My Neighbors The Yamadas

Film:
DVD:

Written by Isao Takahata, based upon the manga by Hisaichi Ishii
Directed by Isao Takahata
Starring the Voices of (Japanese cast): Toru Masuoka, Yukiji Asaoka, Masako Araki, Naomi Uno, Akiko Yano
Starring the Voices of (English cast): James Belushi, Molly Shannon, David Ogden Stiers, Tress McNeille, Daryl Sabara
Music by Akiko Yano
Produced by Studio Ghibli

Features:

  • Original Japanese trailers
  • Behind-the-scenes with the English voice actors
  • Original storyboards

Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:

  • Realistic families
  • Lost children
  • Random frogs and other critters
  • Something nice and un-jaded you might have to like

Released by: Walt Disney
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Ghibli fans need it; all others should at least check it out for something fresh and different

My Neighbors the Yamadas is a bizarre, comic strip style show that’s lighthearted and fun, and occasionally touching, just like all families should be. First we meet the grandmother, Shige, who has a unique and refreshing outlook. We soon meet Nonoko, the young girl, and her mother, Matsuko, who thinks curry is the only thing anyone should ever have for dinner. Manoko’s husband is Takashi, and their other child is the older child, Noboru. They’re absolutely all madder than hatters, but in an amusing and all-too-realistic way. This version should not be confused with the 1980 release by the same name that has similar characters.

This disc brings us random elements, such as Noboru bemoaning the lameness of his family (and himself), wherein we get to see the parental Yamadas race the luge and more. Much of the first section accompanies a kind of wedding speech from the Yamada’s wedding and shows brief moments of the family of the future interacting. Idealistic family moments are spliced with more realistic (in a symbolic sense) moments that actually represent the ways in which families relate. We also see a lost Nonoko, a quote from Basho, and any number of seemingly random elements that all create a whole that is “family.”

My Neighbors The Yamadas

The art is very stylized, almost like brushwork. The colors are a bit like watercolors, and the frequent additional images, like boars jumping through scene changes, are interesting and adorable, not to mention delightfully random. Erisians will love the Yamadas. Other visual moments are done more like Japanese ink washes; it’s much lovelier than the goofy DVD cover might make you believe. The audio is also quite well-done; the voice actors, even the young ones, are very skilled and truly bring the characters to life, especially Belushi, who portrays Takashi.

The disc includes a couple of very nice special features. There’s a behind-the-scenes feature about five minutes long with the English voice talent, including Belushi and Shannon. The DVD also provides the original Japanese storyboards for most of the film; this will fascinate anyone interested in how such projects come together and how drawings become animation. A very nice and unusual addition. Finally, we also get the original Japanese trailers for the film, called “promotional films” on the disc. The first one is without color and with unfinished animation in places, but presumably that’s how it aired. I have to say, it’s a bit dull, but it does give at least a little insight into the show. The next films are more of traditional trailers, though of course, given how odd the project itself can be at times, the trailers are also a bit offbeat and charmingly strange.

Fans of Studio Ghibli will of course need to own this one, as will anyone who appreciates something different. My Neighbors the Yamadas is perfect for indie film lovers, as well as anyone who likes comedy and slice-of-life series. The Yamadas may look a little like doodles, but they act just like the family you wish you had, dysfunctions and all.