In this edition of Creations of Chaos, the film up for discussion is My Neighbors The Yamadas. Don’t you mean My Neighbor Totoro? No. Are you sure this is a Studio Ghibli film? Yes.
A full length animated episode of “The Middle,” with a touch of a Peanuts vibe, My Neighbors The Yamadas is a lesser known Ghibli film that is far from being less. Find out more about this film, after the jump.
Writer: Isao Takahata
Director: Isao Takahata
Release Date: 1999
Version Watched: English Dubbed
There is no plot. The film is comprised of a series of vignettes. Each vignette depicts the day to day lives of the Yamada family, and have titles like, Father-Son Bonding and Parental Supremacy Restored. Most of the scenes are humorous, some are heartwarming, and there a few that are sad. It felt like each scene, if stretched out, could easily be its own sitcom episode.
My favorite vignette was the jujitsu television remote scene. I picked up a few moves that I may need to implement in the future.
My second favorite, was the scene where the teenage son has a solo dance-fight celebration after a successful telephone conversation with a girl.
The only down side to not having a cohesive plot, is that the hour and forty-five minute running time started to feel a little long by the end. Toward the last fifteen minutes, I found myself asking,
“How many more are there?”
My Neighbors The Yamadas has an animation style completely different from the other Studio Ghibli films. It is the first of Studio Ghibli’s films to be completely, digitally animated.
The sketches are basic. The colors are simple. Much of the screen is left white/blank. There are no beautifully detailed backdrops, but there is still something lovely about the unadorned, water color art used in the film.
Though most of the film focuses on normal family life, there are still some great, creative, fantasy sequences that are pure Ghibli.
In the opening, the newly married Yamadas receive a wedding speech full of practical wisdom. As the speech unfurls, we see the couple bobsledding, literally sailing the seas of life, and riding a giant snail.
The end of the film comes full circle with Mr. Yamada giving a similar wedding speech. The message in both speeches, as well as the point of the film, is that life’s challenges are easier when faced together.
The film ends with a big, delightful, musical number to “Que Sera Sera.” Reminiscent of another Ghibli film involving a neighbor, the family flies off into the clouds while holding umbrellas.
I wasn’t expecting much from My Neighbors The Yamadas. It was a Studio Ghibli film I’d never even heard of until I acquired it for free.
It’s definitely a film meant for adults. I’m not sure that it would hold a child’s attention. I would also recommend breaking the viewing of the film up over a couple of days, as the almost two hours of vignettes can become a bit daunting. Overall, I found the film pleasantly surprising. It may be the most underrated Ghibli film to date. Though it’s set in Japan, and much of it depicts every day Japanese life, the family scenarios are completely relatable. I found myself laughing out loud. I found my heart warmed, and I found myself falling in love The Yamadas.