My Neighbor Totoro

Sheer enchantment, this 1989 animated feature is a key early work by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). A man and his two daughters move into an old house in the countryside and encounter Totoro, a giant slothlike (and slothful) creature who arranges for the girls to visit their ailing mother, riding in a phantom Cheshire-cat bus. Like much of Miyazaki’s work, the film has an ecological bent that recalls the Shinto reverence for animal spirits and reflects quintessential Asian values like respect for one’s parents and community in the face of crisis. It exemplifies Ghibli’s style of fanciful realism, paying close attention to minute details as well-drawn figures move across a fluid backdrop. It also deals straightforwardly with substantial emotions like fear of death, though at times it veers toward the heart-tugging cuteness of the Pokemon series.