Join in the adventures of the quirky Yamada family—from the hilarious to the touching±brilliantly presented in a unique, visually striking comic strip style. Takashi Yamada and his wacky wife Matsuko, who has no talent for housework, navigate their way through the ups and downs of work, marriage and family life with a sharp-tongued grandmother who lives with them, a teenage son who wishes he had cooler parents, and a pesky daughter whose loud voice is unusual for someone so small. Even the family dog has issues!
Story: 10 (Refreshing family story thats not cliche)
Art: 8 (Very unique, take on the comedy style)
Sound: 7 (Average slice of life/comedy effects)
Character: 10 (resembles my family almost perfectly)
Enjoyment: 10 (everything in this movie i can relate to)
Overall: 45/50 = 9.0 (Excellent anime for family time)
I managed to stumble upon this gem of a show simply by walking in the wrong film room at the Anime Expo. Man, if i didn't walk in that room I would have never discovered how great of a show this was. It's not your typical movie style movie, instead, its told in a dozen or so situations all involving
one family: the Yamadas.
Theres no deep evolving plot or intriguing storyline to look forward too. It's simply a nice slice of life movie about the daily lives of the five members in this household. It's main highlights of the show is how they tell portray common situations that occur in a majority of average households. Things like how parents use swindle their kids into doing chores, or manage to convince someone going to the store to get things for you because you're too lazy. All these situations are average everyday things that we normally don't find humorous (and they usually piss us off). But when watching it from a different viewpoint, we realize that such things are so ridiculous yet true that we have no choice but to laugh because we know those situations all too well.
The art work is something else as well. In typical ghibli fashion, it goes for its own unique style and manages to make the super simple in to something that one can only call it a masterpiece. You can see the pen strokes, and watercolors and errors everywhere, it almost looks like someone just scratched it together out of someones notebook. But there are some scenes that run amazingly smooth (aka high frame rate). A good example are the TV shows they end up watching. It looks so simple yet, it moves with a fluidity that is only comparable to real TV broadcasts. Of course some people will think the art is the worst they've ever seen and say that they can even do a better job. But theres something about the simplicity that just makes it so wonderful. I just can't pinpoint that exact reason why.
The sound effects are all standard fare. Nothing wrong with them at all. Most of the sound consists of household sound effects and such. But where the sound effects gets its most use is from the voice acting.
Since I was living in a pretty full household (grandparents, mom, her brother and two sisters, and 1 cousin) I can easily relate to how this family interacts with each other. It's comical how exactly their emotions and how they talk to each other emulate my family. Including the grunts and groans and such and backtalk all make it so wonderful and interesting to watch.
Just like any Studio Ghibli film, this is a perfect movie to watch with the whole family. As a matter of fact I highly recommend watching this with the whole family, and point out things that they do just like the Yamada's. This isn't a show to watch just for the sake of watching. After watching it twice its clear that this show has the potential of bringing families together with all the conversation and interaction that can be happening while viewing this movie.
Despite being a fan of Studio Ghibli, this release somehow passed my by. Today, I'm adding it to my "re-watch" list, somewhere near the top. Whatever you may think anime is, throw it out the window, this is not a typical show.
You watch the first few minutes thinking that it's the credits and you wait until you realise, this isn't the credits, it's the story! The unique style of animation throws you in for a loop, but it's not bad. Yes, it's simple, more like a moving comic strip than animation, but simple does not mean sloppy. Each line and curve of the drawings
is thought out and perfectly placed and the motion smooth. You can't help but like the characters, the director perhaps explores their stereotypical side - the salary-man dad, slightly lazy stay at home wife, reluctant student son, cute as a button younger daughter and grandmother with a sharp tongue - but that's what makes it funny.
The story is told in snippets, sometimes interrupted by metaphors or one of the character's recollection of an event past, all wrapped up neatly by humour: sometimes a great belly laugh and sometimes a gentle smile. The movie leaves you feeling good and, somehow, cuddled. Perfect family viewing; I suspect that one appreciates this movie more as the time goes by.
Of all the movies Studio Ghibli has produced, "My Neighbers the Yamadas" could probably be the most unconventional of them all. This family comedy feels like a very jarring change of pace for director Isao Takahata, the man who gave us a heartbreaker in "Grave of the Fireflies" and a docudrama fantasy oddity called "Pom Poko"
For one thing, the feature is not--I repeat, IS NOT--plot-oriented. It comes across as a series of individual skits involving the titular family in their day-to-day life. The lack of a narrative may put off people beforehand, but doing so could very well deprive you of a most delightful--and refreshingly
original--viewing experience. Watching how the Yamadas interact and go about life is every bit as poignant, funny, and off-the-walls as real family life can be; not only are we treated to disputes on who gets to watch TV, but we get to see stories such as the youngest sister, Nonoko, getting accidentally left behind at a shopping mall and all the trouble her parents go to in order to find her. The movie also relishes in silliness and surrealism--especially in the sequences where Mr. Yamada imagines himself as a superhero rescuing his wife and mother-in-law from crooks and the showclosing "Que Sara Sara", where the family floats through the sky on balloons. All these random events unfold at a roller coaster pace.
What I enjoyed most about the movie was the way it looks and sounds. For "Yamadas", the animation is produced in a newspaper comic strip style, which, given that this is what the movie was based on, is an ingenious match for its nature. Simplistic scribblings straight out of a serial fill the screen with a charm that is utterly irresistible. The catchy, tuneful score adds to the essence of the whimsical atmosphere. Employing bits of famous classical pieces on the soundtrack (such as Mahler's First Symphony, Mendelssohn's Wedding March, and Leopold Mozart's Toy Symphony) is a very inspiring touch.
There was only one thing about the movie that I found very confusing: at the end of most of the "segments" present in the film, we see what appears to be a quote taken from various poets. I was also unclear about the "pachinko" references, and the scene where Mr. Yamada is throwing cards down for his family left me puzzled. This is obviously a film steeped in Japanese culture--and one that is more likely to be understood by a Japanese speaking audience.
Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with the Disney dub: while English script writers Eric Garcia and Leo Chu earn points for attempting to remain as faithful to the original material as possible, they do so in exchange for making any effort in presenting this story to a wider audience who would be otherwise unfamiliar with the heavy references to Japanese culture. That alone makes "My Neighbors the Yamadas" the weakest of the Disney-Ghibli dubs I have heard thus far.
This is not to say that the dub isn't worth watching, however--on the contrary. While the script lacks coherency in places--although the writing is very amusing and very entertaining overall--I have no problems with Disney's selection of actors to record the voices. The incomparable James Belushi takes on the role of Mr. Yamada with exuberance and enthusiasm, and Molly Shannon voices his wife, Mrs. Yamada, with just the right mixture of sweetness and no-nonsense demeanor; the scene where Mr. and Mrs. Yamada argue over who gets to watch the TV is delivered with dead-on comic timing and believability--making this moment one of the dub's best moments. Young child performers Daryl Sabara and Liliana Mumy play the Yamada siblings, Noboru and Nonoko, whose interactions are so natural that you'll swear that they recorded their lines together--which, as a matter of fact, they did!... well, for the cookie scene, anyway. Tress MacNeille, a multi-talented voice actress best known for roles in shows such as "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs", has been cast in many of the Studio Ghibli English productions, and it is a treat to hear her another--she nails the crotchety old Grandma Shige to a T and beyond. David Ogden Stiers makes a brief appearance in the movie as well, narrating the titles of the various "segments" in addition to the verses displayed at the end of each episode.
Steeped in heavy references to Japanese culture and atypical of animated features mainstream viewers are used to, "My Neighbors the Yamadas" may have a hard time finding its audience; the film was not a great success in Japan, and at this point it is hard to tell whether it will suffer the same fate in America. However, it is highly unlikely that folks seeking creativity and something different from the norm will go wrong by discovering this delightfully inventive and charming film.
My Neighbor the Yamadas is a very interesting film, even by Studio Ghibli standards. While it’s one of the lesser known films by the studio, and takes place in a more “realistic” setting, it was still one of the most magical films I’ve seen in recent memory.
When people think of Studio Ghibli, a few familiar people and films come to mind: Spirited Away, Totoro and of course, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki’s praise is well-earned - every film of his I’ve seen have become instant classics in my book (fitting to his Walt Disney comparisons, I hope my children have these
movies on repeat the way I watched Toy Story and The Lion King multiple times a day as a kid). Though Miyazaki lies at the epicenter of Ghibli’s style and success, there are plenty more creative geniuses at the Studio – in particular I speak of director Isao Takahata.
Co-founder of Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki’s right-hand man, Takahata has found his own success directing a handful of Ghibli films. His most notable work as a director was his first film, Grave of the Fireflies, perhaps one of the most powerful and depressing rides I’ve been on. Following Grave of the Fireflies, Studio Ghibli bounced back and forth between Miyazaki directed films and Takahata directed films. After the critical success of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke in 1997, Takahata was back at the reigns with his next film, My Neighbor the Yamadas.
The transition from Mononoke to the Yamadas represents a key distinction in Miyazaki and Takahata’s styles. We move from a story of immense scale, to one the size of a small house. We leave behind vast and intricately drawn forests, and enter the 12 x 12 tatami floor space of a middle class family. Where Miyazaki shines in telling fantastical tales and creating stunningly imaginative set pieces, Takahata finds his niche in exploring the mundane existence of humanity.
And that is exactly what My Neighbor the Yamadas is.
There isn’t really an overarching story here. My Neighbor the Yamadas is a slice of life in the purest sense of the term. We follow the lives of, you guessed it, the Yamadas, consisting of Takashi (dad), Matsuko (mom), Noboru (older brother), Nonoko (younger sister), and Shige (grandma). This is no chronological narrative of their lives either. The movie entails short 5 to 10 minute scenes, highlighting everything from the classic ‘leave your daughter at the mall’ scenario, to father and son playing catch (as well as growing past such a silly game). Though it isn’t the first time an anime attempted to capture ordinary family life, My Neighbor the Yamadas is impeccably accurate and well-executed. I’ve rarely had nostalgia sensors go off as often as I did watching this movie. Though every scenario doesn’t strike a chord, there are enough representations of daily obstacles that I’d find it hard for someone to find no connection to anything the Yamadas go through.
Miyazaki is known for teaching lessons of reality through fantasy, and the culmination of his magical stories tend to reveal a hidden truth about the world, tucked behind his surreal imagery. My Neighbor the Yamadas does the exact opposite, showing its hand from the get-go.
We begin by introducing the family. But rather than beginning in reality and moving into the bizarre, we open with the bizarre - a metaphorical representation of the Yamadas, their journey through life, and in a sense, the journey of everyone. Rather than build toward some lesson or realization, the film’s intentions are made clear immediately. A monologue at the film’s start perfectly encapsulates and prefaces the rest of the movie, as well as what it expects you to take away from it. Since it’s at the beginning, I don’t really think it’s a spoiler, and I found it too important not to include, so here it is:
“Life, as they say, has its ups and downs. At times, the waves may taunt you, tossing you in their swells. But take heart. It's hard to stick with it and make it on your own. But even a couple of losers can survive most things if they're together. So listen, take some advice and have children as soon as you can. Children are the best reasons for riding out life's storms. Nowadays, people say child-rearing is challenging and difficult, but we've done it from time immemorial. Children grow even without parents. So hold them close to your heart as they crawl, then walk. They'll be fine.”
That right there is what this film intends to sell you on. The idea that life is hard, but we persevere through the strongest bond we have – our family. It’s a rather simple idea at play, but with each scene we’re reminded of the small hurdles we face every day, and the importance of family in times of struggle both big and small. Oh, also, the context of the monologue in the story is very clever, but I won’t tell you about it here
Though it remains one of the least fantasy-oriented films in Ghibli’s collection, the art style used is one of the most abstract. The transition between Mononoke and the Yamadas is also very significant on the production end of things. Following the meticulously hand-drawn process of Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor the Yamadas became the first ever Ghibli film to be created 100 percent through digital means.
Besides the new digital process, the art style itself is a big departure from the instantly recognizable style developed by Miyazaki over the years. It takes a turn for minimalism rather than hyper-detail. Characters and backgrounds retain a muted water-color aesthetic, complementing the light, simplicity of the narrative, as well as conveying a sense of hazy remembrance, as if we were taking a trip down memory lane with the Yamadas. Though not as immediately beautiful as the lush and vibrantly colors of previous Ghibli works, the basic art style used for the Yamadas is very fitting.
The rather loose style carried throughout the film also allows for some exploration. A specific scene comes to mind in which Takashi has to deal with a loud biker gang parked outside his house. I won’t go into detail, but the sudden switch in style during that part was exceptionally cool.
Mind you, this is not the most memorable Studio Ghibli movie. Especially when we have scenes like Chihiro entering the bathhouse in Spirited Away, riding the Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro, or Kiki flying along the countryside in Kiki’s Delivery Service. These scenes are a spectacle for the eyes, and perfect examples of the incredible talent at works behind the industry’s most magical studio. No, My Neighbor the Yamadas isn’t like that. The magic found in this film is of a different variety.
For Miyazaki, anime’s potential to explore the depths of our imagination is the fuel that drives his creative ventures. Bridging the gap between reality and fantasy is what makes Miyazaki’s films so enchanting, while also being so relatable. But for Takahata to take a medium like anime and restrict it to the bounds of ordinary life – there’s magic in that too.
To suddenly throw us into the lives of the Yamadas and create bonds with them is no easy feat, but humanity’s struggle is a familiar one across all places and within all people. There are low points and there are high points. Sometimes it feels like the burden of the world rests upon your shoulders, and sometimes you’re as light as air, losing track of the days as they drift by. One day you’re on top of the world, and the next it might seem like there’s no hope, but humanity has proven that we can keep going, generation after generation, struggle after struggle.
My Neighbor the Yamadas is just a little snippet of the struggles we face every day – some you’ve conquered effortlessly, some that have challenged every part of you, some that have broken you, and some that have built you up. Takahata shows us that the little details are as important as the big ones, and the most magical piece of humanity is its ability to move forward. As long as we persevere, we’ll be fine.