Various Japanese anime, vol 4

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My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Summary: Two young girls, 10-year-old Satsuki and her 4-year-old sister Mei, move into a house in the country with their father to be closer to their hospitalized mother. Satsuki and Mei discover that their rented home may be haunted and magical creatures inhabit the nearby forest. Adventures and rescues abound while the girls face a frightening real world situation.

Recommendation: The first time I watched this movie (many years ago), I was concentrated on the mother’s illness and the daughters’ reactions/emotions. From that angle, one feels very vulnerable, perhaps even self-pitying. Opening up to the generosity of the neighbors and community, one feels welcome and comforted. This most recent rewatch of My Neighbor Totoro had me focused upon the fantasy of the critters inside and outside the rented house. Their innocence, magical abilities, and friendliness were a balm amid crisis and it felt hopeful, encouraging. And the music is amazing!

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The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

Summary: In a secret world hidden beneath the floorboards, little people called Borrowers live quietly among us. But when tenacious and tiny Arrietty is discovered by Shawn, a human boy, their secret and forbidden friendship blossoms into an extraordinary adventure.

Recommendation: Based off the 1952 book by Mary Norton, the Borrowers are teeny-tiny people who live hidden from view amid the humans. They venture out to take what they need and have to avoid the dangers of beasts and traps. One young human accepts that they exist, even offering the goods back that the Borrowers had to leave behind in one of their quests. Could he be trustworthy? What happens if one of them is captured? Where can the family go if discovered?

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From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)

Summary: In the year 1963 in Yokohama, an innocent romance blossoms between two high school students, Umi and Shun. As Japan recovers from World War II and prepares to host the 1964 Olympics, the mood contains both optimism and conflict as the younger generation struggles to escape the shackles of the past. While trying to save a dilapidated Meiji-era club house from demolition, the relationship flourishes. But a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart.

Recommendation: My emotions rode up and down throughout this work. I especially loved the scenes of many students trying to work together for a common goal and their harassment of each other. Scenes of travel grant the viewer a sense of distance. The mystery of Shun’s origins is second fiddle to the slice-of-life story examined. There’s a great deal to be moody about when referencing war and loss of family members, but it is ultimately a happy story.

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