Book Review: The Art of My Neighbour Totoro

Authors: Hayao Miyazaki

Translator: Yuji Oniki

Publication Date: 2005 (2014 ed.)

Publisher: Viz Media

Pages: 176 pages

Hello again everyone! I hope you’re enjoying the festive season – and for any of you stuck in retail, like me, my deepest sympathies. Hang in there, it’s just a few more weeks. I’m planning to make some progress with The Incredibles near the end of the month when I have a few days off, but just to make sure I get something out in December, it’s now time to review the next volume from my Ghibli collection.

Miyazaki #5

The Art of My Neighbour Totoro features a more minimalistic cover than the last book, which is fitting for what is itself a very minimalistic story. Rather than using a finished cel from the film, the cover of this one is decorated with a piece of concept art, depicting the moment when Mei meets the mini Totoros. The use of white space is something we’ll see again on the covers of a few later volumes, lending a certain amount of visual unity to the collection.

Miyazaki #6

Once again, we open the book with a short summary of the project by director Hayao Miyazaki, in which he describes the intended purpose of the film and what exactly he believes Totoro is. Then comes a selection of concept sketches from the story’s earliest days, which were made while Miyazaki was working on Isao Takahata’s 1976 series 3000 Miles in Search of Mother. As with the last title, the main part of this book consists of a collection of concept art, sketches, storyboards, cel art and final film images arranged in chronological order, which walk you through the film scene by scene while giving you an intimate glimpse into the artists’ thought process. The artwork is accompanied by some commentary from Miyazaki and the film’s art direction supervisor, Kazuo Oga, whose comments are taken from interviews they did for Romance Album and Storyboard Collection. The information is perhaps a little scanty when compared with, say, a Charles Solomon work, but then this does keep the focus on the artwork, where it belongs.

Miyazaki #7

A short section follows in which director’s assistant Tetsuya Endo discusses some of the animation techniques and technology employed on the film, which I appreciated. It’s short and sweet, but it gives fans a quick rundown on the reason behind things like the use of brown charcoal outlines, negation, superimposition, and special effects on steam, rain and ripples. (I loved this section in the last book, too.)

Miyazaki #8

We close the book with a slightly modified version of film critic Masaaki Nomura’s official production report on the dual creation of Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, which was originally serialised in Animage magazine between December 1987 and May 1988. This is easily the most informative part of the book for film fans, giving some insight into the actual day-to-day production process at Studio Ghibli during what was a busy time for the then-fledgling company. The film credits (Japanese cast only) and book credits are also included at the back. I have to say, the choice to include Nomura’s report rather than wasting space on reprinting the entire script was an excellent one, although that problem does reoccur with some of the other books.

All in all, this is another beautiful addition to any Ghibli fan’s collection, with a bit more meat to it and some gorgeous pastel concept art that really showcases the film’s summery aesthetic. The Ghibli volumes in general are less wordy than a typical Disney art book, but they do capture the mood of their films in a way that few other art books manage. Also, great news – I’ve just learned that an English translation of The Art of the Tale of The Princess Kaguya is being released next spring, so that’s something to look forward to. It’s about time his work was given the same attention as Miyazaki’s, and I know there are plenty of English-speaking fans out there who will be eager to get their hands on this.

Thank you so much for reading, and in case I don’t see you again before year’s end, I wish those of you celebrating a very happy Christmas! I hope all of you get a nice break over the holidays, and here’s to a brighter, hopefully less restrictive new year. Until next time, take care and staaay animated!

Buy it on Amazon: – UK – US – Viz Media’s page for Ghibli products


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