My Neighbor Totoro is the best gateway anime for kids

Studio Ghibli is one of the best-known Japanese animation studios in the world. There are plenty of beloved Hayao Miyazaki movies that older fans can introduce to the kids in their lives. The consensus, however, is that My Neighbor Totoro is the best film to initiate children on their journey to love anime as a medium.

There are other films – think Ponyo Where Kiki’s Delivery Service – that you may want to show your children first. But today, My Neighbor Totoro is always ranked above its peers as far as fans who love the story and simplicity of this classic healing anime film go.

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My Neighbor Totoro released in Japan in 1988 and released in the United States in 1993. It was released in 1994 on VHS by FOX Video. After losing the distribution right, Disney would take it back and release DVDs which could then be ordered from their subscription website. The film won several awards in Japan in 1988 and even ranked among Empire Magazine’s “100 Best Films of World Cinema” in 2010.

But why is it My Neighbor Totoro such a popular film, and what makes children want to watch it? The story begins slowly, naturally picking up momentum as it goes. Viewers are introduced to the characters by seeing the Tatsuo family move into a new house. Tatsuo Kusakabe and his two daughters, Satsuki and Mei, move to a location outside the country in hopes that the children’s mother will be healthier once she is discharged from the hospital.

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As kids explore their new home and the world around them, they encounter magical creatures that can only be found in specific locations. The soot sprites are some of the first creatures they see, and that in itself is important because they connect to other Ghibli movies and can help kids have a point of reference. There is a friendly relationship between family and neighbors, and everything seems calm and relaxed at first.

The youngest daughter Mei, who is four, explores the forest while her father prepares for his class which he teaches at the local college. While outside, she sees a small white forest creature who is later identified as the smaller version of Totoro; a medium-sized blue Totoro is also seen shortly after. Mei follows them into the forest and falls into a hole, encountering “A Big Fat Totoro”.

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My Neighbor TotoroThe story starts to take off after that. It’s whimsical and beautiful to look at with amazing scenery and lighting, and many children will be able to connect with the concept of adjusting to a new life after having to move house. It’s a new beginning, but the two children are also worried about their mother. This movie feels like a warm hug from start to finish and feels like everything is going to be okay.

Showing this movie to children at an early age will help them appreciate the anime in a way that many fans who grew up with it already do. Sometimes kids don’t even realize they’re watching anime until they grow up and watch it. Following the format of this film will help them become familiar with other media like this – and it will make it easier to show them other Studio Ghibli films because they know they already love one. Veterans and newcomers can stream My Neighbor Totoro and more on HBO Max.

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