Totoro has marked a whole generation of otaku. Should we remind you that he is the official Studio Ghibli mascot? His figure is so recognized around the world by now, that he still is one of the most beloved Japanese characters of all time. Totoro and his friends will always be there to remind us of the good childhood times and of the positive side of human’s unbreakable bond with nature.
So, time for questions! Which is your favorite character of Tonari no Totoro and why? Don’t forget that we are open to all your comments and questions. See you soon!