My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro)

TotoroI have been on a Studio Ghibli mini-bender this week, in celebration of the fact that My Neighbor Totoro has finally been re-released on dvd, with a new English dub and the Japanese soundtrack.

My Neighbor Totoro is easily one of my favorite Studio Ghibli films. The English soundtrack from the US VHS release was definitely a bit screechy and left a lot to be desired, but it never prevented me from falling in love with the movie. What a disappointment it was when I learned that the Fox dvd release included neither the Japanese soundtrack nor English subtitles. The Disney re-release promises to be all that I had been hoping for. I am anxiously awaiting delivery from Amazon.

In the meantime, I amused myself with Howl's Moving Castle and Pom Poko.

Pom Poko surprised me. It took me some time to be drawn in to the story, which involves shape-shifting raccoons and their struggle to survive in the face of encroaching human suburbs. Straightforward enough, I suppose. The raccoon community has to decide between a moderately successful non-violent approach and a growing pressure towards militancy and open warfare. What was surprising was the subtle role of the "raccoon pouch." Although usually backgrounded, there would occasionally be a bold and bizarre use of the magical raccoon ballsack. This never failed to knock me off balance. Especially considering that the US release comes from Disney. Anyway, this strange humor only added to my enjoyment of the film. Definitely worth adding to your Netflix queue.

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