‘My Neighbor Totoro’: A Feminist Mom’s Perfect Pick

Before last year, I’d never heard of Hayao Miyazaki. And then the Japanese animator from Studio Ghibli turned his talents to one of my favorite children’s books — The Borrowers — and Disney scooped up The Secret World of Arrietty and released it in America, and a faithful devotion was born. Miyazaki doesn’t just make films for kids. He makes films for kids full of powerful little girls, girls who have guts and gumption, girls who could very well be real.

He makes films that make mothers of daughters want to write him letters of gratitude.

Now we have another thing to be thankful for. Disney has re-released Miyazaki’s 1988 classic My Neighbor Totoro on Blu-Ray for the first time ever with the voice talents of Dakota Fanning and her sister, Elle Fanning. Even at 25 years old, the updating to Blu-Ray works with this movie, making it come alive onscreen in high definition.

But it’s not just the eye candy we turn to Miyazaki for.

It’s the ability to put a movie on, hand my daughter a bowl of popcorn, and walk away satisfied that she’s whiling her hours away being fed a story that will feed her soul.

Looking for one of those movies? Here’s why My Neighbor Totoro fits the bill:

1. Female Cast. The main characters of the film — aside from the forest spirit Totoro — are two little girls, Satsuki and Mei, but it isn’t just them. They are surrounded by a mostly female supporting cast, all cast in a positive light. Although they live with their professor father, he’s largely absent and not really all that important in the scheme of things.

2. Heroines. Sisters Satsuki and Mei are brave little girls, curious to explore their new home in the countryside, strong enough to deal with huge change in their lives, eager to make sense of this odd creature living in their midst. They don’t shy away from anything.

3. Sisterly bond. The stereotype of the catty sisters always sniping at each other is absent in a film about two little girls who depend on one another.

4. Mother Nature. With much of the film set in the woods, home of Totoro, the natural world seems to have feminine characteristics, and it is there where the girls find both strength and comfort.

What’s your favorite Miyazaki film?

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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of My Neighbor Totoro. All opinions expressed are my own.



  1. I wasn't a huge Miyazaki fan until The Secret World of Arrietty. And Zoe loves Totoro ever since we got it for review. And I admit–I loved it too. More than I thought I would. So much in fact that I ordered myself a Totoro wallet. Yeah. It's awesome.

  2. Miyazaki makes some of the BEST movies, i swear. I ADORE him and his work. Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, Ponyo, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery service – all FANTASTIC movies. I could watch him all. day.

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