Director Hayao Miyazaki’s classic My Neighbor Totoro may be 30 years old this year, but its appeals remains timeless. Its plot is thin almost to the point of transparency, but in its simplicity lies its appeal: two young children move with their father to the Japanese countryside near the hospital where their mother’s recovering from an illness.
Told entirely from the kids’ perspective, My Neighbor Totoro finds wonder around every corner: the woods are full of ancient, benign spirits, and even their dusty old house has a trace of magic hiding in the shadows. The whole thing is brought to life with Miyazaki’s delicate, precise animation.
Like most of Miyazaki’s films, My Neighbor Totoro is heavily based on his own experiences and observations, and the countryside its protagonists explore is based on real locations in Japan. The director’s long remained coy about the precise time his animated classic’s set, however; he’s simply stated that it’s set at a time before television. That is’s set some time after the Second World War is obvious, but YouTuber Gaijillionaire has cunningly mined Totoro’s background details to discover exactly when the moive’s set – right down to the day and month as well as the year.
None of this affects the film’s ageless charm, but it does give a fresh insight into how much detail and thought Miyazaki places into his movies. He didn’t necessarily expect audiences to figure out the year Totoro‘s set, but he evidently sat and worked it all out and made sure everything added up.
Take a look for yourself: it’s a fitting tribute to a film that celebrates its 30th anniversary this April.