One of Studio Ghibli's least-known movies also happens to be one of their best. Join Animefringe as we take a look at My Neighbors the Yamadas--the classic, quirky take on Japanese family life!
When the typical anime fan thinks of Studio Ghibli, he or she most likely thinks of Miyazaki's classics such as Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke, and they are probably unaware of films such as Pom Poko or My Neighbors the Yamadas, the latter of which is one of the most refreshing anime seen all year.
My Neighbors the Yamadas, a very light-hearted, comical look at the typical Japanese family, was directed by Isao Takahata, who is better known for his extremely violent and sobering film Grave of the Fireflies. Based on a manga by Hisaichi Ishii, this film is the exact opposite, presenting an extremely comical and uplifting tale of a family on its journey through life.
Topics such as generation conflicts and spousal roles take the center of the film, which is divided into nine episodes, each followed by a poem. The family consists of five people -- Takashi, the hard-working and traditional Japanese salary man; Matsuko, his wife who is not too fond of housework; their son who wishes for cooler parents; their daughter with an extremely loud voice; and the grandmother, who is quite sharp and feisty for her age, finding a problem with nearly everyone and everything. The family dog even has an attitude problem, with an angry look on his face at all times.
My Neighbors the Yamadas goes from the standard day with an agitated Japanese family to insane visualizations of childbearing and marriage "down the toboggan of life" (which is not said, but animated) around the wedding cake. At times, the film may come off as slightly insane, but this only adds to its charm.
This feel-good family comedy feels especially welcome in an industry flooded with graphic harem and mecha titles released with only profit in mind. My Neighbors the Yamadas is so original that it's hard to even try to compare it to anything else.
Everything about the show is distinctive, from the animation style to the score. It looks like a manga brought to life, with jaggy lines and rough-looking animation. Despite this roughness, it comes off as very detailed and beautiful, with no details omitted. The facial expressions of the characters are meticulously detailed, as are the small amount of environments shown in the film. The show also goes into some very over-the-top scenes, visually displaying metaphors of the trials and tribulations of marriage and having children.
The score quietly floats through the background during the events, adding a lighter mood to the show and providing a sense of utter goofiness throughout, while changing perfectly to match the events in the show. It mostly consists of humming throughout the background, although during some parts of the film it changes styles. In one memorable scene, it changed to music that might be found in a 60's Japanese superhero show.
That's not all that's good about this movie. The voice actors, both Japanese and English, perfectly convey the characters and their respective attitudes. The English dub has widely-revered actors such as John Belushi and SNL star Molly Shannon, who do the original dubbing justice.
Disney, like most of their recent Ghibli releases, has done a great job with this release. The DVD has the original trailers and storyboards, as well as a "Behind the Microphone" feature with the English voice talent. The movie alone is worth the price of admission, and it is available now from Disney.