An absolutely charming animation from Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. A university professor and his two young daughters move into an old house in the country. Left to her own devices while her father is at work, her mother is recovering from an illness in hospital and her elder sister is at school, Mei, the younger girl, explores her new surroundings, stumbling upon (literally) the local forest spirit, whom she names ‘Totoro’. Such is the loving care that Miyazaki takes to craft a realistic setting for his magical tale to unfold in, the background detail is frequently at least as compelling as the story itself. There are some fascinating glimpses into the Japanese rural way of life, such as the kids being let out of school to go and work in the rice fields. A virtuoso balancing act, My Neighbor Totoro is sweet but never sickly and manages to convey some powerful ideas about ecological and communal harmony without being the least bit preachy. I also love the way that, though he is most likely only humouring the girls and feeding their imaginations, the father’s explanations of the phenomena his daughters are witnessing invariably turn out to be true. Beautiful.