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My Neighbors the Yamadas
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2005
Created after an idea of the popular Japanese comic book author Isaichi Ishii, this movie tells nine amusing and moving episodes from the every day life of a "totally normal" Japanese family.

Mischievousely, "My Neighbours, The Yamadas" describes the problems and quarrels that raise from marriage and generation conflicts. Thus, the author paints the lively and colourful portrait of a family who is an explosive mixture of eccentric, yet highly sympathical individualists.

At the same time the wonderfully drawn movie doesn't lack depth. The poesy of every day life which filters through the lives of the Yamadas is summed up at the end of each chapter in an haiku (most of them by Basho). Being a basic part of Japanese culture and spirituality, these short poems fit the respective characters' philosophy excellently.

A deeper symbolic dimension opens to the viewer in the partially grotesque/surrealistic scenes of the movie. A flashback shows us the Yamadas as honeymooners riding a gigantic wedding cake. Long married, they try vehemently to get the upper hand in the daily quarrel over the TV programme and both fight virtuousely in Japanese fencing style over the remote control.

"My Neighbours, The Yamadas" premiered extremely successfully in 2000 at the Anime-Festival in Annecy (France).
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This quirky comic strip family is lovingly brought to life in Houhokekyo tonari no Yamada-kun (My Neighbors the Yamadas). Mom (Matsuko), Dad (Takashi), Grandma (Shige), Noboru and Nonoko, and family dog Pochi are presented in a series of vignettes, from Matsuko and Takashi's wedding (complete with a dream sequence comparing marriage to a bobsled run and being tossed on stormy seas), to a forgetful day (blame the ginger!), to a hilarious nighttime encounter with motorcycle punks. The animation style is very low-key, taking its visual cues from pen-and-ink comics and a pastel wash. Less is more, as the mere outline of shoji screens and sakura (cherry blossoms) suffices to paint a minimalist picture of modern Japan. Poetry by Basho rounds out each clip. This is a wonderful introduction to Japanese culture, from proper dining etiquette (DON'T dump your rice into your soup :-), to Japanese homes (noren, airing out futons, place settings, traditional food such as miso, tamago, and tempura, changing into slippers when entering homes) wedding ceremonies, and more.

Some reviewers have mentioned that the stories lack cohesiveness, but I greatly enjoyed this unusual portrait of family life that looked at parent-child relations, marriage, salarymen, and the power of imagination. Although Disney dubbed this with an all-star cast (James Belushi, David Ogden Stiers), I didn't listen to the English dub, so I can't comment on the English cast (I prefer to view anime in the original Japanese with English subtitles to practice my Japanese listening comprehension). A vast departure from other Takahata Isao films (like Grave of the Fireflies), but an enjoyable one nonetheless, particularly if you are already familiar with elements of Japanese culture.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon March 10, 2006
Hohoukekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun, or My Neighbours The Yamadas, is quite a departure from the usual oeuvre of Studio Ghibli. The work of director Isao Takahata (Hotaru no Haka, Heisei Tanuki Gassen), this 1999 release is done in a rough, less sophisticated art-style harkening back to yonkoma (four panel) comic strips, which is actually where it came from. The colours are softer and fuzzier as well. This look at life's funny moments through the eyes of a Japanese family and their dog works well because despite the Japanese trimmings, the Yamadas of Japan could also be the Smiths and Jones of the US and the UK as well. BTW, the first word of the Japanese title, "hohoukekyo" is a Japanese onomatopoeia for the chirp a songbird makes.

The family consists of Takashi and Matsuko Yamada, the older child and boy Noboru and young daughter Nonoko, Matsuko's mother Shige, and Potchi the dog. Note-although both parents call Shige "okaasan" or "mother," Shige and Matsuko speak in an Osakan dialect whereas Takashi doesn't, hence I draw my conclusion that Shige is Matsuko's mother.

Matsuko's quite useless and lazy when it comes to housework. She scrambles to bring the laundry from the rain, only to find out she'd never put it out to begin with! And she has the tendency to cook the same thing days on end, or to prepare shabu-shabu (a hot pot where one puts in sliced vegetables or meet and pulls them out to eat when cooked). As Shige mutters, that's one way her daughter doesn't have to cook.

Noboru seems to be a typical teenager, studying hard, having problems at school, and with the expected generation gap between him and his father. And it's heartening to see him joyful after he gets a phone call from a girl and is happy with joy. Ah, the spring of adolescent love.

Takashi is a hard-working salaryman who longs for respect. In one episode, he calls home to see if anyone can bring him an umbrella, only to hear various family members give excuses. Mad, he hangs up, buys an umbrella at the supermarket, and emerges into the rain, only to see the rest of the family decked out in rain gear or umbrellas coming out to meet him, Matsuko with a spare umbrella for him. They walk home together. However, when he comes from half-tired after a long day at work and is starving, Matsuko, too bothered to cook, gets him a cup of coffee and a banana before she resumes her place watching TV.

Apart from a series of funny misadventures and observations of family life, it's hard to garner a central theme. However, "the ups and downs of life" as seen on the DVD package is enhanced in a scene where Takashi, speaking to a young couple during the wedding reception, is accidentally handed a shopping list instead of his notes by Matsuko. He goes on an impromptu speech thus to Ichiro and Kazuko which comes from experience with his own dysfunctional family: "life is full of surprises. ... But...you have to accept life as it comes. Acceptance is the key to surviving the worst situations without losing heart or breaking up. ...Even the worst behavior can be accepted and forgiven if there is no malice. In fact, must be forgiven so one can go on with life. It's not necessarily bad to resign yourself to a situation. In fact, it's essential. A must for a happy family. A must for facing life and getting on with it. Though it may sound negative, acceptance is the only way out of totally unacceptable situations." Or better still, it's summed up by a Japanese rendition of Doris Day's "Que Sera Sera" sung by the Yamadas.

The Japanese folk tale origins-of finding Noboru via the story of Momotarou (Peach boy) and Nonoko a la Kaguya Hime. (Princess Kaguya) may be lost on foreign audiences, as well as the haiku from Matsuo Basho and Buson. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable portrait of the Yamadas.

"I know why we're so peaceful. Because all three of you are nuts. ... If any one of you were normal, it'd throw off the balance."-Noboru to his parents and grandmother.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2005
My neighbors the yamadas portrays suburban middle class life as it is in Japan or any other part of the globe for that matter. Directed by Isao takahata, this experimental studio ghibli film is unlike any of their previous films. A collection of short vignettes, showing everyday life of yamadas family, My neighbors the yamadas wears a newspaper comic strip look. It lacks all the usual detail, fine lines and photorealistic backgrounds of other ghibli films without losing any depth or appeal. Digitally achieved watercolor wash look works just fine for the style of the film and makes it visually striking and different from any other work studio has ever done.

My neighbors the yamadas is filled with humor, satire, grief and quite possibly everything else a middle class experiences. Everyday life incidents you can relate to and situations you can identify with, mentioning any of which here, may spoil the fun for those who havent seen the film.

Lets look at the dvd now. My neighbors the yamadas happens to be the only studio ghibli film released by disney as a single disc dvd. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, picture quality of the disc looks absolutely crisp and flawless and so is the sound. As usual, both English and Japanese tracks, rendered in dolby digital 5.1 are available on the disc. English dub featuring the voices of Jim belushi, Molly shannon and others doesnt disappoint and is quite decent. Bonus features include a "behind the microphone" featurette (approx 6 minutes) showing the english dubbing process and original trailers and tv spots which run a little more than 15 minutes. Fans of rough animation would be delighted to see the first trailer, which shows one complete segment from the film in line drawings without any colors filled. Movie has been rated PG for mild thematic elements.

Only disappointing thing, few may find, about this disc is the storyboards. Unlike all previous ghibli releases, there's no entire storyboard version of the film here. Instead, for some strange reason, it is a gallery of tiny sketches which you cant even enlarge. Inspite of it all, a worthwhile disc and a great buy too, just for the main feature itself.

With an experimental film like my neighbors the yamadas, studio ghibli has once again proved how versatile their artists are and how simple, yet unusual and globally appealing, their choice of subjects could be. My neighbors the yamadas is a simple and beautiful, fun-filled film without any sugarcoating or modern day formulas.

A great disc to watch and own.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2005
This DVD is filled with wonderful and touching stories. Like Basho's poetry that accompanies the stories, the drawings are simple yet rich. A practically still shot of the father Takashi after his mother-in-law has embarrassed him (no spoilers, you'll have to watch it) conveys as much emotion as Bill Murray or Clint Eastwood have ever done with one of their trademark looks.

I would strongly recommend the Japanese language track for all audiences though. As talented as the casts that Disney has assembled for the Ghibli imports are, this one especially demands to be heard in Japanese. The rhythm and mood of the stories while accessible to all are very much Japanese and as the aforementioned Bill Murray might find, are lost in translation with English dialog.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This release from Studio Ghibli focuses on realism in theme and abstraction in art. Instead of the breathtaking naturalistic watercolor backgrounds and almost lifelike animated characters, "My Neighbors the Yamadas" [...] delivers breathtakingly stylized abstract forms and deceptively "simple" animation. But on closer inspection the animation reveals a true complexity and beauty nearly equal to that of other Ghibli films. Just watch the backgrounds as the Yamadas float over cities and water; or as they luge in matrimony over an icy landscape that suddenly morphs into a gigantic spiraling wedding cake. Not only that, the expressions of the characters, especially of the father Takashi, posit multitudinous and indescribable meanings. And all with simple lines that speak directly to human experience. When the family realizes that they've left their daughter, Noboru, stranded in a shopping mall, Takashi's face exposes a million ineffable feelings. Also, the family dog retains an almost stoic indifference to the Yamada's comings and goings. Again completely revealed in expressions (this cartoon dog doesn't talk).

The film doesn't really have a straight narrative, but it does tell a story. A series of somewhat disjointed vignettes paints a picture of the workaday life of a disfunctional but normal family. Nothing and everything happens to them. They embody family principles and values familiar to anyone who's lived in one. The difference comes with culture, and the Yamadas live fully within their Japanese culture. The mother, Matsuko, remains home and goes about her domestic duties (which include peeling the embedded Takashi out of his almost catatonic slumber, finding ways to avoid cooking, and appropriating the television channel Samurai-style). Shige, the grandmother, also lives with the family. She helps out when she can, and usually provides the family a traditional moral background. But she also acts like a little girl when disputing park territory (in one scene she beautifully and literally regresses in the eyes of her rival). She also reveals her bravery against a gang of motorcycle thugs that terrorize the neighborhood. At the beginning of this scene the animation becomes eerily realistic, visually expressing the true to life tension of the confrontation. In the shadow of Shige's bravery, Takashi is reduced to hero fantasizing. He imagines himself as "The Masked Rider" saving his grateful family from kidnappers. Familar feelings of inadequacy emanate from his forlorn posture. In this way the segmented story reveals depth of character and the inner lives of the characters. Again the focus remains on family. And the film includes tongue-in-cheek parodies of family life as well as touching scenes of togetherness that never border on sappy. Calling it a family comedy greatly limits its true scope.

Though most will likely identify with the universal themes that this movie deals with, some of the cultural aspects may throw non-Japanses viewers. References to Japanese food, culture, ideals, idioms, and language abound. This film was made for a Japanese audience. But this also doesn't limit its appeal in any way. Nonetheless, those with no background in Japanese language and culture may find themselves lost at times, albeit infrequently.

Overall, the film expresses a steadfast resilience in the face of life's vicissitudes. Near the end, the choice of the song "Que Sera? Sera?" is particularily revealing in this aspect. As the Yamadas freely float off into the sky on umbrellas (dog included) the song and the visuals emphasize the fact that we are what we are, regardless of disappointments and frustrations, and that all remains okay regardless. Somehow we manage to get through this absurd thing together. It also strives to remind us not to take life too seriously. Troubles come and go but in the end that's really what it's all about. The highly stylized animation, the multi-dimensional characters, and the themes make this a very enjoyable film.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 3, 2007
The movie itself it about the typical 'every day life' of a Japanese family. Be warned: If you don't know something about it, you may become bored after a short time. The movie is divided into different chapters about the protagonists, featuring all members of the family. The animation style is IMO far away from the 'typical Anime style', yet it is still Anime. The whole movie is drawn in the same style like shown on the cover, sparse pencil strokes, very clean backgrounds and pastel colors. The movie is very quiet and features sequences where nothing happens but portrays the typical life of a Japanese family and is quite funny for those who know something about Japanese life - I am married with a Japanese and lived there, so I know some ;-)

The movie is far away from Myazaki's rich, colorful and fantasy movies. So, please don't expect something like this. But the movie has it's own unique style and is entertaining. Recommended to watch with somebody who knows something about Japanese culture.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2006
I really enjoyed this film and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. The animation is intentionally sparse and minimalistic, in order to mimic the comic strip. Even though Studio Ghibli used computers for all of the visuals, the movie still had that old-school feel. But it does not look cheap! The director was definitely going for a specific look and feel, and at times uses clever devices to convey a certain mood(think Furi Kuri but more raw). Rather, it reminds you, if you are a fan, of what you enjoyed of the Peanuts animated series, the simplicity, the lack of pretension, the innocence of the characters. Even the score(ah the score), at times feels Vince Gauraldi-esque. I'm not into J-Pop(if the opening tune can be considered J-Pop), but the female vocalist on some of the songs is amazing. The story plays out like a sitcom, with a bunch of episodes about the Yamada family's daily life and inner workings. This one works for all age groups, if you relax and just take it as is, silly, funny and full of heart. After a lot of highly stylized(sp?) animation, I found this one a refreshing change. I hope Studio Ghibli keeps generating unique animation like this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Studio Ghibli went in a different direction than their usual work with this collection of vignettes based on a Japanese newspaper comic strip. The style is more like a comic strip and not the brilliant colors and art of some of the other Studio Ghibli releases. The choice of voice talent, Jim Belushi as the father in particular, is excellent and I think the humorous situations and problems faced by the family transend cultures. While the story and characters are quite humorous, there is additional appeal for people with a knowledge of Japanese culture. What appealed to me in that respect was the clever and subtile use of classic Japanese images, particularly those taken from Hanafuda cards. (I must admit that my wife, who is Japanese, noticed these before I.) Also incorporated are Japanese folk tales to explain where their children originated as well as other litte bits of Japanese culture, some of which I caught while others were first noticed by my wife. The haiku between scenes were well chosen to complement the vignettes. Best scene in my opinion, trying to change channels with the TV remote.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 3, 2009
My Neighbors the Yamadas is a film produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. Unlike other films produced by Studio Ghibli, My Neighbors the Yamadas presents a series of vignettes instead of one continuous story. The vignettes feature a Japanese family of a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, and a grandmother. The film is based on the manga Nono-chan by Hisaichi Ishii. My Neighbors the Yamadas also has the distinction as being the first completely digital film released by Studio Ghibli.

The animation was done in such a way to look like watercolor pictures instead of cel animation, and this technique gives the film a completely different look and feel than other films produced by Studio Ghibli. The storytelling is also much more on the humorous side, but the stories still have a tone of sincerity to them. Content-wise, there is nothing objectionable for children to see. However, I think kids younger than seven or eight years of age might have a harder time appreciating the stories and humor present in the film.

My Neighbors the Yamadas was released as a single disc, rather than in the two-disc sets of other Studio Ghibli films. There are three special features included on the disc. The first is a "Behind the Microphone" documentary, which lasts for about five and a half minutes. This documentary includes interviews with Jim Belushi, Molly Shannon, Daryl Sabara, and Liliana Mumy.

Next, there are the original trailers for My Neighbors the Yamadas. This featrure runs for sixteen minutes, and plays all the trailers back-to-back. The trailers have their original Japanese audio accompanied by English subtitles. The final feature on the disc is the original Japanese storyboards.

My Neighbors the Yamadas was an entertaining viewing experience, but this is probably one of the few Studio Ghibli films that I wouldn't want to watch more than once or twice. However, if you are a fan of Isao Takahata, or want to own all of Studio Ghibli's releases, then this DVD should be added to your collection.
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