My Neighbor Totoro (1988) – [subtitled]
For the next few weeks I’ll be watching all the Studio Ghibli films. Some again, some for the first time.

As time sweeps past us, we can forget and lose the innocence, wonder, and magic that defined us as a child. With Totoro, Miyazaki transports us back to that perspective of sheer delight in the most life-affirming, adorable, charming, carefree, beloved story I’ve ever watched.

The film embodies a time when everything was new and interesting and beautiful, from a crumbling porch to a hidden path between bushes. When we lived in a magical world, with endless possibilities, where we appreciated everything, where all new things are embraced.

It’s impossible not to fall in love with four-year-old Mei. Smiles burst from our face with her every word and action. She is brave and curious, exploding with raw emotions, energized movements, and a confidently booming voice. This is her world, one without limits, and she aims to adventure. Mei’s sister, ten-year-old Satsuki, is at that critical age where innocence can become lost. She is our mirror. Our passage back to innocence.

This is a film with no antagonist role, no moral lessons, no trite story, no pop-culture reference, and no breaking out into song. It’s simply a film that plucks the magical harp strings of childhood and lets adults hear a song they might have forgotten. And one children sing along to. A song which brings a smile to the face unlike any other. One painted from pure joy. From the innocence, wonder, and magic of being a child.

Mei and the Kittenbus (2002) – [subtitled]
If you can find it, this is a perfect little nugget of smiles. Not thinking it was possible, Mei becomes even more delightful in this short. At 13-minutes, it wasn’t enough, but nothing ever would be.