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New book published on the music of “My Neighbor Totoro”

Kunio Hara writes about the music of Joe Hisaishi

Ask any group of students or faculty and staff with young children on campus about Totoro and you are bound to get some reaction. You might even hear some people chant a cheerful little song, “Totoro Totoro, Totoro Totoro.”

Associate professor of music history Kunio Hara writes about this and other songs in his first book “Joe Hisaishi’s Soundtrack for My Neighbor Totoro” that came out earlier this year in February. In this book, Hara reconstructs the collaborative process between the composer Hisaishi and the legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki in their creation of the beloved Japanese animated film “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988). A crucial step in this partnership was the making of the concept album, “My Neighbor Totoro: Image Song Collection,” which provided the musical backbone for the film soundtrack. Hara proposes that knowing more about the songs in this album will help us have a deeper connection with the film and enhance our enjoyment of it.

Hara’s book on Totoro is part of Bloomsbury’s popular 33 1/3 series. Each book in the series is dedicated to an iconic album or a soundtrack. The subseries Hara’s book is part of, 33 1/3 Japan,  specializes in the music from that country and has titles on the soundtrack for the classic anime series “Cowboy Bebop,”  J-pop trio Perfume’s album “GAME,” punk rock band Shonen Knife’s “Happy Hour,” and many more.

As a long-time fan of Miyazaki animation, Hara also shares his fond memories about the film from earlier in his life. E. Taylor Atkins, the distinguished teaching professor and assistant chair of history at Northern Illinois University writes “Many fans of Japanese anime love their musical soundtracks, but few scholars have studied their appeal. Kunio Hara explains in clear, soulful language how Joe Hisaishi and Miyazaki Hayao collaborated to create the sonic environment for the beloved My Neighbor Totoro, balancing a scholars’ sophisticated musical analysis and a fan’s emotional engagement.”


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