As I say in the review, I can spend pages talking about this movie, so I think I will . Some random, unconnected observations about the movie:
- I will say that Ponyo is probably the movie that comes closest to Totoro in its sensibilities the Ghibli lineup, but even if there is no CGI in it, Ponyo still benefited from computers during the production process. Literally everything in Totoro was still done by hand, which makes it comparable to the kind of animation achievement of Akira.
- When Mei shows up at Satsuki's school, freeze-frame on the Mei close-up and marvel at the kind of hand-made coloring job that can capture the barely-visible streaks on her face that show us she was crying not too long ago.
- When Mei decides to go to the hospital and see her mother, the movie lingers for just a few frames specifically to zoom in as she puts her shoes on before she leaves. If you were paying VERY close attention to that scene, you'd realize that the shoe Granny is holding isn't Mei's just a few microseconds earlier than everyone else on screen. It's a tiny, little miniscule thing, but I am positive that Miyazaki thought that through.
- And speaking of that scene, I love the tension it creates through just a little pause and intercutting between anxious faces before Satsuki declares, "It's not hers." It is exactly the same cinematic trick that they used at the end of Casablanca ("...round up the usual suspects").
- This is something Japanese audiences and Japanophiles would pick up on, but American audiences wouldn't. When Mei is sitting by the side of the road because she's lost, there's a row of statues behind her. Those statues (and the one in the shrine that Mei and Satsuki take refuge from the rainstorm in) are Jizo, a Buddhist bodhisattva who is regarded in Japan as the protector of children. It's the movie's subtle clue to the audience that Mei is not in any real danger because Jizo's got her back.
- And speaking of that last third of the movie, pay attention to the soundtrack during those scenes. Joe Hisashi's music completely vanishes for most of it. It only comes back in force when Totoro gets involved, and it's a big reason why I think those scenes have so much tension in them compared to the rest of the movie.
- That's one point where I'll say Totoro has it over Ponyo: I always found the music of Totoro to be unforgettable, even from the first time I saw the Fox dub on VHS all those years ago. While I remember loving Joe Hisashi's soundtrack for Ponyo (as I love all his soundtracks for Ghibli movies), I don't think I can remember a single tune from it now. This is not a criticism (I can't remember the music from many other of the movies other than Porco Rosso), but it's just another point in Totoro's favor in my mind.