The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

First you see this movie. Then you crochet it.

with 25 comments

I’ve never come around to make a rag doll James Bond, I have yet to stitch Hannibal Lecter and I still don’t own a Dark Knight made of plush.

Making my own miniature versions of movie characters isn’t one of my habits. I’m just not a particularly crafty person. But blimey if I won’t end up crocheting my own little Totoro companion.

You see, My Neighbour Totoro has that effect on you. This movie doesn’t resemble to others.

For one thing, it’s cuter than just about anything else you can see on a screen. Was there ever a creature in the world as huggable as Totoro? I don’t think so.

What also makes it special is that there’s nothing in it that resembles to a villain in it. As a matter of fact, there is barely even as much as a conflict or a problem that needs to be solved.

[mild SPOILER warning] The closest you get to a disagreement or a tension is when the younger one of the two sisters we follow gets a little bit upset since her mother who is away at a hospital doesn’t get well quickly enough. So she runs away for a while and everyone else goes looking for her until they find her. And that’s about as exciting as the movie gets. [end of SPOILER]

You really couldn’t get much further away from The Hunger Games, which was the last movie I had watched before this .

While illness certainly exists in Totoro’s universe, I doubt death does, no more than it exists to Calvin and Hobbes on an exploration tour in their magical world. And it was such a pleasure to just embrace all the dreaminess and cuteness and childish innocence, letting it fill my mind, flushing out all the violence and sadness and cynicism I get from most other movies.

Japanese voices
The only part I didn’t enjoy particularly much was the original Japanese soundtrack. Usually I’m all for watching movies with the original sound, reading the subtitles. I think something gets lost in the dubbing, even if it’s an animated movie. But this movie turned out to be an exception. There’s something about the Japanese child actors voices that didn’t work for me. There was too much screaming and yelling for my taste and after ten minutes I sensed that I was in the danger of developing a severe headache, so I switched over to the Swedish sound, which turned out to be far more pleasant to listen to.  I can’t say if how it is in the case of the English version, if the dubbing is worse or better than the original. And maybe it’s just me having overly sensitive ears.

To be honest I’m not entirely sure of how this film works for its primal target audience, namely children. I can imagine that the very young ones, those who recently outgrew Teletubbies, wont mind the lack of action and danger. Cuteness is enough for their needs. But what about a 12 year old? Will he or she dismiss it as too childish? I think many might. But even so, they can always come back later, when they’ve reached the point in their lives when you realize that maturity and childishness aren’t opposites, but rather the same thing.

Oh, and before I forget it: here’s a pattern you can use if you like me are contemplating to crochet your own Totoro. It doesn’t look quite as soft and furry as the movie version, but damn, it’s cute!  

My Neighbour Totoro (Tonari No Totoro,  Hayao Miyazaki, JA 1988) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

April 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm

25 Responses

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  1. It’s one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies and the character is great. I also wondered what a ride in the Catbus would be like.


    April 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    • Oh, I loved the Catbus too!
      My favorite Ghibli movie so far is Spirited away. This one resembled more to The Secret world of Aryette. Still liked it a lot!


      April 5, 2012 at 9:34 pm

  2. My girlfriend and I adored Totoro! Enough that I eventually bought her a plush Totoro:



    April 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm

  3. My Neighbor Totoro is incredibly charming, I always tell people who haven’t seen a Miyazaki film yet to see this one first. I loved the Totoro cameos in Toy Story 3.


    April 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    • I hadn’t seen Totoro when I watched Toy Story 3. But now I guess I have to revisit it to find out. Not that I mind. Toy Story 3 is awesome.


      April 5, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      • It’s a silent cameo. Look for him in Bonnie’s bedroom.


        April 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

  4. Oh, that’s sweet! Other future projects might be the soot sprites from Spirited Away. I’m also going to be at Eastercon this weekend and they have a session called ‘knit your own dalek’


    April 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    • Really? That’s wonderful. And I’m so envious for you going to Eastercon. I’ve heard it’s sold out. I really should go there one day. A whole bunch of Swedish sci-fi fans I know are going. But alas not me. 😦


      April 5, 2012 at 9:37 pm

  5. This is one of my old favorites and lucky for me when it was released here in the States years ago those of us that purchased the VHS tape got a plush Totoro for free. Sadly, the tape is pretty useless these days.


    April 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    • oh, but that gives you a good reason to find a new copy on whatever platfor you have, DVD or bluereay! 🙂 Who knows, maybe there’s some juicy extras on it as well…


      April 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm

  6. That is an adorable crochet. Yay more studio ghibli! Now we just need to tie you down and make you watch the rest, with those little needle point eye holder open things. WE’LL GO CLOCKWORK ORANGE ON THIS, WERD.

    I’m in an odd mood, be safe, glad you enjoyed!

    Holly "Digit" Dotson

    April 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    • Hehe there’s no need to force me, I’ll atch them of my own will. The pace will depend a bit on how lucky I am finding them at my local library.


      April 5, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      • Aww, I never get to go clockwork orange on people =(

        Yeah, I know they can be hard enough to find here, I’m not sure how big anime is in Sweden, though I think it’s catching on more worldwide.

        It’s really hard to top Spirited Away.

        Unsure if you’re ever interested in series but if you do I’d recommend one called Ghost in the Shell, superb writing and really deep themes. (If you can find it) I think it’s one you’d really enjoy looking into.
        (I think like 90% of the comments on your videos are, you should watch!) Maybe I’ll do a tally over the next few posts because I’m a nerd like that.

        Holly "Digit" Dotson

        April 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm

        • I like comics, but so far I’ve failed to embrace manga. My daughter read a lot of it for a while, so I tried it out, but there was something about the narrative that didn’t catch with me; I found it a bit hard to follow and get in to it. Maybe I’m just old and conservative…


          April 6, 2012 at 7:55 am

  7. The first thing that reminded me of is when I watched Secret of Kells. I’m not that crafty myself, but there was someone in my gaming community that was making custom dolls and I reached out to her to get a yarn doll of Aisling, the long white haired girl fairy. Totoro was a pretty good movie too, but I think my favorite Ghibli film is Howl’s moving castle.


    April 5, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    • Oh, that’s one of the Ghibli’s I’ve seen. I loved that one too, though to me Spirited Away is my number one.


      April 6, 2012 at 7:57 am

  8. Good review. I really enjoyed this film. Other than Spirited Away it is my favorite Miyazaki film.


    April 5, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    • Thanks! I find it hard to rank the Miyazaki films I’ve seen (four at this point), but I agree that Spirited Away was best. But that might also be because it was the first one I saw. It was such a pleasant surprise.


      April 6, 2012 at 7:52 am

      • If you haven’t seen either Kiki’s Delivery Service or Howl’s Moving Castle, I would recommend both to you.


        April 6, 2012 at 2:06 pm

  9. One of my favorite movies from Japan. Love the umbrellascene and the catbus. I´ll ask my wife if she wants to do a Totoro for my. Happy easter 🙂


    April 6, 2012 at 10:27 am

    • A belated happy easter to you too! And yes, the catbus is awesome. Harder to crochet I believe though.


      April 10, 2012 at 10:46 am

  10. Arts and crafts is so not my thing, so I think I’ll pass on the crochet thing. However, being the proud owner of all the Calvin and Hobbes-books I must comment that death do actually occur. Calvin takes care of a wounded bird (might also be a mouse or some kind of other small animal) that eventually dies to his great sorrow. A good episode to discuss with children I imagine…


    April 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

    • I had forgotten about that one. But you have to admit it’s very rare.


      April 10, 2012 at 10:47 am

      • Yup, that it is. And no people die as far as I can remember. A lot of aliens though 😉


        April 11, 2012 at 8:01 am

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