Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
My Neighbors the Yamadas is a film produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata. It was released to Japanese theaters on July 17, 1999. 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 film received an Excellence Award at the 1999 Japan Media Arts Festival. Disney has the U.S. distribution rights to the film, and the company released it on DVD in August 2005.
The animation was done in such a way to look like watercolor pictures instead of traditional 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 feature runs for 16 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, it was nice to see what else Isao Takahata is capable of directing besides Grave of the Fireflies. Where Grave of the Fireflies was a very serious film, My Neighbors the Yamadas is essentially its polar opposite.
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.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of the DVD through the King County Library System.