Japanese classic ‘Totoro’ gets China release after 30 years

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Beijing, Dec 14 (IANS) Japanese animation classic “My Neighbour Totoro” is finally being screened in Chinese cinemas, 30 years after it was first released.

The film, by Studio Ghibli and famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, follows the story of two sisters who encounter Totoro and other forest creatures.

Despite the movie’s cult following, it has never been publicly shown in China. Though many Chinese viewers have already caught it on DVDs or pirated downloads while growing up, the BBC reported.

“For China, film will always take a back seat to politics,” Stanley Rosen, director at the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Southern California told the BBC, explaining that whether a Japanese film makes it to China often depended on the state of the political relationship.

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“Right now that relationship has improved significantly and there is a lot of movement on Sino-Japanese co-productions, including in anime.”

Rosen said Miyazaki has been publicly critical of Japan’s wartime aggressions and that has been viewed favourably in Chinese media.

It is the first Studio Ghibli movie to ever be released in China, which has a strict quota on the number of foreign films, the BBC report said.

Nostalgic fans in China took to social media to praise the film’s long-awaited release. “I can’t wait,” gushed a fan on the popular Sina Weibo micro-blogging site. “I used to watch it on DVD and I’m starting to feel nostalgic.”

Other Weibo users shared their feelings upon seeing the Chinese release poster.

The critically acclaimed animation is one of Japan’s most beloved children’s films. Helmed by legendary animator Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has often been called Japan’s answer to Walt Disney.

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While some viewers draw parallels with Alice in Wonderland, the 1988 film was said to have been inspired by Miyazaki’s own experiences growing up.

In the film, sisters Satsuki and Mei visit their ailing mother in hospital, echoing a young Miyazaki who watched his mother recover from a severe case of spinal tuberculosis.

“My Neighbour Totoro” is also often celebrated for its “innocence” – there are no villains or fight scenes — and its hand-drawn scenes of idyllic country fields — places a strong emphasis on cultivating an appreciation for nature.

–IANS

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