Before the "what the fuck is wrong with you, a 5 on a ghibli movie, kill yourself" settles in, I want to assure you that the movie did everything that it set out to be outstandingly and if I was from that target audience, I would probably consider it nothing short of a masterpiece. I usually prefer to criticize a show for what it tried to be but failed while presenting every factor I deemed important about the movie and why eventually it was only an average experience for me. In this case, I don't have a lot to criticize on what the movie actually tried to do because it was succesful in what it did. So all I can present is what factored into my experience only a 5 with what the movie has had done and has not done.
Starting with the movie's strong suits, the artistic side of it is outstanding. While the obligatory "for its time, it looks incredible" compliment must be said, I'll do one more and say that for our time, I wish people would pay as much attention to detail in animation as was done in Tonari no Totoro and would look at least half as good. The animation has plenty of small details throw in that makes each frame look lively and realistic. As an example there will be some scenes with children crying. Have you ever seen someone cry in an anime? I will assume that most of the time, depending on what you watch of course, crying doesn't rise any red flags. However, watching a child cry in this made me realize something. Most people don't even put any effort into the way they display someone crying and see it as something simple and easy to portray. However, in Totoro, when the child started crying I could see the range of emotions she went through and react realistically, the same way any child of that age would. All down to the point of starting to cry silently because she was upset then up to the outburst of emotion, screaming and bawling as soon as she was given attention again the way children do when they are given attention in these situations. It may seem a ridiculous thing to pick out the level of detail for animation, but that's what I found most impressive. The range of emotions displayed in a few frames was done as right as anyone could ever do them and I can't imagine someone outdoing this kid.
Ok, now the movie so far was 10/10 children cry real. Anyway, up next I'm gonna talk about, more of the art, and rather, its significance in this movie. You see there's a point to the art actually being this well animated and that is that its goal is to be as captivating as anything can be. Yeah, sure, anything has to be captivating, but in this situation, you have to keep in mind, the audience was intended to be children. Children are impressionable. And I assure this was artstyle was very impressive if it still is today back then. But the reason it also has to be captivating it is because it's trying to display the innocence of children, which is the artistic goal of the movie. Which it does. Quite well. To the point where everyone praises it. So I praised it on that front enough. But I have to add, since its audience seemed to have been children, it has build an impressive world with imaginative designs in a realistic looking manner. To the point where adults can watch it to feel like a kid again and children can watch it to be amazed by the movie's world.
But here's where my praise stops and my gripes with the movie starts... well... you see... I was bored. Yes, despite the amazingly looking visuals that occasionally made me so impressed I forgot all about how bored I was for a short while and despite being 100% on board with what the movie has displayed, I still was bored. Why? Because it is mostly comprised of the children fucking around and showing off how well designed everything is, as well as put focus on what they're trying to display in the movie. The movie piles on a lot and a lot of scenes together for artistic value and to continuously display how innocent a child is. I get it. So what?
What do you mean "so what?", that's the point of the movie?
Yes, and why would I watch something solely meant to display that. Quite frankly, there's a lot of things intended for kids that are sweet, innocent and whatnot and have a point in their story, even if simple and meant for children to understand and teach them good values. However this movie spends an hour on children and then realizes something needs to happen as for the story to have some sort of tension by the point where you'd have ingrained the target audience into your brain and know everything's gonna be alright. The story is a tool to display art, rather than to display a engaging narrative.
Yeah, but the story's goal was to show off the children's innocence. It's only your fault if you can't appreciate that.
Yeah, finally something that we can agree. Frankly if you enjoy a movie that is artistic and the theme that I've described in the review, it will be outstanding. But do you enjoy stories? Do you enjoy it when you learn something? Do you enjoy it when you see someone have some sort of struggle and have some type of conflict? Do you enjoy it when something you watch tries to drive home a point or multiple points? Are you entertaining by these things? Because they are absent here. As a child or enough of a childlike mentality, you could admire and yonder or feel nostalgic over how your own childhood was due to the movie, but, if that's not what you're looking for... You're likely to get bored... just like me. Unless you're watching it for the amazing visuals. In which case, congratulations again.
Most often times when something succeeds in what it sets out to be it is often free of criticism because there is no point to it because it's already succeeded. But just because it succeeded in something doesn't mean it will succeed in entertaining you. If narrative is something you really want in the movie, a series of connected events that do drive a point across, this is not something you should watch. If you value the artistic side of a show more than anything, this is a masterpiece that you should not miss, this movie is for you.