Chinese release of My Neighbor Totoro Delights Fans Even After 30 Years

Chinese fans of the classic Japanese anime film My Neighbour Totoro are rejoicing that the heart-warming masterpiece is finally having an official screening in mainland cinemas, three decades after it was released worldwide.

The acclaimed 1988 animated film about a giant furry woodland creature is one of Japan’s most recognisable cultural exports. Its mainland China release on its 30th anniversary may be a sign of warming Sino-Japanese ties, analysts say.

Asian film specialist Kevin Ma said the release of My Neighbour Totoro was unsurprising, given the success of other Japanese anime releases in China in recent years, such as Your Name and Stand By Me Doraemon.

“Studio Ghibli films have been very popular in China even though they never got a proper theatrical release,” Ma said, referring to the acclaimed Japanese production company. “Totoro is probably one of the most beloved Studio Ghibli films around.”

Ma said that as of Thursday, Totoro had already climbed from eighth place in Chinese box office business to the second spot, a sign of its success during what traditionally is a “dry period” for film releases – before the launch of the big end-of-year blockbusters.

Many Chinese have already watched the film on DVD or pirated copies, and fans of the film have taken to social media to share their responses to the film’s Chinese release and to reminisce.

“For me, My Neighbour Totoro is my heart’s purest memory,” wrote a Weibo user named Zhufuzhenxi on China’s Twitter-like microblogging site.

“I used to watch it over and over on my old DVD player. Now I really miss how I felt watching it at the time. Although the movie only has a very warm, naive story, it really made me feel that it was a proper fairy tale,” Zhufuzhenxi wrote.

Ah Zhen, an 18-year-old student from Jiujiang in Jiangxi province, first watched the film in middle school before discovering the rest of the Studio Ghibli animated films.

“It’s a very relaxing film, and following the action of the story makes me particularly happy,” said Ah Zhen. “I think most of the people watching it this time will have seen it before. They probably want to watch it out of nostalgia.”

Gulu, a 20-year-old student from Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, said: “A few months ago I happened to see online that My Neighbour Totoro was going to be released on the mainland and I was so excited.

“I’ve always loved all of the Studio Ghibli films, so have been waiting eagerly until this day.”

Set in postwar rural Japan, My Neighbor Totoro is the story of two sisters, who chance upon friendly spirits in the woods. When the film was released in 1988, it earned only $5 million at the Japanese box office but eventually became a fan favorite over the years, fetching more than $250 million from home entertainment releases and more than $1 billion from merchandise sales.

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