My Neighbors the Yamadas, directed by Isahao Takahata, is a Studio Ghibli film most known for its unusual animation style, which actually distinguishes it from all the other pictures released by this renowned studio. Based on a famous Japanese cartoon Nono-chan, it presents random and miscellaneous stories from the daily lives of the Yamada family.
This is a great comedy with a twist for people of every age. It’s packed with a huge amount of hilarious gags and situational jokes that will certainly make you laugh lots of times.
Apart from that, these are the two main arguments that should be convincing enough to make you see My Neighbors the Yamadas: the computer-generated animations and drawings made in comic strip style are excellent, giving this Ghibli movie an entirely different feel than any of their previous works; the whole picture is actually presented in an unconventional manner, as the familiar contiguous plot was replaced here by a series of the, so-called, vignettes (short impressionistic stories that aren’t necessarily connected to one another), each with its own title at the beginning and a smart philosophical proverb at the end.
In the film’s first few minutes we meet all the members of this seemingly typical family: Takashi – the father, Matsuko – the mother, Shige – the grandmother, Noboru – the son, and Nonoko – the daughter. Every subsequent episode covers a different theme, some being hilariously funny and heartwarming, other touching and serious. Through all of the mostly humorous, yet truly realistic, sequences the viewer is able to observe the Yamadas as they cope with every day problems, misfortunes, rivalries, or just plainly ridiculous situations (like fighting over a TV remote, or deciding who will get the tea by playing ‘rock-paper-scissors’). Through all of their adventures the viewer is able to get in touch with some of the Japanese traditions and customs.
Every person in the family has his or her special role, making the cartoon much more believable. For example, Shige is the word of wisdom, giving advice to others and judging their actions, and Noboru is mostly seen as a selfish and ignorant studying-addict (which in final evaluation doesn’t give planned results).
If I’d had to pick the one vignette, which made me laugh the hardest, I’d definitely choose Ginger Morning. I think you will see why.
All in all, My Neighbors the Yamadas is a laughable, yet purposely clever, and lighthearted, yet sometimes deep, anime that will provide great entertainment for the whole family. I guess that by looking at the Yamadas’ experiences we can all learn how to live in perfect harmony with our relatives, replacing minor flaws with passionate love.
Note: since the dubbed version is hard to find, I advise you to watch the Japanese version with English subtitles.