Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90 percent of critics gave the film positive write-ups, based upon a sample of 29, with an average score of 8.1/10.
Film critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times identified My Neighbor Totoro as one of his "Great Movies", calling it "one of the lovingly hand-crafted works of Hayao Miyazaki". Ebert reviewed the film, "My Neighbor Totoro is based on experience, situation and exploration — not on conflict and threat," and described its appeal: "...it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls... It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need."
Leonard Klady of the entertainment trade newspaper Variety wrote that My Neighbor Totoro demonstrated "adequate television technical craft" that was characterized by "muted pastels, homogenized pictorial style and vapid storyline". Klady described the film's environment, "Obviously aimed at an international audience, the film evinces a disorienting combination of cultures that produces a nowhere land more confused than fascinating."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times described My Neighbor Totoro as "very visually handsome", and believed that the film was "very charming" when "dispensing enchantment". Despite the highlights, Holden wrote, "Too much of the film, however, is taken up with stiff, mechanical chitchat."
Matthew Leyland of Sight & Sound reviewed the DVD released in 2006, "Miyazaki's family fable is remarkably light on tension, conflict and plot twists, yet it beguiles from beginning to end... what sticks with the viewer is the every-kid credibility of the girls' actions as they work, play and settle into their new surroundings." Leyland praised the DVD transfer of the film, but noted that the disc lacked a look at the film's production, instead being overabundant with storyboards.
Ranked #41 in Empire magazines "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.
Phillip E. Wegner makes a case for the film being an example of alternative history.
The main character of the film, Totoro, ranked 24th on IGN's top 25 anime characters of all time.
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